Photo Review - The Drop that Refreshes :: Digital Photo Secrets

Photo Review - The Drop that Refreshes

by David Peterson 46 comments

Today we start a series of photographic reviews. I've had a lot of questions from people asking for more examples of what makes a good photo.

The first review is of an image by Dennis Gay of Australia called The Drop that Refreshes.

[Note: I reviewed this image a few years ago. Sadly, Dennis has since passed away. I have left this page here as a memoriam to him and his wonderful work.]

Dennis said:

Taken at the Town Green fish cleaning point in Port Macquarie, NSW, Australia. Someone had left the tap dripping and this gull took advantage of it. I was very close to it but thirst must have overcome fear. I had enough time to experiment with shutter speed and exposure to get catch the drips. I thanked the gull after I took the shot.

I love a lot of things about this shot. The colors and light are vivid, the depth of field is great, it's an unusual subject, and tells a story.

The image looks to have been taken in the "Golden Hour" - in the time just after sunrise or before sunset. This hour at each end of the day provides a lovely golden light with long shadows that makes a spectacular setting for any photo. If you want to take advantage of this light, turn off your Auto White Balance setting, as this will wipe out the light effect.

The depth of field has been set so the gull is in focus, but the background water is out of focus. This allows the background to stay 'out of the way' and puts more emphasis on the photo's subject.

An interesting subject and a good story is essential to a good photo. This image has both. Just by looking at the image, you can see the gull is thirsty and trying to get some fresh water any way it can. There's even some irony in the mass of sea water in the background that the gull can't touch. It seems also that the photographer is as lucky in getting the shot as the bird us for finding the running water!

Finally, the image name - The Drop That Refreshes - conveys the story of this image without over dramatizing.

What could be improved? The gull seems a little out of focus. Take care to ensure that the main subject of your image is in crisp focus. Use a faster shutter speed to ensure you get a crisp shot.

I'd like to see a better angle and composition too. The end of the dirt is unfortunately right behind the gull. I would have moved the camera lower or higher to ensure more of the gull is either against the blue background of the sea, or the brown dirt.

The sloping ground is also a distraction from the final image. It's hard to tell if the camera was vertical to take the shot, because there is no horizon but I would have preferred to see a dead straight 'ground line'.

I would have zoomed in a little more as well, to ensure the tap and gull completely filled the frame.

Still, it's a great photo, and one worthy of a high rating.

Dennis, thanks for your many conversations via email. You will be missed.

Most people think this post is Awesome. What do you think?


  1. Richard says:

    You impress the hell out of me, your knowledge of photography is, in my opinion, outstanding, but more importantly, your sincere willingness to share this knowledge set's you apart from others.

    Do you ever do work shops? Where do you live?

  2. Shareef says:

    Thanks for your information, David

  3. Shaun C says:

    David thanks for all your information I find it all very helpful. There is so much information that you need from moving from Film to Digital thanks for helping fill in the spaces. Kind Regards

  4. Mercedes says:

    I learned a lot from your analysis of the another's work, I see very clearly what to do or not do in the composition and shooting of this image. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Chandy Kalampukattu says:

    The critique on the photograph is excellent.
    Great photo shoot and the picture can tell a great story.

  6. Cristina says:

    I love the photo! I'm a beginner photographer learning a LOT from you!
    in my amateur opinion the photo is great! great image!!

  7. Lisi says:

    The tip you post always helped me a lot than my class work. Thank you very much for this world offer.

  8. Bare says:

    I think the lower section of pipe sticking out of the ground would be the perfect alignment tool since the horizon isn't there. I think trying to line up the dirt and water as the horizonwould have taken things way off kilter. He didn't quite line up hte pipe, but came close.

  9. Ajit Kenjale says:

    Thanks David for your review about the pics. As a beginner, It actually helps a lot.

  10. george says:

    G'day, David,

    Thanks for including the photo taken by Dennis Gay. He has certainly left a wonderful legacy of his works in the Port Macquarie area. I'd known Dennis for many years, from the days of the old Digital Photography Forum and had the pleasure of meeting him on several occasions, the last being not long before he took some of his last photos. A true gentleman, with a wicked and Goon-ish sense of humour, absolutely punctilious with his camera work and his post processing and I learned much from his advice.

    Sometimes, it becomes a matter of "seizing the moment" with taking photographs - which is why I carry a little point & shoot Sony W 630 in my top pocket wherever I go, even if I have my DSLR with me. The gull drinking would have been an opportunistic shot and were I there, while playing with settings on the Nikon to get the "perfect shot" - the bird may have flown. The Sony, on "Auto Intelligent" would have been my first shot, then try to set up the Nikon and hope the gull stayed drinking!

    There are times when getting carried away with the minutiae of dissecting an image misses the whole point of having captured a special "NOW" moment, albeit imperfectly. Thanks for a balanced critique. I suspect this shot would have been taken with his old Fuji (complete with rubber lens hood) as he later "graduated" to Canon and took some magnificent surfing and biking pictures with the formidable f 2.8 70-200 zoom lens.

    Thanks again for including a great picture taken by a great man.

    :) george

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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.