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[FORMAL CRITIQUE] Path to Kirby Cabin

BYRON BYRON 11456 posts

This image “Path to Kirby Cabin” was posted for critique by ROB BIEMER

Camera info:
Bessa R2A, Jupiter-8 50mm lens at f 5.6, not positive but shutter speed was 125th or so, shot in AE mode. Taken on Kodak BW400CN film.

Rob wins a full on critique this week because he uses a very cool camera, and he uses my favourite film stock of all time – Kodak T400CN – an amazing Black & White film that can be processed in a colour minilab without having to adjust any of the settings on the minilab!

This film was only around for a few years before the introduction of digital, which is a shame, because it made B&W film available to the masses. Other B&W films need to be processed by specialist or enthusiast film developers, which is time consuming and costly.

T400CN cost the same to process as any roll of colour film, and you can get your B&W pix back in an hour! How freaking cool is that?!

The other amazing thnig is the E-N-O-R-M-O-U-S exposure latitude with this film. You could choose almost any setting on your camera and still get great results with this film.

f2.8, 4 seconds, [ISO400] in the middle of the day, with no polariser or ND filter, pointing at a bright subject – NO PROBLEM

Or… f19 1/500sec at 7pm outdoors… NO PROBLEM

I have always maintained that you simply could not take a bad shot with this film.

AND – its not grainy at all!!!!

Holy Moley, rock’n rollie… Kodak T400CN – buy it, use it, its awesome.

yeah I love that film!

BYRON BYRON 11456 posts

F I R S T – I M P R E S S I O N S:

  1. The strange out-of focus areas look like this was shot with a Holga style camera.
  2. Great tonal gradations. Looks like film


Brand / Manufacturer: VOIGTLANDER

Model: BESSA R2A

Lens: JUPITER-8 50MM [Fixed focal length]

Film: KODAK T400CN B&W


Aperture / F-Stop: f5.6

Shutter Speed: 1/125sec

ISO/ASA: 400

Focal Length: 50mm


Exposure: As is expected with T400CN film, the exposures are just fabulous here. Good blacks, and good whites. No under or over exposed regions, and smooth tonal gradations throughout the grey scale.

Lighting: From the left, but subtle and not over-powering. Again typical of T400CN film.

Colour Saturations: As stated above, all grey tones well represented, again – typical of T400CN film.

Focus / Depth of Field: The focal point in this images seems to be half way along the first set of planks. The very foreground is nicely blurred, and the mid to back ground areas gently lose focus.

Sharpness: The point of focus is crisp and sharp. This is typical of fixed focal length lenses because of higher quality glass and construction methods.

Score (out of 10 points): 7


Aesthetics / General appearance: This image looks lovely. The smooth tonal gradations and good saturations all along the grey scale leave no distracting over-exposed areas. Even in the dark regions there is still plenty of detail.

The focus drop-off from midground to background is gentle and effective and helps to create some mystery in regards to where this path leads.

Emotional Content: Sense of mystery, and curiousity. Is this a path to some hill-billy’s shack? Do they make moonshine? Will they give me some? Can they pluck a banjo?… you just don’t know for sure, and the out of focus background really helps create this effect.

Storytelling ability / Creative communication of a concept or idea: This image is pleasant, and full of curiosity value… where does that damn path go? This sort of reminds me of the Hansel & Gretel story.

Originality: Reasonably original, especially in the areas of subject choice and execution of technique.

Score (out of 10 points): 7


Framing / Cropping: Framing is good. Pointing the camera at the first set of planks and not at the end of the path, keeps our attention on the planks, but we want to look at the background to see where it goes. This creates movement in the image.

Simplicity of Design: A little bit messy. Trees everywhere, which is ok – its in a forest. But the tree on the top left hand corner is distracting since it is diagonally opposed to the other trees. I find this very distracting.

Points of Interest: Planks, a creek and trees. All work well to create a sense of place.

Rule of Thirds: not applicable

Lines & Diagonals: Rob has used a classic technique here to create interest – the S-Curve Diagonal.

Diagonal lines are intrinsically interesting [as I have explained many times before], but the S-Curve Diagonal is even more so. This is because it creates movement as well as drawing our eyes through the image.

The line of the path is from bottom left corner to top right corner, but it weaves back and forth, taking us from one side of the frame to the other before disappearing out of focus into the background.

Having the path move from bottom left to top right also creates some tension in the viewer since it crosses the natural way we look at an image [from top left to bottom right], it breaks our concentration and demands that we give it our attention.

