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Photographing America's National Parks

Lesson 31 of 37

Image Critique with Scott Kirkwood Part 1

Ian Shive

Photographing America's National Parks

Ian Shive

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Lesson Info

31. Image Critique with Scott Kirkwood Part 1

Lesson Info

Image Critique with Scott Kirkwood Part 1

So time for some critique so what sharpener sharpen our claws and see what we can do? No, I'm just kidding social rain we have the milky way from monica monica if you remember earlier I talked about dark places monica is considered one of the darkest places in the world it's also where the monica has an incredible observatory and it's a great place to photograph the night sky so it's very, very exciting to see images coming from there. Um I'll start scott and kind of get my feet back on it you know, I think in general I think it's a great shot I love seeing anything that shows the milky way and obviously as we all know I love astro photography and everything is very sharp. The exposure time isn't too long we're getting star trails the only thing that takes a little bit away from the image and I love the fact that the branches are are framing the scene and you see a mountain in the distance. I'm not sure if we're on monica or if that's monica in the distance that the very part lower par...

t of the frame, I might have included a little bit more of that, but the branches in the foreground are slightly out of focus, which is ah just mildly distracting to me I might have either just found a composition that eliminated them completely or maybe trying to find a way teo to balance the depth of field more than likely I'd imagine eliminating them completely so that everything is tack sharp though I'm not necessarily uh you know it's not distracting for me so much yeah, I think it's night I meant when I first saw it I thought that's a nice shot it's kind of has kind of a party feel I wasn't sure what was going on the branches actually some type of like accidental reflection is that like a tree coming down from a fun interesting point but I thought it was a nice kind of artsy shot yet it has a nice new to it let's take a look at the next one from christina so we've got like a beach scene scott what do you think? Um I gotta pee sunset's nice. I mean it's nice. I think I might have been nice to have a person or something else some focal point and it just seems like kind of a nice postcard shot. It does look like the horizon is crooked. So that's one thing I would always make sure that it's a pretty simple shot I guess you could say like another thing to focus on visual nice leveling out yeah there's no clear senator focus I agree needs some sort of action or element or people crookedness as everyone who's tuned in nose over the last three days has been a big thing for may crooked horizons, even if you do fix it after the fact that rather you fix it and crop and sacrifice the quality than unnecessarily crooked. Now, if a person was walking through the scene and there was a point of energy with their body, it really was compelling have a crooked horizon and the sense of the the flow of the energy of the photo made sense that I would include that recently, actually a project where dana point in that area of beach were part of an assignment through tandem and it's uh, it could be a really tricky place to photograph, but you also want to make sure that if your photo every place it's, not just the sunset, you don't understand picture of the sun setting but capture the place I want to able to look at a photo and without reading a caption, tell you exactly where it is and what's going on. If somebody were familiar with dana point and they looked at this, they might not know it's necessarily dana point. So think about that when photographing I mean it's, obviously a beautiful sunset with great sky on bit's almost there just needs a little bit more of a tweak. But yeah I would say for one thing I've noticed is what we used to run a lot of sunrise and sunset photos in the magazine and after a while you're like we just we can there's just too many sunrise sunset photos I think people think because that's what you're supposed to shoot is that from the lighting is good but you're supposed to literally shoot the sunrise and sunset but that's not the case and yeah you'd be surprised how many people I think a lot of publications even run photos with crooked horizons my thing is always if you're gonna make it quick and make it really quick it so it looks like it's on purpose versus just a accident it's off by two degrees it looks like an accident so you could see why scott and I get along wait don't like those tricky interactions just take a look at the next shot this one is from an um and we've got a national park photo you know scott I've been told about the parks and photography and you're seventy and half dome in particular uh the last three days I'm gonna let you run with this one I think this is nice I mean I like that you can see the sun bouncing up to the top and it's just coming over the very tip of the mountain I mean I really don't think the on ly possible thing I might speak us maybe a little more light, maybe open up the light in the bottom of the picture. Maybe buck the contrast a little, but it's kind of a lot of flat gray, but I know that's mostly because that's probably how the light was during sunrise or sunset, but I mean, this is real that I start on about much. I agree. I really like it. I actually liked the fact that the light is very small coming across the top of half dome vs hitting the entire thing it's sort of like the very, very end of day sort of feeling that last bit of sunlight without actually seeing the sun. I really like that element of it for sure. Let's, take a look at this image from beth. Um, looks like we got some, uh, lily pads here and I'll start on this one for me. I mean, it's got good, shallow depth of field, but there's no clear subject there's, no action there's. Nothing that's really striking me and saying, I'm curious to know what's around the next bend. One of the elements for me has always been important to say, well, okay, how do I what's beyond the edge of the frame? I love that idea what's beyond the edge of the frame, like the