WHChaikumultimedia                                                                                                         exercise #4

 Comments and Critique
by Ray Rasmussen


I was hesitant to accept this role because I worried that I wouldn’t see much good work … my reason, I think that a self-portrait is an especially difficult exercise especially when one has to produce both an image and a haiku. But, after looking over the images/haiku, I’m relieved. I can offer some impressions and suggestions, but there’s so much good, creative work here, that we can all pat ourselves on the back. WHCMultimedia is producing some very strong work and we, as a group, are miles ahead of where we were when Susumu and Debi kicked this whole thing off, what, about 2 years ago?

Comparisons can’t be avoided. Undoubtedly some of you will pick up the feeling that yours isn’t one of my favorites. So, I’ve decided to make my top picks explicit, by labeling them “A Top Pick.”  But, I confess that I think that comparison, although unavoidable, is bad for the spirit. I prefer responding to images one at a time and simply saying what I think.

Finally, I’ve become aware that I have some strong visual biases that don’t exactly match those of my colleagues on WHC MM. That has done me some good, because when someone whose work I respect says that they like an effect, I learn that there’s more than my viewpoint to be considered. But, unfortunately for you folks, you have only my viewpoint, my bias, so we’ll have to live with that. I’d be tempted to use IMHO a lot, but truthfully, I’d feel the phony if I did so. I have strong feelings about images. So, that’s what I have to offer. IMNSHO … in my not so humble opinion.

Having said all that, here are my impressions, thoughts, and evaluations.  I’ve repeated the text of the haiku so that you can absolutely identify which image is yours and to force myself to focus equally on the haiku, which I tend not to do.



1. This self a gathering of dust and dreams: A Top Pick: This image is one that I would pick as excellent for three of its elements: creativity [eyes slightly showing through starry sky], color/composition, the arrangement, color, font of the text. I don’t trust my judgment of haiku, but I like the sentiment expressed in this one.

2. If I write on a cloud the mountain will read praise you lord:  I like several things about this image/haiku. First, the half face captures my interest. Why is she showing us only half of herself? I think perhaps that the other half, her spirit, is like the clouds. Whatever her reason, she’s gotten me to do more than simply look at the image and pass on. A bold framing, a very loud pink and a more muted purple. Hmm. This strikes me as a statement about herself … there is vivid color in her life, strong emotion. Yet, I’d like to see something else ... the inner purple frame smaller, the outer pink one still loud, but perhaps more muted … some earth tones mixed in with the pure pink. The haiku … such a strong statement of religious belief. It matches the strength of this woman’s face. I think that I would choose a different font, perhaps smaller, definitely clearer [this may be a technical problem], and matching one of the colors either in the image or on the frame. As is, we have pink, purple, white, and then the earth tones of the face and background. Too much, I think.

3.  After the Pilgrimage stretching my legs a fresh breadth of spring: This one also acted like a Zen koan. I see mother goose and her children. Someone has been on a pilgrimage and has lots of kids/grandkids. I like the image, the positioning of the text, that the colors have been reduced to the minimum, the inner frame and font color reflecting the color of the central image. I think that the inner frame is a bit too strong. I’d use only one pixel and maybe darken it just a bit. The haiku reads like three separate lines – I think it needs a bit of revising. So, I’m left with a mystery: who in our group is “mother goose”.

4. The last year many miles across orchard and field. This one say to me that we have a guy who feels that he’s been around the block a few times, the haiku plus the wrinkled effect used on the photo. I think that the filter effect is craquelure. So, we have 3 elements in this image that compete for our eye, the face, the boot, and the text. Each of these elements is so different that the image doesn’t feel integrated … doesn’t feel like a ‘whole’ to me. I’d like to see the text not compete with the face … maybe not use caps, pick a softer color/tone in the face. I have to ask myself what the boot is for. I think that the author is showing us his footwear … the boots that have carried him many miles. But, if so, with the wrinkled face, I don’t think the boot is needed. Of course, I may have missed the symbolism.  Now for the central part of the image. I think that the craquelure effect is too strong. In Photoshop, it can be reduced to a very subtle effect … which I think would work better. Also, I would suggest isolating the face and not applying the craquelure filter to the background. That makes the background compete with the face. The haiku touches me. There’s a weariness to it. I’m projecting of course, but I’m hearing that someone has been walking a long road and the orchard and fields haven’t always been full of blossoms.

