Message in a bottle – Seascape Results Wash In

Hi everyone. The subject for the August online competition was “Seascapes” and some very tranquil shots were submitted for judging so Steve A Wood must have had a very peaceful time reviewing them all (I think not!). Images varied from the almost painterly to the detailed picturesque. Anyway without further ado here are Steve’s thoughts – and he’s kindly reviewed every single image.

Seascape Judging – Its been a while since my last judging of an online competition but have been watching the number and quality of entries increase over the last year so thank you all for giving me a massive headache!

Now some of you will know that I like getting off to do a seascape or two ever in search of that time all the elements come together, so it has been a pleasure to look through the set of images and see some of the issues I face. I also like to give a bit of feed back on each image, so that even if you don’t get placed it may help you understand why? Now I’m no YPU judge, so you can take my judging with a pinch of salt, but I base my criteria on the skills that we learn – i.e exposure, depth of field, technical accuracy etc, and then it comes down to what grabs you when you see the images and makes you go ooh, yes I like that. So with the waffle over here are the comments for each image, with the results at the end.

A sunny day at the coast. – Definitely a seascape, you have all the ingredients there, the rocks in the foreground, a lovely sea, and some cliffs in the distance, with some fluffy clouds in the sky. It looks like a relatively fast shutter speed has been used to freeze the waves in this image and the exposure is good (there is a hint of blown highlights in the waves at the rear). The depth of field extends all the way to the back. The image is a little off balance with a lot of the action being on the left side of the image, there is a rock acting as a foreground interest, but it may have been better if the author had moved position slightly so that is was located on the right side of the image?.
Morning stroll – At first glance this image is quite striking, the early morning light, the characters to the left on the third, the horizon just under the centre it was just a shame there were no clouds in the sky. I liked the shoreline extending from the bottom right, but the more I looked at it there was something that was messing with my head with the sand and footprints. I could be wrong but I think the 2 people have been dropped in. Now there is nothing wrong in creating images, and some are really good, but there are a couple of giveaways that I wanted to provide some feed back on. The footprints appear to start in the middle of the frame (the sea could have washed them away I suppose) but also the foot print pattern repeats. The sand to the left also had me head scratching, the pattern appears to go up to the left which looks out of sorts with the flow of the tide, but it also appears to be repeated possibly to clone out some other distraction. So a great attempt it would be interesting to see the original, but watch the cloning.
Inverary Coast- A nice moody image with the single boat docked in the harbour. The exposure is good, its sharp front to back and the boat is placed nicely on the third. There is a lot of seaweed in the foreground which seems a little heavy and maybe positioning the bottom of the crop just as the seaweed appears from the left may have balanced the image a little better. The saturation slider also may have been pushed a little too far which helps pop the colour on the boat, but it has also popped the seaweed too which I think is a little distracting. Try a local adjustment just to specific areas when trying this again and see the difference.
Blue skies at Filey – Yes it was a beautiful day when you visited! Technically the image is great, the exposure is good, it is sharp front to the back and the horizon straight and below the third. I like that the water bottom right leads you along the beach and out along the brigg. What I feel it needs is something in the foreground just to add a bit more interest and to add a bit more depth to the scene.
Venetian lagoon.  – A simple image with the lagoon Safety marker sitting nicely just off the right third. It is a little dark however and I wonder if this was an exposure issue with metering for the sky? The wave ripples from the left provide a leading line up to the marker which provide some foreground interest.
Across the lagoon – This looks to be a similar location to the previous image? I like the mono conversion of this image, it looks to have been taken during rain looking at the patterns on the waves which has helped given a haze the distant scenery. The markers leading in from the left finish at the structure to the rear of the image which has enough contrast to separate it from the hazy background. The exposure is great, I just wonder if a crop off the bottom to just below the first marker would just improve the composition a little?
Summers Day Filey Beach – This is more like the filey coast I know, blowing a gale and most likely glum grey sky. I like the humour in this image, the swim between the flags I thought was brilliant given they are about 20m apart. Is it a seascape though? It has the sea in the image but im not sure it counts as a seascape, however I will provide a bit of feedback. The exposure is not bad, there are some dark areas around the vehicle wheels and cabin which could do with the shadows lifting a little. The shutter speed used has frozen the flags and waves well. Compositionally, the 4×4 is on the bottom third which is good, maybe the cone in the middle of the frame is a little distracting, but it did make me chuckle.
Scarborough South Shore – A different view of Scarborough, and one that I have not seen (despite many trips there over the years). A nice panoramic view of the Scarborough harbour and beach taken from a high vantage point, you can see all the way through to the far side of the bay. Exposure wise we can see it was a very bright day but there is a dark area of foliage in the foreground which I think will have confused the meter resulting in the foliage being suitably exposed, but has resulted in the sky getting burned out. To get around this, consider using filters or exposure blending /Bracketing. Its sometimes difficult when just out and about without a tripod. Compositionally I like the location, I just wonder if the foliage to the bottom of the scene is a little heavy.
