For Scenic Cycle’s very first round, I asked our photographers to take a stab at ENTM Forum Cycle 1’s first round theme, “On the Beach.” We had ocean waves, sandy beaches, jagged coastlines, and shots from morning til twilight.
Now, the judges ranks are in and we have a winner! The first winning photograph of Scenic Cycle 1 was ” Salt Strand by Day” – taken by IG2’s very own Malkovich Malkovich! Congratulations!
For all of our photographers, we have critiques from the judges below the fold.
Treasure at Twilight: I feel an incredible sense of longing in this image. Its begging for the day to end, for the tide to come in once again. For the fishermen to return to their boats and once again find the sea. What is around the cliff there? Where will the tide take them? I am drawn to the edge right there where the water begins to get deep. Its inviting to the eye. As the day drops further, I lose the definition of the boats in this bay, and know that I will lose my way home should I not turn back from this treasured place. Twilight will come again, and so shall I.
The Beacon: As the stars rise and fill the nights sky, one single light. One light to guide all life to the shore to the safety of the beach, stands in the night. This image feels both safe and afraid simultaneously. The darkness in the rocks, the uncertainty of it all. But my hope is reinvigorated by seeing the light guiding me to the shore. Will the light turn again, and show me the hills that await my return? Will they guide my ship, my hand to steer my crew out of harms way and home to the fair maidens who love us? One can only wait, for the light to make it’s rotation.
Salt Strand by Day: The water goes on forever. The horizon is deep and endless. The salt strand gives way to intense fear and anxiety. What does the water hold? Is the water there cold or hot, or does it simply change with the seasons? I want to climb the strand and look over the waters edge, but I am afraid. The stories told of monsters deep below trapped by the spears of the Gods, though irrational, still haunt my dreams. I will view their wonder from afar. I will craft my own stories of what lies beyond the strands and what lurks beneath.
Perfect Beach Day: Summer vacation. Just woke up after a night on the town. I feel a cool breeze blowing through my open windows as I sip my coffee and look out over this quiet little beach town. The water looks so inviting and I cannot wait to go lay under one of those cabanas and enjoys this perfect day. I am curious about the new attraction of the Carbuncle house. I wonder what eccentric individuals have found this beautiful beach and made it their own. I will be sure to stop by and say hello on my way past. Perhaps they did not realize their high roof is as high as it is.
Costa del Stella: Who is on this boat that docks upon the shore? Where will the journey take them when day breaks? I could lay under this expanse of stars on the deck of this boat or under one of the shelters on the shore. But I fear I would not sleep, instead I would lay there all night looking up and identifying the constellations that adorn my view. Do I dare move closer to this ship at night and see what merry crew is aboard? Or do I watch in silence and move slowly away through the darkness and leave the adventures for another day?
A New Day: More like a painting instead of a picture, this outcropping is grand yet simple. Free from the splendors and colors that adorn a populated beach. Although obviously visited, this location invites you to meander the shoreline and spend your time collecting shells and searching for hidden treasures. I can see myself, bag over my shoulder barefooted in a loose dress blowing in the breeze, standing, just there at the edge, where the water drops off, staring out at the vast expanse. My only wish, is just to see a little more of what lies beyond.
Cerulean Tranquility: What lies beyond that rocky shore and the hills of white that roll into the dark blue depths? What awaits the sailor and ships captain who venture into the unknown? What sorrow the maidens feel when their lovers boat crosses the horizon and is gone forevermore, returning when the winds are right and the sea no longer owns their hearts. There is anguish in this clear morning, as clear days carry the wayfarers away. I only wish, I could see farther where those vagabonds travel, and bring the edge of the world, just a tiny bit closer to the proud maiden’s heart.
Rainfall against the Carapace: They do not fear the coming storm. The beasts of the depths brace for the waves to carry them into their watery homes. They fear only the rocky shore, upon which they are tossed, when the waters churn and surge. But the lighthouse fears only that the oil may run low and the light that guides the ships safely home, wanes with each passing hour. When the day sinks into darkness, it can only hope to reach the eye of a weary sailor and bring him safely into the bosom, the carapace of the harbor. The beasts do not tell what dangers lie before them, and I fear I may be washed into the depths, before I will ever know.
The Inspiration of it All: “It is finished.” The old man collects his brushes and washes them. Individually, until all the water runs clean. He steps back from the easel, and looks at what he has created. His wife, who dreamed of the homeland from which she fled as a child, now, 70 years later, sees it on the canvas before her and weeps. “My darling, it is as if I never left.” Although the lines of the painting are clear, bringing her from completely submersing herself in her lost homeland, she will forever be grateful for this. He will forever be grateful for the woman who has been the inspiration for everything he has done for the last 50 years.
