Semipalmated Plover Image and a Critique

/, Florida, Fort De Soto County Park, Pinellas County, Semipalmated Plovers/Semipalmated Plover Image and a Critique

Semipalmated Plover on mudflatsSemipalmated Plover on mudflats

While I was working on my Snowy Egret post from yesterday I wandered through some of my older files and came across this Semipalmated Plover image and it struck me that I had something to say about a critique I had gotten about it when I posted it to an image critique forum I used to be active on. The comment “ruffled my feathers” a bit at that time and recalling what was said made me feel the same way all over again.

Critique forums can be invaluable when learning the craft of photography because most of the thoughtful comments are helpful while some other comments aren’t really helpful at all. Early on I learned a lot from the generous members of the forum who offered help and were honest in their assessment of the files I posted, I am very grateful for those people.

This was the comment:

Very nice, great job on the exposure and I like your comp, maybe just a bit lower angle would make it even better (little silly emoticons of beer mugs knocking together displayed here).

The comment may seem wonderful because it talks about the great job on the exposure and composition but what bothered me was the comment about a bit of a lower angle might have made it even better.

Just looking at the image gives the viewer the idea that I had to be low to the ground when the image was created, this is a tiny little plover on the exposed mudflats after the tide had receded and those little mounds of sand were created by even tinier crabs. My upper half was laying in the slimy mud while my lower half was in the shallow water, the bird was close to the edge of the mudflat with the gentle slope leading to the sand dunes behind it and the bird was actually located just slightly above me.

If the person commenting had noticed what I wrote and the things I mentioned above they would have realized that their comment didn’t make much sense. Had I been any lower the sand from the crabs burrows would have become more of a distraction at the bottom of the frame and that could have ruined the image. So I kind of hope the commenter had been joking.

Besides, to have gotten any lower than the Semipalmated Plover I would have had to have crawled down the burrow of one of those crabs and while I don’t mind getting down and dirty to get my images that would have been taking it just a bit too far.

Yes, I hope he was joking.



  1. Mia McPherson May 27, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    Critique forums are awesome for learning many things and I know I learned a lot from the people on the one where I participated. Besides that I met some absolutely awesome people who have become my friends, in fact I met my best friend there.

    WC wasn’t the person who said I should get a lower angle. As he mentioned it can be difficult at times to understand nonverbal comments whereas face to face comments are clearer.

  2. Dave Sparks May 17, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    The reviewer was making a mountain out of a crab hill. I like WC’s comment. You were known for your low angle shots on that forum and it could easily have been an attempt at humor. I know some of my attempts at humor on that forum sometimes fell a little flat. But the reviewer was correct about the exposure and composition. The DOF adds a lot to the image as well.

  3. Wickersham's Conscience May 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    WC certainly hopes that wasn’t his comment. And if it was, WC hopes you and your readers understand WC was being ironic. And if it wasn’t WC, it’s still long odds that whoever did make the comment was being ironic.

    For your readers: Mia is the Queen of Low Angle Shorebird Photography. Her work in the photo critique forum she mentions has inspired a lot of photographers to, as it were, get down and dirty. She has certainly inspired WC to get the low angle shots.

    The inherent problem with a single channel communication structure like written comments is that humans are designed for multi-channel communication. More information is transmitted non-verbally in a face to face conversation than verbally. On the intertubes, only a slow, single mode is present. Emoticons do a pitifully bad job of communicating nonverbal information. So, as Mia suggests, “feathers get ruffled” where there is no intent to offend. Because we can’t see the smile, or here the ironic tone of voice, or immediately react to nonverbal cues that irony has been taken wrong.

    And, yes, it is an awesome photo, made much stronger by the low angle.


  4. Merrill Ann Gonzales May 13, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Mia, Sadly, I have learned that when someone (usually of the opposite sex) sees something they wish they could have don but know they won’t ever be able to master in a million years… they feel threatened. I’ve seen it with men who feel threatened by women doing something better than they can… and I’ve seen women who feel threatened a put down when a man simply outmasters them. Most of the time they are graceful about it… but every so often you find someone making a joke like that… What was really said was they wished you were in a hole some place so they could be king or queen of the mountain. Snarky remarks reflect more on the their author than on the piece commented on.
    It seems you ran into the snark master.

  5. Prairie Birder May 13, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Excellent photo, Mia!

  6. Rohrerbot May 13, 2013 at 11:14 am

    All I can say is….you saw a Semipalmated Plover and got a great shot. I have that OCD nature for perfection in me as well. With a new lens, I’m now able to get those clear shots. So…..pish posh pish posh. Your shot in my mind is perfection:)

  7. Azstu May 13, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Great shot as always Mia. You obviously have an incredible eye for selecting, framing and composing your shots. Maybe the person was joking. Text has no personality or intonation, so its hard to know the intent of messages. I am the worlds worst person for listening to a critique of what I do ( ask anyone ;). and often get offended as some comment and then a day later revisit and find the comment innocuous. But anyway. in terms of getting lower. perhaps a small submarine/periscope kit could help assuage the commenter ;).. I have never seen anything but perfect images from you and I am sure everyone thinks that, cept twits 😉

  8. Sherry in MT May 13, 2013 at 7:53 am

    I think next time we bury you in the sand with just your camera poking out! LOL It is a lovely picture and I appreciate how many “laying on the ground” shots you share with us. Am guessing that person has never gotten “down and dirty” to get a shot! 🙂

  9. Kathleen May 13, 2013 at 7:18 am

    Mia, all your images are amazing! They’re in the back of my mind whenever I pull out my camera.

  10. Bob Bushell May 13, 2013 at 6:47 am

    Love the Plover.

  11. M. Firpi May 13, 2013 at 6:35 am

    I also exposed myself to critique forums and I find they helped considerably; although some comments would sometimes hit me hard; and of course, as it happened to you here, they were thoughtless or inappropriate. I refrain myself from giving critiques. But I used to participate often in Critique Forums sometime ago, and there’s usually someone with a good eye that can say something valuable. The important thing is that you’re aware you’ve posted an image at a Critique Forum, because if you have, you have to be ready to take the comments that come your way. I once posted some images at another forum which were not meant to be critiqued, and they were critiqued anyway. I asked the Administrator to remove the post because I had not asked for critique on those images, I was simply giving out visual information on a place I visited; but the person who made the comments thought I had posted them for critique. Critiques should always be requested and be in the appropriate forum; critiques should not be given freely at will. It intimidates people, this is IMOHO.

  12. judy watson May 13, 2013 at 5:57 am

    Well. I think it’s perfect!

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