shot we just saw from and of the half dome and a little bit of white coming across the top made you want to look to your left and see what the rest of that sons that looks like you know as much is the technical aspects of this it's sharp like the green and the reflections it's not engaging or captivating enough for me teo to feel like it's fully achieved I think the goal of of what I would look for in a photograph yeah I mean I like the painterly effect of kind of the water moving which is nice I think one of the two things that could change us to you know work on the rule of thirds and get those though they hands up in the top right corner somewhere in the bottom left I think whatever something smack dab in the middle that's nothing new for tigris always wanted the things right in the middle of moving it to the left to the right just adds a little more attention and like you said if there was you know a butterfly or a flower or something different they would dry your eyes that would help a lot from melissa we have this image of some icebergs and I'm not gonna even try glacial lagoon in iceland and I immediately I think it's a gorgeous photograph right off the cuff it looks really good. Um scott what do you think as far as like a landscape photo yeah I mean I think I think it's beautiful I guess would be nice if something on the left side of the fact that the ice on the left just trails off it's kind of messy in the left and I'm saying it right but it feels like I was like a photo where things are really properly framed it looks like I might have one assume in or zoom out and have a little bit left or right because it just kind of things things kind of like you see on the right you've got that nice sharp edge yeah where it ends but on the left everything just kind of peters off in distance yeah and the other thing I notice is that the aspect ratio the dimensions of it are unusual now that could have been the sensor of the type of camera that was used but I'm wondering if this wasn't a classic example of what I see very very often we see listen tandem all the time where people submit images in their crop and again it really reduces the resolution it is really pretty but again there are so many shots of icebergs and so many shots of of you know these types of ah mountainous areas that has to be just exceptional it's still an exceptionally beautiful place and I think that the photo was well executed agree scott's comments certainly as the composition but again you always want to think about making the most extraordinary moment in an extraordinary place to really engage viewers yeah, and one of the things I think you know, a lot of these shots really pretty but there are no people in them are like if there was a person or a boat or even a nice break that can really really close to the camera I know a lot of times you get two beautiful scene like this beautiful I'll take a picture but a professional type we'll sit there for half an hour or an hour and wait for something to change wait for a nice bird afloat fun or a boat to come a lot of times it's finding that rate spot and then just sitting and waiting and that's it it's a great point it's true and that's definitely something I employ you gotta really have an incredible amount of patients as a photographer, I think and kind of playing off that idea of an extraordinary place like extraordinary moment really it's you want to see a photo and something taking place in that photograph that on ly if you were there at that very moment would you have seen that scene whether that's, you know ah, you know, some sort of sea life going through it a type of storm something like that this feels like a photo while we wouldn't actually see that particular iceberg necessarily it's still it's still always going to be there in some regard whereas you're looking for that exceptional moment is something that is a fleeting moment something that doesn't last that is insightful and adds a little bit of of drama to the shot artistically of course you know if you're just going for beauty abstract so on and so forth then of course those rules don't necessarily apply and related to that too like if we saw about a person we'd get a better idea of scale like I don't know if that iceberg gives twenty feet tall are five hundred feet tall you have no idea that always adds to its true maria's shot eyes are next up and this is from patagonia and I like the centre composition I think that for me there's a lot of leading lines and my I automatically wanders through the frame I like that the river kind of seems like it just ends which is interesting in its composition because you have like this bowl but then yet you have these two other traveling patterns going through I do think the on ly the only element for me that's a little off is the fact that it looks like the highlights on the right hand side of the frame or completely blown out it doesn't even look like there might be information there again whether using a filter or shooting multiple exposures one dark one light and combining them or are bringing a neutral density filter and even if it's in photo shop I think would have helped with that for me, it's very distracting because I'm looking through the sky I'm lead through the scene, I get to the sky and then I get to the right and it just suddenly is out, so I'm not saying that equilibrium that I would look for yeah, like the leading lines of kind of the different layers of the water and finding the rocks in the mountains kind of going through it's got a lot of layers thank you, I feel like it could use something like maybe it would be better in black and white there's a lot of kind of muddy ground colors that don't really do a lot or I guess if I was there I wanted to, you know, take a few steps to the left some to the right maybe stand on that platform to the front see because the water looks like those waterfalls are pretty cool, but they're so small it's hard to really see a lot of detail I can tell us and if the shutter was up long enough to kind of get some water trails, it looks like in mind, but you can't really see them so it's a good point it's possible that it could have been even better but it's stuff like that beth rocky mountains national park a levels national park imagery we're seeing even from