B&W Photography Blog Ian Burton Pinhole Photography

#Fail – Insight into a failed image (01)

Last night I decided to tackle my backlog of negatives that need scanning and decided it might benefit people to see the photos that I categorise as rubbish and why that is. As photographers we can be our own worst critics and as a consequence harshly judge ourselves. Are we being fair on ourselves? Honestly yes, it’s an important tool that enables us to grow and learn and hopefully from that we become better photographers. The image below I took last year in the good company of Andrew Atkinson and is one that carries value in the sense I can learn from this experience. 

The first fail I made was not making sure I had a roll of film loaded. I took it for granted that my Reality So Subtle 6×6 already had one in it, but it did not. Thank you Andrew for being more prepared and carrying some extra film that I could use. I’ve not forgot film since πŸ˜‰


Ok the image looks fairly well polished and that’s because it is. What I should have done was create a before image to highlight the changes, but it will still serve its purpose for this and in the future I will remember this.

After scanning the negative as a Tiff file I carried out some spotting and cropped the composition to make it more central. I struggled to centralise the composition as some of the verticals were leaning meaning that I didn’t ensure the film plane was parallel to the subject. Recalling the experience it was a very rushed setup as the tide was changing quickly so I didn’t want to miss the small window of opportunity I had, so it’s likely I didn’t firmly plant my tripod into the sand and pay close attention to the spirit level. Also I may have slightly swung the camera to the left/right which would make it difficult to achieve that perfect symmetry I was after. With a little Photoshop trickery I manipulated the verticals using the warp tool to make it as best I could, there are no levels adjustments as I quite liked the look the scanning software gave it using the specific film options.

Looking at the finished image there’s still something that irks me. Perhaps it’s the immediate emptiness of the foreground, ok there’s a few streaks from the tide that offer a lead in, but it’s not substantial enough to really draw me in. Could it be the horizon placement being smack bang in the middle, that doesn’t bother me as it’s square. Maybe it’s the pier being too dominant in the top half creating an imbalance. I think what bothers me most is the fact I didn’t get closer and lower down. I took half measures wanting to capture the movement of the tide through this derelict structure, but at the cost of carefully composing. By getting closer I would’ve reduced the empty foreground and pushed the first set of legs closer to the edge of the frame. With a lower perspective the near to middle ground would appear more compressed, with this setup I almost certainly would’ve opted to use the rise pinhole which would lower the horizon placement as well as correct any loss of the pier above. 

If you found this useful and would like to see more please let us know as we could do this as a regular thing.




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3 thoughts on “#Fail – Insight into a failed image (01)”

  1. Photo editing software can fix these kinds of minor perspective issues. What usually decides the success or failure of an image for me is the relationship of its elements to each other. That’s usually much harder to tweak in post-priduction, unless one chooses to be a photo-illustrator rather than a photographer πŸ™‚

  2. Enjoyed your blog Ian, just a thought .. if you lightened the middle foreground, you might be happy with the composition, as the wash lines would be more striking, and the symmetry balanced with the dark upper walkway.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation Rupert. I’m resigned to the fact that I just don’t feel it with the image and the last thing I want to be doing is trying to make it into something it’s not. Clearly I lost what I was trying to depict through lack of concentration. Although minor tweaks such as selective dodging and burning may improve the composition, I don’t think it will 100% help balance the top part as it is so imposing and graphical. If there was no moving water perhaps a perfect reflection in the sand would’ve been best for this particular composition. Thanks again for your input.

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