Old 05-28-2008, 06:09 PM   #1
amtrakboy
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Default How do you develop an eye for aesthetics?

Hi guys!!

I have been aiming at trying to get shots that have aesthetic appeal, but to no avail. How do you develop an eye for aesthetics, i.e. "artsy" subjects? Two of my most recent examples of photos given the "low aesthetic qualities" rejection: http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...d=529418&key=0. http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...&key=945686779. When comparing my second rejected photo of Union Station in Washington, DC to this one in the database: http://www.railpictures.net/viewphot...=224794&nseq=0

Where does mine of Union Station fall short in aesthetic qualities compared to the accepted photo(Of course, I acknowledge and give all credit due to the photographer who took that photo for a job well done!!)

Thanks in advance for all constructive input!!
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Old 05-28-2008, 06:28 PM   #2
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First: what is the subject of the shot? To my eye, it is a blah pattern of diagonal silver/gray things. Perhaps the shot would work better another time if there were an engine amongst the cars, or if a train were arriving/leaving and there was a gap. It's just a solid mass of gray/silver.

Second, vs. accepted: When things are closer to the fringes of what RP accepts, the impact of variation across screeners can determine the outcome. I suspect the key factor was simply that the screener who looked at yours didn't find an interior shot of what could be any of a number of public spaces sufficiently "RR" in appearance to be accepted. (For my own personal tastes, you shot too low, including a bit too much of the floor.) The only solution is to appeal and see how a different screener reacts.

Union Station is a great building; I haven't taken the time yet to go down there and shoot. In great part because the train photography is poor due to no platform access - one ends up with either distant tele shots or the tough-to-compose down onto the trains shot such as your first. There are better places to go if you want to shoot trains. It's too bad there is no platform access - that would be one sweet location.
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Old 05-28-2008, 06:36 PM   #3
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One of the great mysteries of life.

I could probably take pictures in Yosemite from now until doomsday and no matter how hard I tried my results would never be as good as Ansel Adams.
So at least a part of the answer is in your genes, or something like that. Why were the great artists so great. I don't think it was because they took art classes. Some of it is simply how your brain works.

That being said, and to go back to the Ansel Adams example....Ansel was as master technician at his craft. He knew what camera and film could do, and he knew what effects he could get in the dark room. So a good starting point is to understand the technical side of picture taking. And that can be learned from books and in the class room.

And it probably doesn't hurt to study a bit of the theory of composition. Some of it is pretty simple, like the rule of thirds, the idea of framing stuff, balancing pix, having interesting stuff in the foreground, the importance of depth of field (or lack thereof).

Probably the most important piece in my mind is to simply look at other people's pix and see which ones you like and which ones you don't, and probably equally importantly which ones other people like and which ones they don't. And there is a big difference....the pictures you like are not necessarily the same pix others will like.

Hmm, this is getting longer than I had planned, but let me wade on.

Another comment is that professional photogs typically take a LOT of pix. Then they can sort through the mass of pix and pick a few good ones. But a lot of planning and thought can go into a single image.

Finally, patience. It takes learning from trial and error to get the hang of it.
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Old 05-28-2008, 06:48 PM   #4
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The first one I'm not a big fan of. No real focal point, some dead space, no shine, and the debris takes away from it.

The second one needs some ccw rotation and the blown out area on the left to be fixed.
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Old 05-28-2008, 07:18 PM   #5
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Thanks guys!!! I gather, from what John West said, that an eye for aesthetics tends to be "in your genes," meaning that it takes a certain amount of God-given talent. In other words, if it is like a lot of other pursuits, such as playing a musical instrument, painting, drawing, the art of selling, or having a mechanical knack for fixing things, one has to have the "gift." Like my mother once said: "You've either got it, or you don't!" Anyway, I am going to keep trying since I truly enjoy this hobby!! Like they say, you learn something new every day, and you learn by trial and error. As JRMDC said, the fact that there is no platform access at Washington, DC Union Station severely limits the photo opportunities. Does anyone here know if it has always been that way, or is it another result of "Post 9-11?"
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Old 05-28-2008, 07:26 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amtrakboy
Thanks guys!!! I gather, from what John West said, that an eye for aesthetics tends to be "in your genes," meaning that it takes a certain amount of God-given talent.
True to some extent, but you can also work on what talent you have.

Try "Learning to see Creatively" by Bryan Peterson. It's one of the sources I think about when shooting and when I work on my blog.
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Old 05-28-2008, 07:27 PM   #7
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Thanks, JRMDC!! I'll check it out!!
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Old 05-28-2008, 08:04 PM   #8
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Quote:
The first one I'm not a big fan of. No real focal point, some dead space, no shine, and the debris takes away from it.
Wait...you mean trash on a rooftop isn't aesthetically pleasing?!?
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Old 05-28-2008, 08:12 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ween
Wait...you mean trash on a rooftop isn't aesthetically pleasing?!?
It has to be trash that satisfies the principles of aesthetics that reach out to our innermost souls...

But it is hard to get there the first time; one needs to learn rule-of-thirds trash, silhouette trash, moody trash, shallow depth of field trash... Trash is hard to shoot!
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Old 05-28-2008, 08:23 PM   #10
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Trash is hard to shoot! Take some of my recent rejects as examples!
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Old 05-28-2008, 09:16 PM   #11
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Hi to everyone !