all over the world. Pretty fun. Um, scott, what you think of this, this one has a think a few farms. I mean, the trail right in the middle of going through to the middle of the rock in the middle, like a lot of little everything is kind of a little too obvious. I think moving to the left or right to get that child coming through would have been nicer people. The people are kind of just random figures on the side, almost like they were accidentally there. That's it's. Fine to have people in there. I think it's actually better, but they should be there almost as if you put them there or not. Isn't their acts of either crop them out, so they're not? There are move way too late. Leave. Wait till they are all that. I think I think there's one of those cases were waiting are moving around, but it probably helped along. Yeah, I mean, I I agree. I would've moved the path by the left or the right party to the left, so that the energy of the rock sort of building up would go towards the right, and then that those people would be maurine the rule of thirds element so they'd be on the third right hand side the path would be on the third left hand side my guess is is and this is a total guess but it made me think of something in that the photograph of the cloud with beth took you know, that was probably a really cool cloud and maybe a storm blew in or whatever and I think one thing that photographers and people in general including myself make the mistake of is equating thie experience that they have with the quality of the results of photograph that they're getting so I think a lot of times we say well wow it took me eight miles to get there through the rain to finally get this shot that doesn't necessarily make it a better shot just because you you know, maybe howto maybe maybe the cloud was really attractive and it is beautiful you know cumulonimbus cloud but because that you might be equating the experience of ah vacation a special moment or something with that shot sometimes our own personal emotional attachment to those sort of clouds their vision and the ability to actually see you shot out of its context and it's how would a stranger view this without all of that experience without having toe suffer through it? I've suffered through some horrible projects and assignments and moments within those that you know the weather just never cooperated I was constantly just soggy and a mess and sick and not feeling well but I had to make sure that that experience and then struggle I went through to get so few images was not skewing my ability to judge my work on give it more merit than it really deserved yeah I think kind of related I think when you're starting out as a photographer you like looking for things that are beautiful and then taking photos of them whereas when you're professionally started saying okay what's wrong with brain your consulate for what's wrong like people are on the path is wrong so it's just like a different ways it's a very critical way of thinking which while it makes our jobs not as much fun as people looking at why we're all so miserable yes that's right that's right that's an editor council look like that's the mistaken this sentence so that's I think yeah there was a flowery always looking for what is not what's wrong with trying to yeah that's a great point. Very insightful ah lisa we've got the north shore of lake superior first I thought it looked almost like main but uh north shore of lake superior I love the long exposure time on the rocks sky kind of drifts off into color in there and it looks like there's probably quite a bit of color in this scene um what do you think scott yeah, I mean, I think the leading lines were nice water is nice sky yeah there's a lot of white going on it might have been nice to do a little earlier or later I know something about all that kind of random twigs yeah it's kind of violence me but I see we don't want people picking plants and national defects so you can't do anything about that but you might wanna raise the camera or to do something for me be walking a ten feet further time keep back just that stuff just kind of junks up on screen a little bit yeah, and when you look at something you say, well, my favorite part is the smoky look at the water has on the rocks for a longer exposure than really make that the predominant element in your scene um and focus on that maura unless scott set on the twigs and things sort of sticking up leticia is photo wildflowers and mount washburn yellowstone national park, wyoming I've spent a lot of time in that part of the world and it certainly is gorgeous immediately for me this this image, while while pretty and vibrant, does have a lot of problems in the sense that I feel like again, I'm not getting a clear view of of of what it is that's the way it's midday light, very harsh very contrast e the depth of field is shallow, which I don't necessarily mind, but I don't think it's as effective here because one of the things that really makes this photograph work for me is the fact that you've got these gorgeous big white clouds and all this texture in the sky but then it's out of focus and it's over overexpose is very, very bright, so those are the elements that really jump out for me immediately. Yeah, it's very contrast, that was one of things I notice too. I mean, I think it would be a lot nicer if it was almost cropped is a square like the left part. I think it just kind of trails off stuck to the left looks like it's kind of going away from the viewer where is the stuff on the right to the middle? I think it's a sport, but I'd be a little bit because the clouds are great, but you're right it's very it's midday today is tough. One thing that leticia could have done, I think, would have been just wait a few more minutes until the cloud had actually because obviously there's a lot of clouds in the sky wait until a cloud passed in front of the sun and it would have diffused the light more evenly in all of the contrast on the wildflowers would have dissipated would have been more even more balanced and would have cast a nicer light I think across the scene ed avalanche late trail in glacier national park sky you wanna start on this one yeah, I mean, I've done a lot for us and I think this is an example of what so market do because you can't