Before I start, I'd like to make a few preliminary points:
1. I would have normally passed on this critique, hadn't it been for the one I just read.
2. What I will discuss hereafter may be less than welcomed as I will pull no punches. So if you are faint of heart or don't feel up to reading possibly distressing content: don't read on. But, and that's a big but, I only do so because I believe that critiques must indeed be thoughtful as in thought out, all the more so when one first mentions being part of a "Project Comment", presumably as a token of capacity.
3. Below, as you read on, is my own critique, which is only fair.
Now: to the core.
There are critiques of all kinds. I have no problem with that. After all, anyone is entitled to formulate an opinion, however sustained it is. But, they are themselves open to scrutiny and commentary.
Writing a critique isn't about giving points. That's an aside. But if you do, and do so following the underlying logic given by the scoring board, as in "vision", "originality" and such; the least you can do is do it correctly.
Hence: vision obviously doesn't concern the "vision" as in "image" but what the artist has envisioned to convey, what his artistic eye has seen that he wants to render etc.
Same thing for "originality". If the object of the critique is a photograph, the fact it is taken in a remote place, doesn't qualify it as "original" anymore than the name of the place. The close shot of a car wheel in Thule isn't different in that respect from one taken in Kuala Lumpur or NYC, nor is it original per se in that respect.
I'll brush off the inconsistencies of the technicals and others.
My point isn't to make anybody feel bad, though I for one do find it revealing to start a critique by one's ID as a "critique" but I'll let that also slide. No, my point is to make sure that if you are indeed intent on making a critique, it has to attend the piece's essentials, not some kind of cursory judgemental piece following shoddy guidelines.
The people who offer this to us, DA's artists deserve better. They offer us in all ingenuity the product of their efforts and travails. The bravest offer these special columns, the critiques, in an effort to better themselves and extend the reaching out to their audience.
We were graced with many great words in the English language. Abstain and refrain are amongst them. They are powerful and relevant. I use them myself quite often. Just not this time.
You think I'm too hard?
This is the last sentence of the critique:
"Overall, You did a great job on this piece. The only thing I could think of that would make it any better would be a bird or animal in the shot somewhere, but then again, we are talking Iceland. You should be happy with the photograph".
Yeah... You did a great job with this critique. The only thing I could think of adding to it is a bit of content... somewhere... But then again, we're talking Iceland... You should be happy with it.
A critique as it could be made, among many others possible...
First a little background. The place this photo was taken is a very well known spot for photos. You'll literally find hundreds and hundreds of them. One of the reasons why is the black volcanic sand beach to the east, the other being the mountain towering on the eastern end of it (the Vestrahorn), both of which the author has pictured in other shots.
But this specific view is taken on the other side facing the opposite direction: westward, towards the city of Höfn which is barely discernible in the lower fringes bellow the mountains and hidden by the evening mist on the shoreline.
The forefront of the shot pictures the black lava sand dunes covered with Lyme grass. Most of what we see of it is dead growth and therefore whitish, which contrasts very strongly and beautifully with the black lava sand it's on.
Now this sight is especially nice at sunset, because the black lava literally drinks the light while the whitish grass reverberates it. The light itself is sunset, so full of hues and nuances, and so is the dead grass with differently oriented blades of different consistency. Part of the grass gets direct lighting, the rest only gets the ambient glow. The tan spikes catching the fading raking light in an even eerier display of pinkish reds.
This is obviously the prominent character in the shot. But it's far from the only one.
Indeed, the whole shot seems constructed from this fantastic land of purple and pink topped white haired black headed mounds. These gently rolling figures giving way to more and slowly evolving rocky creatures until they fade out in the distant mist contained by the overbearing mountains and glaciers in the distance.
The alternance of lighter and darker layers literally sandwiched between the contrasted skies and dunes gives the final touch of irreality to this overpowering nature.
All landscape shots that do not portray a remarkable landmark are by definition centered, or rather free from centering constraints. But this shot is centered, but only so once the striking features we just described are taken in by the onlooker. Indeed, right in the middle of it, one can see the almost straight path, as the stone paved path in an English garden, made by the reflecting waters laid along, in a luminous repetition of their darker counterparts: the dune at the forefront that are aligned with them.
I'll stop here not to make too long a contribution, but there are many more interesting aspects to this shot I wouldn't mind exploring.
So, how can this be rated relative to the given criteria?
Well, it is very difficult, because the criteria themselves involve interpreting the author's perceptions and decisions, of which we know absolutely nothing. We aren't qualified to discern intent.
But let's give it a try anyway, since I railed earlier about them.
Vision: the idea to use these contrasts and layers of subdued and brighter lights as they disappear in the distance is an obvious vision by the author. The same can be said for portraying literally this dune people anchored on the rim of this strange world.
Originality: that's an easy one. Of the thousands of photos taken at this spot, I have yet to find another with this setting. Again, just fo background info, this forsaken place is visited yearly by at least 40,000 people in search of a good photo...
Technique: again, not an easy call, as it is a criteria better suited to other types of artistic expression (painting and such) in my opinion. Still, I notice the artist has used a lens allowing him to both focus on the dunes without killing the background. A lesser focus would have flattened it, leaving it remarkable but emotionless, and a higher one would have destroyed all narrative hopes by reducing the depth. This tends to show intent. Also, point needs to be made about making the city in the background literally disappear. The mist helps, but the choice of precise height and lens made it possible. This shows also intent in my book, and therefore technical mastery.
Impact: That's a very tricky notion. And very personal. So I'll pass by lamely stating that "the image speaks for itself".
Thank you all and especially Dane Vetter for this beautiful shot.