I think this tension works well for this image.

Balance / Use of Negative Space: Left and right sides of the image are balanced fairly evenly on either side of the path, but Negative space is not realy used or needed here due to the lack of a specific Subject or POI other than the pathway.

Score (out of 10 points): 8


I think this is quite a good shot with lots of potential. I think it could be a lot darker to enhance the feeling of tension created by the DOF.

I would be tempted to really push the Levels in post-production and darken the whole image a lot.

I haven’t included examples of other images in this critique, since compositionally your image is fairly original and nothing really compares to it compositionally.

That is not to say its perfect. I feel that some other POI really would help give this more long term interest. I think a man standing in the background would be awesome – and could really add to the tension I think this photo is starting to create.

The only thing I would suggest to you Rob is to study the work of LARS van de GOOR who is probably the greatest exponent of forest and pathway photography I have ever seen. His control of light and colour and compositional elements is simply extra-ordinary.

Total Score (out of 30 points): 22

rbiemer rbiemer 38 posts

Thank you very much for this, Byron!

The BW400CN film I used is a slight update of the T400CN-I emprically find that the only difference is the packaging. While I’m pretty sure Kodak tweaked the T400CN to get to the BW400CN, I really have not seen any difference in the negs or the prints.

No banjos at the Kirby Cabin! I can explain a bit about the cabin and this path if folks want me to but the ‘real’ story might not be as good as your imagination…

Yes, that half fallen tree in the upper left corner is a distraction. I left this as it is because I think the proportions don’t work as well if I crop out the top and I really didn’t want to crop the left edge. I will be able to shoot this again, however, and think I will try it from a much lower view point. And I will revisit the crop and see if I can fix/get rid of that tree.

I wanted the reflections to be in focus which is why I placed the focus there along the boards. Because of the way RF cameras work, you don’t get to see the DOF until you see the print/scan so I took about 4 different shots of this with the focus at various points along the boards. I didn’t want the focus to fall off too sharply so I used the 5.6 aperture.

The woods that morning were relatively bright though the sky was overcast. My general inclination is to get what I see on the film but I will see what this looks like after some level adjustments.

Byron, this is a very helpful and thorough critique, thank you for taking the time to do it! And I appreciate the link to Lars van de GOOR; I will be looking at his work and hopefully his will inform mine to make mine better.

If I’m happy with my ‘corrections’ to this image, I will try to post the result here.
Very much appreciated,

BYRON BYRON 11456 posts

You’re most definitely welcome Rob.

I just have to appreciate anyone who still shoots on film, and uses a camera I would kill my mother for.

Well, to be fair she is already dead, so that really isn’t saying much… but I would love a 35mm RangeFinder like the Bessa R2A!

where was this taken? The trees and the light make me think it is southern California…

rbiemer rbiemer 38 posts

The Bessas are, I think, an excellent ‘bang for buck’ deal; certainly they are not Leicas but, for me, they serve just as well. I’m still mainly a film shooter not because I dislike digital but for what I want to do with this hobby of mine, film cameras work better.

This was taken in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate NY, USA. About a hundred yards or so from Raquette Lake(the lake not the village of the same name. ). I am a chef by trade and I have the joy of living and working here for 10 months of the year. In fact, I’ll be heading north in about 10 days( 242 hours as I type this post, but who’s counting…LOL) to cook for the winter session there.

The place I work was, in the late 1800s, a railroad tycoon’s summer ‘camp’ and it now belongs to the State University of New York where they offer Outdoor and Environmental Education classes. I have the privilege of feeding the students,faculty, and staff.


BYRON BYRON 11456 posts

I think Leicas are like BMW’s – great bits of gear, but bought by people who get-off on the “name”.

Voigtlanders are more like Lotus … bought by people who are purists and prefer function over form, and dont give a damn if you have heard of the brand or not.

The Adirondacks, huh? Love that region. I was in the new England region on holidays a few years ago… Maine, The Hamptons… awesome part of the world!

Jacob Schneider Jacob Schneider 83 posts

Hmmm, seen the new Leica X1? I’m not sure what they’re stinging for it but I think it’ll be around the $3k mark. $400 for the camera, $2500 for the red logo I’m thinking.

JanT JanT 2559 posts

Jacob, saw a Leica X1 at amazon.com for $1,995.00 USD. (Leica X1 12.2MP APS-C CMOS Digital Camera?) Did you want one?