Beachside Nightlight: From here, on my raft floating gently in the inlet, I can see and hear the sounds of the party on the decks. Laughter rings through the air, and I know my friends, and their brand-new friends, are enjoying this night in their own way. I, however, look to my right and see the nightlight here on the beach, that brings calm to the empty shoreline. The simple light coming from my cabin reminds me of the family that waits for me to come ashore. Before the darkness completely washes away the details further from the decks and I can no longer see, I know I must turn my paddle inland and head inside to sit on the porch with my love and listen to the waves wash ashore.
Treasure at Twilight: I enjoy how unexpected this shot is. I am such a fan of taking a challenge, and turning it on its ear. You gave us the beach in a unique way; I didn’t expect a hidden lagoon with ships. There is a genuine sense of mystery to this location that draws out my curiousity. I love how the shot is set-up where day is just turning into night (or night turning into day?), which lends to the atmosphere. However, the technique here is where the trouble spots are. The edges seem stretched out as if you tried to pan out more and more to get the scenery in more. Furthermore I have to wonder why this was done; the shoreline is bland here, and so prominent in the forefront of the shot. I commend the unique take on the challenge, and intentions here, but elements of the shot felt a bit set adrift.
The Beacon: A classic representation of framing here. The stars twinkle away in the night sky above, the shore is long against the ocean, and a lone lighthouse call out to bring their people home. The story here is simple, and lovely. But despite a good job of framing here I feel this misses the mark. The shoreline is very dark here, the shadows leaving it barely visible. The ocean is vibrant, but as it blends with the shore it creates shadows that muddle where it ends and land begins. The starry night is so dominant here that I wouldn’t have guessed ‘On the Shore’ as the theme for the image. Though stellar in certain ways this shot did not bring me home.
Salt Strand by Day: Framing is such a key element to an environmental shot, as the eyes want to go everywhere in a shot, and this is such a splendid example of the technique. The far right is dominated by the splash of crystalized aether in the background, mirrored by the vibrant ocean, but forefront we have a lone tree as a gentle reminder that life goes on in this world. The left side of the shot is a welcome contrast of simplicity as the coastline simply continues along. This image has such a clear blue tone interrupted only by a single stalk of golden aether and minimal plantlife. The only spot of ‘amiss’ I see here is that perhaps this shot could have been pulled back or panned up a touch as the top of the tree is cut off. Since the tree, and not the splash of aether, was your focus here it became your model. You don’t want to behead your model. That minor note aside this is genuinely a pristine shot. Most ashore-dly the work of a seasoned photographer; keep it up.
Perfect Beach Day: If I didn’t know any better I’d think this was a ‘Wish You Were Here’ postcard. The filter chosen here struck just the right note for this happy funshine kind of shot. You’ve framed this shot well; the islands and horizon are just at the right point, about a third of the way down. From the bottom you have the beach and housing about a third of the way up. Everything is where it is meant to be. You’ve managed to make a shot that is predominantly ocean such an enjoyable experience. You’ve really set sail with this. Well done.
Costa del Stella: Taking on any kind of shot at night is a challenge unto itself. You have little to rely upon due to so many shadows, and the night sky drawing attention away. I commend the attempt here as there is a soft glow on the beach, and the huts and ship add a touch of illumination to the image. However, while it certainly has a shoreline in the shot, I feel this shot is quite simple and does not really show much in the way of points of interest. Perhaps a different time of day, filter, or placement of lighting would have punched this shot up. Even in scenic photography you want to find a good area that acts as your focus, and then frame everything else around it. As much as I appreciate the effort here, this image really didn’t weigh anchor with me.
A New Day: You took a few risks with this shot, such as including a structure that is clearly going to go out of shot, and having so much plain ocean featured in the foreground. However, your play with texture, the time of day, and how the ocean perfectly frames this island made this shot so brilliant; risks that were worth the taking. Having the volcano faded into the background delivers just the right amount of drama to the shot. This shot is a great example of how just the right filter can really make a difference in a shot. In reaching for the heavens-on-high here you have indeed made some waves.
Rainfall Against Carapace: I always appreciate taking risks, and doing the unexpected. The atmosphere of this shot feels almost cinematic, something right out of a modern thriller. However, while this shot meets the mark on theme it does so only just barely. It’s a dark and gloomy shot, and monotone in presentation. I can feel a story is there, but whatever it is feels disjointed and lost in execution. I know the crabs exist there as that’s where they appear in-game, but choosing them as a focal point in the shot while you have this majestic lighthouse just begging to be featured feels unusual to me. This was a good effort in a pinch, but for me this was just a sprinkle of your potential.