get an entire tree I don't know this is I don't know how to fix this value by better tips on how to fix it but it just doesn't seem like there's any central focus I mean, walking in the forest is beautiful but it's really hard to capture square when you will need when you're leaving out ninety percent of what you're seeing so it's just just I wouldn't have taken a photo here yeah, I agree at the same time I think what ed's going for that I that I appreciate is the well I kind of consider complex compositions I think that as photographers you know you can get really obsessed with really deluding the scene down so that's just a rock water, some light in a tree in the distance and he gets very, very sparse I don't think this is necessarily hits the marcus faras achieving the goal of a complex composition, but I think that you know, the amount of intricacy and detail that's happening in the photo is interesting, but I don't again don't think it's necessarily the most compelling so the most compelling perspective to scott's point to reiterate, as we both, uh, be both us. Me, you, as we all know from the whole reign for a segment photographing in a force and including this time of day is incredibly difficult. Very challenging conditions have to be right and photographing trees in particular, you know, they're huge, and you're always looking straight up at them. So how do you find a new way? A new perspective to really show these, uh, these gigantic is gigantic things. Michelle's image from zabriskie point. This is in death valley national park. Um, pretty cool. Pretty cool. Yeah. That's. One of my favorite places. Actually, I'd love some. I think this is a great photo. Especially concede the light to the left on the coming through the clouds on the mountains, three different layers, the rocks and finally the big one on the far off. Once on the clouds, I think it's great. I think a person or two would have made this thing would have knocked it out of park geun young scale. But I think the lighting, everything about us is great. Yeah, I agree. You know, I love the foreground elements I like that it seems very low. But yeah it's still incredibly sharp there's great up the field throughout the entire frame the colors, the textures and I agrees is an exquisite place to photograph and in general the entire scene is balanced throughout which I really love scott, I think you hit the nail on the head a human element in this would've really I think taking it to the next level on dh just added some sort of scale or context uh, teo to the scene but either way, it's still really well executed landscape photo and uh and I think we make a great fine art print is well, yeah, I don't know if you guys have talked about this, but I know you and just barely a lot of time you guys will bring tripods just specifically so that if there's no one walking around, you can take a photo of yourself yeah, some people feel like it's, you know you can't blame her if there's no one there, how can you take a photo with bringing try about taking out of yourself? Aren't even looking into the distance can be yeah, I wanna give a shout out to the photographers that scott and I have been mentioning justin bailey eyes a phenomenal photographer and colleague and friend of ours who's done a lot of work in national parks and the outdoors a swells morgan heim, whose name was mentioned earlier. Morgan is done a lot of great conservation work in both their tandem photographers as well. So it's ah, justin, justin, I think I want to almost given credit for pioneering the the self timer shot. I think he's had more covers and more photographs that have actually run that or him in the photo, you know you can't make something, you know what it isn't, and you end up being your own model. I've been in a lot of my own shots, actually, andi, and in order to do something like that, technically you could do a self timer if it's relatively close, you know, ten seconds go stand and, you know, just do your pose or whatever you're going to dio, but in the case of in the case of ah, just that I know he sometimes gets away out into the photo or in the shot of a brewski point. If you wanted somebody in the middle of that frame you khun bring pocket wizard along with a attacks remote trigger, cable released type of thing that allow you to shoot a lot of frames this by simply triggering your shot or using a radio frequency that way you can take all the time you need to safely get into position and capture that ultimate selfie quick question teo both you and scott you mentioned that michelle's image was something that you thought was the make a great fine art print why what was it about that image that you think would make it a great print? You know, for me it's the color and texture you know, it just has a very, really plays into the you know, the design elements and the patterns and rhythms and repetition that you see in nature. Andi, I think that any time you see that on dh, it doesn't necessarily you know, I probably wouldn't I personally would not hang people photographs in my home if I didn't know the person where, you know and a shot without a person tends aligned itself more to the abstract or, you know, obviously zabriskie point in death valley are very, you know, very I have lots of my own memories there, so it's, someplace I can relate to and that's very common people tend to buy fine art prints that they can most relate to. Most galleries will tell you that they say, well, you know, the images of our local region sell better than these incredible images of africa, and even though they're incredible, the people who go into the gallery who have never been africa don't see a connection to them, therefore they don't buy them, but yet the people or local memories out on that pier and getting, you know, cotton candy with their kids or whatever, having emotional connection based on their experience, and therefore, they're more apt to connect and therefore, by the image point, thank you. And I do wanna give a shout out to some of the folks that are in the chat rooms are the people whose images are being critiqued, so just what they're saying? Thank you, latisha specifically says, thank you for the critique. I wrote it all down for the future. You're awesome, and I have learned so much, so great.

