Josh Coffman's picture

Coastal Composition Critique

Hi Everyone, I'm new here.. I've been photographing mostly South Florida landscapes and wildlife for the past couple of years now with a Nikon D810. I haven't had many critiques of my work from industry professionals, mostly just friends/family. Figured this would be a great place to get an honest critique of some of my work.

This is one of my more recent photos from a location to north of me, Coral Cove Park. We don't have many areas here in Florida with seascapes like this, mostly sand beaches, so I thought this would be a great place to work on my seascape composition skills. My goal for this photo was to create a strong foreground, mid-ground and background with well defined leading lines while maintaining the exposure and focus throughout. I used a polarizing filter to help remove the reflections from the first pool of water while maintaining reflections on in the mid-ground/background. A 1/3s exposure was used to capture the action of a wave as it crashed into the rocks which helped draw the viewers attention towards the sunrise/storms in the distance. I then used a .9 soft edge graduated density filter to help balance out the back lit clouds with the foreground. In order to pull out all of the detail in the foreground I placed the camera fairly close to the ground, around 2ft or so away with my 16-35mm lens at 16mm. Because of the close proximity to the foreground I ended up focus stacking this image with 3 shots at f8, one for the foreground, mid-ground and background. I then bracketed the sky with 3 exposures and blended them all together in photoshop/lightroom. I don't like over processed images, so I tried to keep the scene as close to how I experienced it as possible.

Please let me know your thoughts, and if you would have approached this scene in a different way. Also let me know your opinion of the overall image quality and processing techniques.

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12 Comments

Hi,
I like the other images in your portoflio, very balanced, but I feel like this one has too much foreground that distract from this amazing sky. The foreground is too complex, too busy. I would have moved further to that wall of rocks in the middleground so they'd become my foreground or something to give more importance to the sky and the sea, which I can barely see on the image. Also I fear the 1/3 s exposure has made your clouds blurry while not adding much since you barely see the wave. My overall critique is that it's too complex. Simplicity is often the key of good landscape photos.

Josh Coffman's picture

Hi Nick,
Thanks for taking the time to review this composition! I agree, it does look at bit on the busy side. I wanted to move closer, however, this image doesn't show how big those waves were that were crashing into the rocks. I'd own 1 less Nikon D810 if I had gone any closer :) but I agree. As far as the sky being blurry, it's actually pin sharp in lightroom when I zoom in, I used 3 exposures on the sky, the 1/3s shot was only for the foreground to capture the wave, this image is just too small to show the detail.

Here's a variation of this scene from a previous week getting a bit closer to the ocean:

https://joshcoffmanphotography.com/portfolios/tidal-flow/

I feel like this is one of those areas I'll need to continue going back to until the conditions are just right...

Thanks again for your critique! I'll keep that mind next time I shoot this location.

joseph cole's picture

definitely revisit this area tons of potential but i don't know about getting blessed with those clouds again ...damn I'm jealous

Josh Coffman's picture

I left my house at 4am to drive to this location and the entire trip up had lightning everywhere, I knew I'd either get a dramatic scene or rained out lol it's one of the things I like most about photography, you don't know what to expect until you show up. I'll definitely be heading back to this location a few more times...

Geoff Thompson's picture

Hi Josh it is a striking image. I think Nick has touched on some important points.We have these amazing tools these days but you are using some thought in composition and filters etc. Some of the great landscape photographers never had the luxury of photostacking and yet their work is amazing.It is a complex shot but I don't mind it.The rocks are in a sense providing a mirror of the cloud formation which makes it interesting.

Josh Coffman's picture

Thanks Geoff, I think as a large print this wouldn't look quite so complicated/busy, I may experiment with a few printing styles and see how it turns out. We do have a lot of techniques we can implement today with digital cameras... I normally don't go quite so overboard with all of the focus stacking/exposures lol however, I felt this photograph almost required it. I know once its blow up large as a print any issues with focus in the near foreground would have stood out.

Geoff Thompson's picture

Yes would make a great print I think.

joseph cole's picture

everybody forgets about reduction principles, things like Instagram and internet stock photos need to be simple but large scale needs more to look at I'm sure blowing this up would look just fine

Josh Coffman's picture

exactly, that's what I'm thinking, perhaps a 20x30 print or larger.

joseph cole's picture

do it up I'm going to do a print of that bridge shot i took last week it didn't get great reviews but i love it

Josh Coffman's picture

Nice, I like that composition.

joseph cole's picture

Thanks I love foggy mornings