Cerulean Tranquility: I love how the peninsula juts out into the ocean, the angle of the shot giving a clear reflection of the landmass. It creates this lovely framing element that makes an otherwise ‘well, it’s blue’ ocean interesting. The clouds sweep down, almost as if pointing at the landmass, inviting one to explore and perhaps eventually come upon the volcano steaming in the background. The dots of ruins in the bottom left leave one wanting to see more, but taken into full scope the star of this shot is that landmass. It is a lovely shot that revels in its simplicity. Azure-dly a fine example of hallmark framing techiques. Well done.
The Inspiration of It All: There is a lot of great elements to this shot. The locale is beautiful; the shot pans over a hidden lagoon opening up the coastline to the mountainous region to the left, and the ocean to the right. The horizon and foreground are in perfect positions in this shot. A filter was used to give texture to the whole shot, helping to mask the nothingness the top right has to offer. I love that the emptiness was recognized, but in trying to use a filter to correct this it wound up making the overall shot muddy. This was a real treat in terms of framing and location choice, however your choice of filter caused it to be a little bit muddled.
Beachside Nightlight: This is such a gentle shot showing off plenty of the unique features in the area; the spire of crystals to the right, the huts to the left, and the coral reef in the ocean before you. It is a well-lit nighttime shot with the clouds dotting along clearly against a deep blue sky. The landscape itself is a bit dark, but it is accentuated in just the right areas. My main critique here is angling as this feels very low to the water’s surface and pulled back causing a stretch to the edges. Don’t forget that you can manually maneuver the camera by looking up, and then dragging the image to bring things to a better eye level. Just a couple of tweaks on technique would have literally brought this into a new perspective. Your shot lit me up, but unfortunately the angling here docked you.
Treasure at Twilight: A compelling arrangement of objects with the potential of good flow, stronger lighting would’ve lent strength to the photo. Be careful of creating areas of tension and look into leading the viewer through the landscape, don’t be afraid of taking risks and being “different.” Otherwise, I can feel the cool atmosphere.
The Beacon: “Bold.” Quite literally, bold. This landscape was extremely dark for me to interpret. The letterboxing frames the shot, but instead of accentuating the nicer elements the lighthouse and mountain silhouette give off, the eyes are drawn to the strange, off-grey form in the sky (on the mountain?). There is an awkward disconnect here that is distracting.
Salt Strand by Day: The color harmony in this shot is exquisite, it brought pause. Capturing the faint play of complementary colors while successfully dividing up the scene, you established an eye movement that leads your viewer throughout the entire piece, even to the negative space established by sky and sea. The well-placed tree and reflective crystal provide smooth transition.
Perfect Beach Day: Interesting angle, albeit the foreground is busy and too heavy versus your middle- and backgrounds. Look into your rule of thirds and contemplate on framing with the architecture available to you in this location. Decide on the type of impact, or reaction, you intend to create and guide the viewer through it.
Costa del Stella: The generous amount of focus on the middle ground makes the scene flat despite the line of the beach providing movement. Consider depth and utilize the rule of thirds; don’t hesitate to take risks and think of color interactions and color theory.
A New Day: Good depth and light; while the colors feel a touch too washed they generate an interesting atmosphere that is fanciful and overall pleasing to the eye. How much stronger would this view be if the HoH tower was employed as an anchoring device for the rule of thirds?
Rainfall Against Carapace: Delicious crustaceans, but be mindful of areas of tension and kissing the edge with elements within the frame; it creates distraction and once it’s noticed it becomes difficult for the viewer to pull their eyes back to what you want them to see. Ponder over more dynamic and energizing shots when including life in action; not only will it strengthen your work as a whole, but it will provide the chance of breaking boundaries and creating a focus element.
Cerulean Tranquility: A restful landscape with careful thought placed in its positioning: not only is the horizontal line of the cliffs complimented by its asymmetrical reflection of the water, but that line is ghostingly extended onwards through the construction of the buildings. The time of day suits this scene well and the clouds provide a sloping compliment (that bird made me think I had a spot on my monitor).
The Inspiration of it All: While an interesting angle, the filter is distracting from the wonderful horizontal focus you established in the background; it is bold and too predictable. Instead of a filter, a different—perhaps stronger—form of light could strengthen this view and establish a better hierarchy on the left panel for cast shadows. Be wary of the top of that mountain; consider how the orange of the tents can better interact with the photo as a whole, or its removal.
Beachside Nightlight: This is a lovely sky and the moderately centered reef in the foreground creates a moment of thought; the subtle greens work well. However, consider a focus point, such as the corrupted aether, to better guide your lines and unite the lavender of the atmosphere with the blues of the ocean.