Photo appraisal: Lake at Dawn

Amateur Photographer

Expert advice and tips on improving your photography from Damien Demolder. He gives his appraisal of Lake at Dawn by Amri Arfianto and offers advice on how it might be improved.

Aug 30, 2016 12:04 PM EDT

We don’t think twice about accepting fiction in art forms such as painting, films and writing, but when it comes to photography, many of us expect some sort of truth. Photography can be truth, and it is very good at it, but it can also be a dreamy romanticism of reality or a blatant fabrication of events. Truth, ‘enhanced’ truth or untruth – it doesn’t really matter, so long as we understand the status of what we are looking at and the photographer isn’t actively lying to the audience.

Amri’s picture is, I suspect, a version of the truth that has rather more colour than could be seen by the naked eye. However, nature is genuinely wondrous, and as such it is difficult for any of us who weren’t at this place at the same time of day and year as Amri to know whether the scene could have looked like this or not. If the scene did look this way, the challenge is to convince people that what 
they are assuming to be a fabrication is actually just an amazing display of nature.

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Either way, this is an effective picture, and the colours, whether true or not, certainly grab the attention. What spoils it for me, though, is that the lead-in lines from the bottom corners take us into the centre of the frame, where there is a tree that disappears into the mountains on the opposite bank. Amri leads us to something, but won’t show us what it is when we get there.

This is a difficult situation and from the comfort of my desk it is easy for me to identify that had Amri had the presence of mind to take his stepladder with him that morning, a higher angle would have allowed all the branches to be silhouetted against the water. With that extra height, there would have been some separation between the tree and the mountains, so it would have stood out.

The dramatic colours are very nice and all very well, but the picture is missing its subject.

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