Class Description

Outdoor photography celebrates the varied and stunning landscapes of the natural world – in this unique course you will learn composition and shooting techniques for getting beautiful outdoor shots.

Shooting and teaching from two of the world’s most pristine parks, Olympic National Park and Mt. Rainier National Park, award-winning photographer Ian Shive will teach you new ways to create outdoor photographs that are powerful, captivating and fresh. You'll explore key elements of great outdoor photography including: composition, working a scene, selecting exposure, using filters to manage natural light, and scouting a great location. Then you'll learn how to put it all together to tell a story in a single image or series. After spending time in the field, Ian will move into the studio and present on the equally important tasks of managing and editing your work from the field.

Ian will show you how to capture images that are both technically and emotionally engaging. Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to learn how to document the beauty of the great outdoors, in camera.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Field Guide to Photographing the American Wilderness

Icons of Nature Keynote

National Park Photography Intro and Setup

Photo Editing Keynote

10 Steps to Processing Perfect Star Trail Images

Business of Photography Keynote

Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



I have taken quite a few courses with createlive and this was by far one of the best. Ian is a fantastic teacher and remarkable at describing what he is doing and his thought process clearly. There is so much good information in this course, I definitely plan on buying this class. Not only is Ian a great teacher, but he also seems to genuinely want to help other photographers and see them succeed. You can tell he cares more about seeing good pictures of nature than anything else. I cannot recommend this course enough. Whether you are a beginner who shoots landscape photography as a hobby or a professional who already specializes in landscape photography, this class has something to offer and will expand your skill set. Can't thank Ian enough and I hope he does another course soon.


Ian is a great teacher and it is great when some one who "can do", can also explain how he does it. Clearly, his experience and commitment are why he is good at what he does. There is a lot more to a great photo than getting the camera settings and filters right. Ian did his best to help us understand what to look for when "working the scene" and finding a good composition without distractions. A great course. Thank you, Creative Live and Ian Shive.


Amazing course. Ian Shive is a wonderful teacher, as well as photographer, and it all comes across. I was glued to my computer for the entire 3 days when the class was live, and just had to purchase it so I don't lose any of it. The bonus materials alone are worth the purchase price. I've got a trip coming up soon and will have the opportunity to put some of what Ian said into practice; and love that I can have it with me on my portable devices so I can refresh my memory and reinforce it all. Great to have on a long plane ride. If you are on the fence, get off that fence and go purchase this great course!!! You won't be sorry. My thanks to CreativeLive, and Ian Shive for giving us this wonderful opportunity to not only learn, but to actually be in the field with Ian.