This photo was submitted for critique by Edward Garner.

This is a beautiful image taken near sunset in Afghanistan. I love the simplicity of the compositon and the strong graphics. There is a lot of drama in a shot like this.

Looking at the composition, the first thing I notice is the helicopter, which is a good thing. It’s the main focal point of the photograph and there is little question as to what this photo is about.

After the helicopter, I notice the sun, which makes a nice counterpoint to the helicopter. It’s also very interesting how the helicopter and sun are tonally reversed – the heli is black, the sun is white. A nice contrast.

One thing to look out for in a composition like this is that when you have two very strong elements the viewer’s eye can tend to “ping pong” back and forth between the two. In this case, I don’t think it’s a problem because the helicopter is strong enough to retain its dominance in the composition.

However, I think the image would have been stronger if the sun wasn’t directly below the helicopter in the frame, and maybe a bit larger. If possible, it might have been good to zoom in tighter. But all in all, I think the handling of these two elements represents a good outcome of what was surely a fast action shot.

In any photo containing subject matter that appears to be traveling in a specific direction it’s critical to leave enough room in front of the object for the viewer’s eye to travel into that space without leaving the frame, which in this case has been done very well.

There are a couple of distracting elements in the compositon. The bright opening of the clouds at the top pulls my eye out of the top of the frame; I think cropping this out would be the way to go. Also, the bright spot of what looks to be water toward the middle bottom could be cloned out, or cropped.

When composing and/or cropping an image like this, it’s important to keep dynamic tension in the frame by not making the main divisions of the frame too proportional. The very bottom of the frame isn’t adding much to the story; I think cropping out the water and letting the bottom strip of land anchor the composition would lend more importance to the helicopter in the sky with the dramatic clouds.

The exposure has been handled well, I love the silhouette of the helicopter yet there’s just enough blur to be visible in the blades. I don’t see any problems with noise in the dark areas, which sometimes can be a problem with images like this.

Overall this is a well seen and well executed photo showing strong subject matter and clean composition. Just a little cropping would put on the finishing touches.

Thanks for submitting your photo, Ed! Keep ’em coming.

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