Faro Jetty – A nice sunset image with virtually full silhouettes of the jetty structure and boats. The horizon is on the upper third which allows the jetty to lead in from the right which is nice, however the horizon is just not quite level which is distracting. As mentioned the image is silhouetted against the sun which is to be expected, the colours aren’t too saturated and I like the reflected colours in the water. For me the scene is a little busy with the boats and may benefit from a few less boats in the scene or if there were separation between them.
Hopefuls on the pier – I like the mono conversion of this image, there are many times I have been to the coast only to be thwarted by the weather and the only thing to do is to convert it to get rid of any distractions just to concentrate the main item in the scene. Now I keep looking at this one and wondering if this is a seascape? The image has a decent exposure, with no blown highlights or blocked up blacks, but is very simple and lacks a bit of depth. Compositionally it works ok with the horizon down on the bottom third and the pier leading from the left. But it is very unbalanced as there is nothing to the right of the scene and I wonder if it would be helped by the pier being a little bigger in the frame or cropping maybe half of the sky away to create a more panoramic look?
Surfs up – Another sunset image with silhouetted figures. I think this one works well in that the silhouettes have that space in between so that it is clear what they are, the ripples in the waves lead you through the image to the sun which is burned out, but has been handled well. The horizon is straight and the 2 birds complement to 2 characters at the front. Again I would ask if it is a seascape scene?
Tide is out – Yes it certainly was, I like this image despite its minimalism approach, and lack of a sea! The tones and lines are what make this image. There are no distractions, the exposure is great, the composition I’m not sure about in the landscape format, and ive tried holding a piece of paper across the top third to reduce the amount of sky and another to the side to make a square crop which I feel works better, but none the less a different but great attempt.
Whitby Seascape – A long exposure of a familiar sight which I think has been handled well. The composition is great, with the pier leading up from the bottom taking the viewer through the image and out to the far jetty which sits nice on the horizon line. Exposure wise is where this image just falls down a little. The whites on the central lighthouse are just on the burned out side and there is a heavy shadow on the concrete wall to the left. The vignette is a little heavy for my liking but I do like the few clouds in the sky which adds some interest.
The best of friends – Another simple image with not a lot going on. There appears to be a nice seafret rolling into the distant cliffs which have retained a bit of detail and adds a bit of interest just below the featureless sky. The exposure for the image is fine, and compositionally the characters, tide and horizon all sit on the thirds which makes this a pleasing image. I just wonder if it is too simple?
Mousehole Rock Pools – Compositionally I like this image, the rock to the bottom leads you round the rock pool up to the beach and then up through the houses on the cliff side and up to the fabulous clouds. The horizon is pretty central, and it may have been improved by being on the top third. The exposure has been handled well, there are a few dark shadows in the rocks to the front right, and maybe a shadows adjustment or local adjustment would help just lift these. I would have been interested to have seen this scene at sunset / sunrise to see how the light casts on the scene.
Towards Stiffkey – Here we have another simple texture / lines image to give an abstract seascape. This one appears to have been exposed whilst moving to give it that panning effect. The colours and texture are good and the composition is on the upper third, however the processing needs some work. Im not sure if it is a result of the technique or an attempt at cloning some distractions out but there are quite a few patches that need a bit more practice. Also there are quite a number of sensor dust bunnies on the image which need cleaning up.
The Net Locker Polpero – There is a lot to like about this image, compositionally it is great, the building and land at the bottom right give a great foreground interest, the houses and the hillside / cliffs in the far ground with the moody sky above, great job. The cloud cover has provided an even flat light so there are no shadows which is great for an even exposure, but this can hide texture and take away the depth in an image. There appears to be a bit of lens distortion around the edges of the frame which could be the lens or it could be the processing so just keep an eye out for that, if it is the lens, you may want to allow for cropping in slightly or upgrade your lens. Also just watch out for the halo effect between the trees and the sky which could be from sharpening or local adjustments.

So the Results…
Highly commended goes to Tide is out, a great abstract effort.
In third place – Surfs Up, I liked the simplicity of this silhouette image, with no distractions.
In second Place – The Net Locker Polperro, just a couple of technical errors let this down, but compositionally I liked this image.
And in first place – Across the Lagoon, I liked the treatment on this moody simple image but it was one that grabbed my attention from the start.

 Well I hope I have not offended anyone too badly, we learn by our mistakes and I certainly still make loads 
Steve A Wood 

Well there you have it. Thanks Steve for a such a full review and I’m sure everyone will have found it helpful. Right, who’s got the gongs. A Highley Commended goes to Tim Jonas for “Tide is Out”, third place to Emma Tabor for “Surf’s Up”, second place to Sally Sallett for “The Net Locker, Polperro” but the outright winner is …. (you’ll have to imagine a 10 second pause with dramatic music) Peter Wells with “Across the Lagoon”. Well done everyone and keep the entries coming in. The gallery is below. September’s online competition is “Macro” so get out the magnifying glasses and go large on tiny things.

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