5. hot summer day wild waves affect geese and sanity. Top Pick. I love the complexity of this image. I think that we are looking at this person in two ways … sitting in front of his/her computer screen and out there in a lake trying to take a photograph of some geese. But that’s not all. The room/computer have been ‘fancified’ [is that a word? My spell check is flashing an ugly red warning signal]. This person is telling us that his/her computer room is a creative playground. Anything can happen here.  There’s lots of room for whimsy in this world and I found it here. Top marks for creativity.

6. winter pools each leg of my journey reflected: A full face of a younger self? A gap toothed self. That’s my guess … we’re reflecting on a particular early period in life. Full-face images are unsettling … it’s like looking in the mirror or like having someone look directly at me through my computer screen. This is the face that someone has seen when she looked in the mirror at one point in her life.  Now, this image in particular needs the haiku to work with it … and ‘each leg of my journey reflected’ tells us a lot. I’m not sure what ‘winter pools” means … rain puddles on the pavement, coldness, why “pools”. This may be a language use problem … the phrase doesn’t immediately make sense to me, except that this is a cold season and the year’s end, life’s end, season. As for the image, I think it would be improved by removing the line on the nose. The problem with some of the paint filters is that they sometimes produce lines or streaks where there were none before or perhaps there was a wisp of hair in the original photo, but, if so, the filter has made it unrecognizable.  I think that the filter has also produced some dark spots in the eyes which I’d remove.  I think that the framing is okay, doesn’t compete with the central image, and the 1 pixel gold border helps to bind the image.

7. all she says she remembers my sad blue eyes: A very wistful way to look at oneself, through someone else’s memories. And, in this case the memory of sad blue eyes. What I like about this image, then, is that the artist has taken us right into her memory of him [I guess I could say ‘of her’]. We just see the eyes, we just see what she saw. This is a very powerful idea. However, without abandoning either the idea or the minimalist approach to the image, I’d play around a bit and reach for a better expression of it. It’s too great an idea to let go and it works too well with the haiku. I think that the framing detracts from the image. We have a white border and a shadow effect … competing with the yellow/blue eyes. I also think that a yellow/blue text and a softer, more memory-like, more vague font would work better.  I wondered whether the haiku should have L3 come first. But, I much like the haiku. It evokes very strong sentiments in me.

8. chance meeting the little red haired girl all grown up: Always tough, as a man, to look at an image of a beautiful woman and think about anything else but female beauty. But this task forces me beyond the immediate reaction. I could be critical of this haiga, because the surface effect itself isn’t very lovely… it’s like pointillist art technique, where small touches of pure colors are dabbed in close juxtaposition so that they seem to merge into combined colors and shadings, however, this image seems to have big areas paint missing, and, we are seeing only two colors, red and green on a gray background. Yet it works … we see the woman.  So, I wonder, is that the point, what we see is only a part of the whole person? Our mind infers, but doesn’t know the rest? I think the haiku is speaking to us of a chance meeting between a man and woman who knew one another as kids or as younger people. We become something so different than what we might have guessed at each stage of our lives. I wonder where that chance meeting went. I don’t like the frame on this one. Too thick, too brown. I’d have rather seen a 1 pixel treatment and then perhaps a white frame of 50-100 pixels width so that we get a focusing in on the image.

9. quiet sunset the stroke of a brush on paper: Hmm. The sunset like a brush stroke … if that’s the case, it must be sweet to be a watercolor artist! This image gives us three elements, a realistic photo of a man, but with sunglasses, eyes hidden, a fine watercolor landscape, and a raw brushstroke border … two types of brushstroke … one multicolored, producing a highly organized landscape and one monotone black, producing a frame around the inner images. This man is letting us know, in image and haiku, that he strongly identifies with the land, and that his painting is akin to being there, part of the landscape, a sunset each time the paints come out. I wondered what it might have been like to place the photo outside the inner landscape, sharing both types of brushstroke.

10. family album my father the age my son is now: Top Pick. First, a sense of nostalgia. These old family photos … ghosts, some still living. Dad as a child. Everything faded, just as our memories have faded. The placement of the photo is of interest. Why not straight on? But, I like it tilted. We see the corner of another photo … there are other images, other ghosts completely lost to the viewer. All told, I think that this is a creative display of what might otherwise be a trivial image that most of us wouldn’t bother looking at. I think that the haiku and image work well together – and in this case, although there is a direct relationship, the haiku makes the image work and vice versa. The haiku expresses a sense of awe about a man’s journey from baby to man to father, and places the artist somewhere in the middle of the journey. The image brings the journey home. There it is before our eyes. The yellowed image tells us that the father is far towards the end of the journey.

