22 September 2010

Waders on Wednesday-Eye of the Beholder (Great Blue Heron)

I find it funny sometimes how an image that I'm really excited about, or that I think is one of my best, fails to generate much interest or buzz, and then an image which isn't a personal favorite, or that I feel isn't my very best work, gets rave reviews and accolades.  As I listen to and watch people respond to my images it is always amazing to me what a broad range of images end up being people's favorites.  The beauty of a photograph or the interest of a particular subject are definitely "in the eye of the beholder".

Today's wader image is a (very minor) point of contention between my wife and I.  This is one of my favorite images I've taken from the wild rookery at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, Florida so far.  I love the dramatic, low-angle, side-lighting on the heron.  The fact that the background has mostly gone to black, except for the log and the little bit of green leaves.  I even love the evidence of molt you can see in the primary and secondary feathers.  I constantly drag this one out as a possibility when I'm submitting for contests etc...  My wife, on the other hand, finds this image too dark and with not enough color for her taste.  It is inevitably one of the first ones she suggests I drop when I'm editing down a submission.  On this one, we usually agree to disagree.

Leave a comment on the blog and let me know what you think.  It will be interesting to see what diversity of opinions there are out there in my readership.


  1. I was JUST talking to my hubby about this same topic. Whenever I think I've taken "one of my best" shots ~ he usually doesn't think it is. And as evidenced by the comments I get on it - my readers normally agree with him.

    I think sometimes as photographers we associate an emotion with our images - we imagine what we were feeling when we took it, or how we felt at that particular time in our life.

  2. Elijah, in my opinion you need to light up the right side a bit, not too much as to take away the mystery, but enough to place the bird in space. The way it is I am focusing too much on the dark side, trying to figure out where the bird is at, and since all I see is a hint of shrubbery, I eventually lose interest. For an honest critique you might want to submit the image to the Naturephotographers.net Avian Gallery.

  3. I like the Great Blue Heron Photo. I like the mood it creates.
    I was talking to a wildlife photographer that has had a lot of photos published and he told me that one of his photos that made him the most money was the worst he thought he had ever taken.
    I have gotten the best comments on photos that I have thought about just deleting because I didn't think they were good and the one that I thought was my best always gets the least comments.
    You just never know!

  4. A wonderful post Elijah and something that I too experience so often. The photos I hesitate to post are so often surprisingly the ones I get the most positive comments or RTs on...and the ones I love, often are not what strike others. I'm learning to let go and let happen because as we all know, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Thanks for sharing.
    As for your heron photo...I can appreciate both sides :)

  5. @Hilke, thanks so much for your honest critique. You are right, I could try dodging the tree on the right side in Lightroom to bring it back a bit (the detail is there) without opening up other parts of the image that I want to stay dark. Might add a little color and as you say help locate the heron in space. I'm going to try it and see how I like it. I've thought about posting to naturephotographers.net or a similiar forum, but I've A) heard horror stories of images being stolen regularly from these forums, and B) realized in grad school that too much feedback can be a bad thing. I learned very quickly during my PhD to submit my writings and grant applications to only a few people and only once or twice. Otherwise I got so much conflicting advice (even from the same person at different times) that it was a total mess and ended up hurting the end product.

  6. @Kerri: I totally agree with you that our opinions of our own images can be wrapped up with the experience and emotion of taking the image. There probably isn't an image in my catalog that I can't look at and recall the process of making it, the feeling of the air that day, the surroundings etc... But I'm also frequently surprised (although I know I shouldn't be) by how radically different the tastes of other folks are as well (perhaps based on interaction with their own life experiences). For instance in my gallery show, I've seen people gush over an image and stare it, and then another person walks right past that image without a second thought and fixates on a completely different type of image. It is just interesting the diversity of notions of beauty that are out there.

  7. This is a great discussion. I hope other visitors to the page will add to it. Readers if you are unfamiliar with the commentators above, check out their excellent blogs:

    Kerri: http://thesunriseofmylife.blogspot.com/

    Hilke Breeder: http://onejackdawbirding.blogspot.com/

    Steve Creek: http://stevecreek.com/

    Cathy Ross: http://capturethesoul.wordpress.com/

  8. Elijah, I find the Great Blue Heron photo to be quite dramatic, mysterious and lovely. Though, I do agree with Hilke on her suggestion to lighten up the right side ... just a tad.

    Such an fascinating topic! I too am often surprised at the comments I receive on photos I believe are just so-so. I guess that is what makes the world interesting, so many different tastes. Like many of the couples mentioned above, my fiance and I often have differing opinions on what constitutes an appealing photo. I think Kerri expressed it best with her comments on the experience and emotions felt while capturing the image. The feelings the image evokes for the photographer might be quite different from the viewers emotional response.