I disagree with the "genetic" part of the creative work. Everyone has a sensitivity hidden somewhere inside us. The game is to find where it is ! Like JRMDC suggests, have a look to the book of Bryan Peterson, it will give you clues to walk on the road to creativity.

I asked myself the same question than you, a few months ago. I would suggest you to do "exercices imposÚs" about the design elements of a picture. There are : form, shape, pattern, texture, color, lines... So you pick one and go along the tracks, on stations, on yards and try to work on the design element you picked. You seen to like the "pattern side" as the three rejections that you're sharing have this element in majority. After a few week, you will realize that your eyes "taught' to detect some of these elements. Then you'll have to emphase them by the composition. This is a long way that never stops but it works.
I did a photo-essays that you can read here :
A lonely freightcar

Notice that I'm using the word "creativity" instead of "aesthetics". Creativity is calling something deep in you that will make you discover your sensitivity, the real "you".

Also, don't feel bad because rp screeners rejected some of your work. In the low aesthetic reason, i prefer to see the "it doesn't fit our goal" side. There are many places you can discover "alternative" train pictures like JRMDC's blog. Also, i'm part of a Project that is trying to talk about "artsy". There is a forum where you can see some other things and also ask about advices, suggestions.
Have a look here and contribute if you like
Photo Gallery
Contemporary black & white Railroad Photography

Important is to keep the work !

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Old 05-28-2008, 11:43 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John West
One of the great mysteries of life.

I could probably take pictures in Yosemite from now until doomsday and no matter how hard I tried my results would never be as good as Ansel Adams.
I disagree. Buy an 8x10 camera and wait for the good light. The mountains are always there. It was the weather and unique light that made his shots what they are.
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Old 05-29-2008, 12:20 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WKUrailfan
I disagree. Buy an 8x10 camera and wait for the good light. The mountains are always there. It was the weather and unique light that made his shots what they are.
Not to mention, he was the first.
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Old 05-29-2008, 04:09 AM   #14
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Generally, these shots are pretty simple. Your shots are cluttered and have a lot going on...keep it simple, and make good use of your elements (especially light). Keep the focus clear, and trust your instincts. There are plenty of times I "see" a shot somewhere, but capturing it can sometimes be difficult - thankfully, in the age of digital, I think nothing of popping off 50-60 shots of a single subject using various settings, angles, etc., as usually at least one captures what I saw. I also like to use various techniques to emphasize the subject. Here's a few examples of my own stuff:

Image © Nick Wilson
PhotoID: 230459
Photograph © Nick Wilson

I saw the gorgeous, pink sunset streaking against a blue sky and spent half an hour shooting it while others were going nuts over a pair of E8As. I'm far more satisfied with this shot than any of my shots of said E8s.

Image © Nick Wilson
PhotoID: 209028
Photograph © Nick Wilson

Using a shallow depth-of-field and a tight crop to make an interesting shot.

Image © Nick Wilson
PhotoID: 203416
Photograph © Nick Wilson

Using motion to make a dynamic scene, much more interesting than were the train static (though still a relatively simplistic shot).

Image © Nick Wilson
PhotoID: 202735
Photograph © Nick Wilson

A simple going-away, glint shot using the "true black" technique (meaning you have actual black and white in your image rather than just shades of grey). I waited until the units were on a curve to emphasize them and the exhaust.

Image © Nick Wilson
PhotoID: 201673
Photograph © Nick Wilson

Using a beautiful, blue sky as a simple, nice looking background.

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Old 06-06-2008, 04:49 PM   #15
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Default Another one rejected for "low esthetic qualities"

I also have this shot, that I took the other day, that also was kicked back for "low esthetic qualities." Can anyone please elaborate? Thanks in advance for your help!!

http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...&key=151585403

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Old 06-06-2008, 04:58 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amtrakboy
I also have this shot, that I took the other day, that also was kicked back for "low esthetic qualities." Can anyone please elaborate? Thanks in advance for your help!!

http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...&key=151585403
Random streaks of light and crossbucks. What exactly was your point of taking it? Its hard to pick a major subject in your photo since the crossbucks are so small in the frame and the light streaks lack detail or interest.

Take this one of mine which I had to fight for to get in. It was one of my first times seeing a GEVO (sick of them now) so it was cool to see how many more lights were on it compared to a regular widecab. I framed the shot with the signals on either side as the main subject and to give the shot some balance. I like the results for just being a streak of light.
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Old 06-06-2008, 05:13 PM   #17
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Thanks Andrew for your advice!! I will go out and shoot several more locations in this area that make for a much more interesting interplay of light in night shots, based on your advice!! Best regards.
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Old 06-10-2008, 08:43 PM   #18
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Here is another shot that I took, trying to get aesthetic appeal. It is a closeup of the padlock on a UP signal control box, surrounded by bullet holes and dents from shotgun pellets placed by vandals. Any criticisms or comments? All appreciated!!!
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Old 06-10-2008, 09:11 PM   #19
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Yes, I suppose that because the padlock is stamped with UP's company initials, that makes the photo railroad-related.....but it's a bit of a stretch in my (very) humble opinion. If the rail connection were more obvious, and the subject matter were more pleasing to the eye, it would have a much better chance.

A Baker Valve Gear....perhaps. Frost-covered railroad spikes....maybe. Bullet nicks? Probably not....
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Old 06-10-2008, 09:29 PM   #20
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Thanks, Kevin!! Appreciate the input!! I'll keep trying!!
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