11. waning moon dreaming of the days when I had dreams: Top pick for a haiku. And, right off, I like some things about this image. The colors, the placement of moon and mind. I think that I might have wanted to try reducing the opacity of the human head … to make it more dreamlike, intangible. The haiku is powerful … a man past the mid-point, I sense that his hair is silver, may be telling us that his dreams are no longer looking forward, but instead are dealing with loss. When is it that we stop looking forward? When does the moon wane?

12. beach walk balancing all my decades between tides: The image grabs me. What are those rocks doing balanced! Of course, I realize it’s a trick, and while I don’t think that the artist really meant to imply this, it’s a trick to balance all those decades too. Let’s see, I could 50- or 60-something. Someone did a lot of work on this image … I can’t see where the rocks are unnatural.  As with 11, the haiku is tops. Each decade a like the ebb and flow of a tide. Each tide the same but different. Almost a whole life? How to balance all that has gone on?

13. the weeds and the wind in the sole of a lonely man one wounded bird: Top Pick. Here again we have a half face, but doubled. It’s a very powerful presentation, nice marriage of form and color. Of course, everything is projection, and perhaps I’m influenced by the haiku, I’d like to have seen the image without the haiku to suggest that there is a troubled feeling. I think I can see it in her eyes. Is she a wounded bird, the haiku a pun? The wonder, a man with a soul of weed and wind … nasty, smelly, sticky, slimy vs. wispy, light, airy, transparent. As I read her, at this moment, there is nothing good about this guy, but to wound deeply there once must have been. The font treatment is nice, kind of transparent, like the wind. I think that I’d like to have seen a more wispy font, all caps is quite strong and becomes a bit too much of the image. Still, it also has to show up, tough with this sort of multi-dark colored image.

14. notebook by a favorite chair dust gathers everywhere else: I very much like the colors, forms, and font treatment of this image. In that aspect it’s one of my favorites. But, my mind keeps trying to see a chair or a notebook, or something related to the haiku. I know in my heart I’m not looking at a red a blue green dust mote. I think it must be like one of those trick images where there is an image if only I will let my mind see it. Right now, I imagine the rest of you are saying, “geez Ray, get your glasses on, can’t you see the person sitting in the chair holding a book in one hand and a vacuum cleaner in the other?” Back to the haiku, so, there’s this notebook, and everywhere else is dust, but the notebook does not have a coating or the feel of dust? This means, I guess, that the notebook is alive, living, fresh, the place of newness for this person. The creativity implied in the notebook and the creative whimsy of the image fit in that way.

15. dawn breaks new horizons new worlds:  A very creative image. And, maybe I say that because it’s so unusual. Someone once said that most photographers are merely cataloguing the landscape, that very few create new ways of seeing, new types of images. This person has created something unexpected and new. I see a relationship between the haiku and image … 4 planets, 4 new worlds, none of them look like good old spaceship earth, and so they’re new. So, the self-image is one of a person who looks ahead with enthusiasm, life is in front, lots of new places to go. The haiku I have a problem with. It seems like three lines and it also seems less descriptive than prescriptive, more a philosophy than a moment.

16. a granddaughter’s hug a smile ripples over my face: This image has certainly the feel of rippling … but the smile isn’t as strong as I would have expected from the haiku. A small thing, that upper left corner … I’d have filled it in by mirroring the right hand corner.  I like the idea of the haiku … a hug causes a smile … there is cause effect here, someone said that’s a ‘no-no’, but why? I’d ditch the first ‘a’. Here the self-portrait is someone who is quite enjoying being a grandparent.

17. darn it! The latest MM deadline almost here: I love this. Top pick senryu category. Of course, the senryu could be improved a bit, but why bother, it’s great fun and is specific to us, so it isn’t going anywhere beyond us. We have someone fighting fires, crises, and yet worrying about the MM deadline – so what’s more important. I have the sense that the poor guy has to put out the fire, but that he’d rather be haikuing. It’s a very nice photo. I don’t think it could be much improved.  I notice the forms, but more than that, the tonality. This photo, although in color, has the feel of a good b&w image.  And, I love the cartoon effect, with the talk bubble over his head. That makes it work, I think. Finally, I suppose that one could reach for deep symbolism … is that man pissing on the deadlines imposed by a cruel and all too fast moving world?  Sorry, I couldn’t help that. I have to move on, 15 more of these to do, and the deadline is only 3 days away.

18. storms never last outside my window:  Ah, a man who transcends storms, the storms of life. He’s telling us that he is a settled, relaxed or centered man, I think, that he has learned how to take it. This haiku, I think, is telling us too much, and describing too little. Still, I’m going to sign up for lessons. Right now there are several storms outside my window that aren’t going away.

19. long journey a new composition fresh blossoms on an old tree:  This is a three themed haiku and one of the themes needs to be lost or left to be carried by the image. I think it’s stronger without the  “a new composition” or without “long journey”.  I like the idea of the image, it’s a creative jump. I wish the artist would make things even simpler. Just one image of the child on the music score would do the job. But probably each of these images is like a note on a music score … like the early music score made by a child in his early years … but then that could be made more obvious. Whose long journey is it, the child’s or the artist/haijins?  Anyway, I thing the absolute strength here is that we have a very creative beginning idea … I’d like to see it pushed further both on the haiku and image level.

20. early spring a baby snug in the nest: This looks like a chalk and charcoal filter effect. I like this effect on this image. However, I do also notice that it distorts some things, so after enacting the effect, I think it’s important to use the stamp tool to ‘cure’ some of the problems. For example, I think that her smile looks a bit strange. And the blotch on the baby’s head doesn’t look quite right. I’d also consider stamping some of the texture in the left middle into the left top of the image. That strong diagonal line is a distraction. I wondered about the haiku: I thought perhaps ‘a fledgling snug’ for L2. No need to refer directly to the baby in this one. It’s a very nice image, I think, the baby snuggled into its mom’s lap, the fledge into the nest.

21. colors move cold day in my mind obsessing: This image is a top pick. I like everything about it, the colors, the form, the boldness of the design, the font type, and color of the text. It’s also a breakthrough image … we don’t see many like it. When this is over, I want to know who/how. I want lessons! While wishing that I could produce something like this, I think of some ways to improve it. Maybe try spilling the text down the page a bit more. in a chaotic page these three horizontal lines are the only things that don’t match. I wondered about the haiku. Seems to me it ‘tells’ us a bit too much although it certainly matches the image. The image screams something like “argh!, help!”

22. eight and eighty past dreams and future ones two Leos: These filter effects look kind of artsy, and perhaps there is a filter that would enhance this photograph – which has a very special feel to it.  But, I think that this one is too strong for the image. In Photoshop, it’s possible when applying the filter to change the settings to make it less strong and even after applying the filter, you can back it off [have you all discovered that yet? If not ask me]. I think that the haiku is really three themes, not two and it strikes me as telling us too much, and too much that is obvious in the photo. Okay, that they’re “Leo” sign we don’t know by looking, but what has that to do things? Here the image is almost a complete mirror of the haiku … 8/80 is repeated twice, we see a birthday cake, we see the older and younger person. I’d try for a whole new take on the haiku.

23. Orchard time no rush to grow from bud to bloom: I like the colors of the image, but not the size and color of the frame. I think that the face is far too blurred. Once the blurring goes beyond a certain point it becomes difficult to see. The idea is good though. I think that a face on a separate layer at about 50% opacity would produce a much stronger effect. The plant isn’t immediately recognizable as an orchard, but that doesn’t matter in that I like its lines and I can see that it’s about buds, not yet flowers. The haiku I think needs work. What does ‘orchard time” mean or tell us. I’m not sure. How about “orchard buds”.  Now this image and haiku does invite me to ask myself what is the relationship between the main theme ‘no rush to grow” and the older gray haired gray bearded man. Hasn’t he already bloomed? Does the artist mean I wish time would slow down? Hmmm.

24. almost twilight a fine mist cooling the fire: This is a Top Pick, both image and haiku and the way they work together. I don’t know what to suggest to improve the image. I like the opaqueness of the face, the filer effect [I want to know what filter that is], the placement of the text in that space to the right of the head. Someone said that portrait photography is mostly about capturing eyes … this image does that very effectively. I think that we have someone here looking back at youth … the haiku has that ring of melancholy.

25. self-portrait the old bird forgets who she is: I love the bird, but I don’t think that inner black border enhances it … at least I’d try just a 1 pixel white border around the image and then the gray border as is for the haiku and further framing.  I think that those two white spots to the left and right bottom take the eye away from the central theme of the bird. And, what do they add? I also think that that white line above the birds head, but prior to the black border should have been stamped out. The two black lower corners are again candidates for texturizing. For all of these I’d use the textures to the right of the bird. Now as for the haiku, I like the ‘this old bird’ … old bird is a term rife with meaning in the English language and we all know that there is a twist of self-deprecating humor here. But, I don’t think that we should be told that this is a self-portrait, nor that she forgets who she is.  The birds head turned backward, hiding under the wing, something should be made of that, I think.

26. falling leaves I don’t expect anyone walking alone: Half faces again ...this time on a diagonal – a very strong effect. I like the colors and the photo effects. The placement and color of the haiku and the font are also right. The footprints across the faces are also a nice effect. They could be teardrops which would relate to the haiku. This is a top pick composition. I think the haiku doesn’t work. It reads like 3 themes. L1 and L2 are not connected as I read them. Get the haiku right and this is an excellent haiga.

27. lazy afternoon so easily distracted by sun dust: Top pick. Instead of a half face we have some hair and a bit of the face in two different boxes. Then we have a completely different texture as background. To my eye this works. I can think of two possible improvements. Fist, I think the eye cheek is a bit too distorted … and I don’t see the sense of the distortion in terms of working with the haiku. Does this face show distraction? Sun dust? Maybe distortion. But since I don’t know what sun dust is, I don’t know whether it distorts or not. Second, that diagonal line running from the middle of the haiku to the lower right corner bothers me. I’d try removing it with the stamp tool.  I like the haiku although I don’t quite grasp sun dust and I’ve even thought of star dust and realize that I’m not completely sure what it is … maybe the haze between the stars or in the milky way?

28. light falling across my mouse encoded here is a picture of myself: Top image pick. Okay, I love the image … as a self-portrait, a pile of question marks, it makes a very powerful statement. And the pile doesn’t even stay within bounds; it spills out into the margins. A top composition. Very creative idea. I think that the placement of the haiku is wrong. First, I had to turn my head to read it ...second, the words ‘light falling across’ seem to come to a natural stoop, but when I turn my head, whoops, there are two more words, ‘my mouse’ but it’s too late ...the disconnect was there. This is making me work far too hard to simply get the words. The last part I think simply tells us when it doesn’t have to. We can easily grasp that the portrait of self is a pile of question marks. So, I’d suggest that this great image deserves a better haiku.

29. Saturday best red gloves with laces half tied: This image and haiku ask me to make some connections … the key theme is ‘half tied’ according to the haiku … and the gloves look like boxing gloves. Why are half tied boxing gloves ‘Saturday’s best’.  Hmmm. The fit loosely? Someone is feeling sloppy? We’re half in the mood for a fight with someone else? After the workweek, this is the best I can do? I’d have a better time with this haiku if L2/3 was ‘shoe laces untied’. Anyway, the artist has given us a koan … not a bad thing. I wish I knew the answer!

30. fifty seven years in the mirror staring back my youth: I think that this image is half way there. It has a remnant of an old guys face … you can just see the beard. I’d like to see more done with it. Sometimes texturizing an image that has so much white space would make it even stronger, but also maybe not. Anyway, I like the outline, the weird colors. I think that the haiku is a twister … I’m an old guy looking in the mirror but I feel young, yet that old guy is staring at me too, but he must be staring back at me the young guy, right? Anyway that’s what I got. I think that the blue frame is too strong for this image. I think it deserves a try to stand on its own … a white border, for example, maybe with a bit of texture might produce a very different effect. I’d like to see it.

31. clear sky for climbing mountains celestial navigatio:  There’s a feel of the ‘celestial’ in this image … my thesaurus gives me the following for celestial: angelic, astral, beatific, blessed, divine, elysian, empyreal, empyrean, eternal, ethereal, godlike, hallowed, holy, immortal, otherworldly, seraphic, spiritual, sublime, supernal, supernatural, transcendental, transmundane. But it could be stronger. I’d try a filter that puts a twist on this image. The greatest problem that I have, however, is that the haiku text seems to cover up the ‘celestial’ aspects of the image and the purple text is the thing that stands out … not the star clusters. I’d try the text in the colors of the swirl to the right and I’d put the text in that big empty space it the lower left.

32. reflections such sadness becomes her. Top pick. I like the composition, the mirrored image in the sunglasses, the colors … the whole works … well, that right lens has something funny going on in it, but that’s not much of a distraction. The haiku is very strong. But we are being told that she’s sad. I wondered whether there could be a description that could let us infer the sadness. ‘falling leaves become her”? Anyway, I like it!!!


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