A lesson of fate (with double the re-work)

With suggestions from David - using dodge and burn layers darkened ULC, opened far back center, lowered opacity on the dodge layer for the rock, ran a lights 3 luminosity mask on just the hot spots below the log -

Deeper oranges and yellows as per Igor’s suggestion, also lifted the luminance of the yellows a bit and toned won the greens a bit -

Another new vantage point for me on my favorite section of the Prairie River. Tall boots let me get onto a rock that was out of reach before. I tried to balance the big rock with the log on the opposite bank and the color in the trees. The water is deep and fast here so putting the tripod in the water was out of the question - it’s on a rock, but I think I was standing in the current. Fun but a little nerve-wracking.

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I can probably revisit this next year if the composition doesn’t work. The big rock is the star, but should it be?

Technical Details

Is this a composite: No
Tripod and CPL to eliminate reflections on the smoother parts of the river.


Lr for initial lens correction, white balance, exposure, contrast and other basic adjustments. Photoshop for some luminosity masking and brush work in the water to bring up texture and contrast. Also brightened the big rock a little.


@Kris_Smith I really like this one! While the rock may be the “star” to me it is really just the jumping off point to explore the rest of the scene. I enjoy the fallen tree on the right side as well. On my screen it looks like there may be one hot spot right at the base of the fallen tree, other than that the water looks really good in my opinion. I’d be interested in hearing more about how you targeted that specifically and what your adjustments were there. I wonder how it would look darkening the ULC to more closely match the URC, I think it may have an effect of funneling you back deeper into the scene instead of maybe leaking out the left side.

Rough idea…

Thanks for the input and suggestions - they’re good ones. I brought the file back into Photoshop as a psd and realized I did the water sculpting in Lightroom after all. Funny. Basically I used a feathered brush with the fill and density pulled back a little and I painted dehaze and clarity in the parts of the water with texture. It works pretty well for me. It was with Lightroom 10 so I didn’t intersect the adjustment with any luminance range, but you could for more refinement.

New photo in the OP.

Now this is a good solid composition. It’s also a very good image. I would saturate the yellows and oranges a bit more, particularly in the background.

I made them a little stronger @Igor_Doncov and posted another shot. I tend to get cautious with the color sliders since it’s so easy to get carried away with them! Thanks for the suggestion and your thoughts about the photo.

What a beautiful stretch of river, in perfect light. The lines lead me right up the river. No useful suggestions except frame and hang!

Kris, the composition is very solid, and I like the processing improvements in the rework, I think @David_Wallace had some good suggestions. Overall, the rework looks good to me.

This gets into a more philosophical/creative realm, rather than a straight critique of an image. To me it depends on what type of story you want to tell about this location. The rock and flowing water are very dominant visually here. That is not necessarily a bad thing. But the forest becomes a secondary or tertiary player. In terms of a composition that features the rock as the star of the show, you will be hard pressed to do better than what you already have here. And I think you have posted other variations of this bend in the river that are similar. If it were me, I would try to think of other stories about this place too, Maybe some that make the forest a more significant element. The rock is fine, but I think there are other comps here as well. Maybe something like this, but rotating the camera to the right to pick up more of the water flow (or perhaps standing to the left if possible). I’m not sure this is stronger than the rock image, but I think you should try multiple things in a nice place like this.

It’s interesting how @Ed_McGuirk’s rework has shifted the interest to the smaller rock on the right. It doesn’t dominate like the big rock did previously. I like that small rock.

That’s my point, there is more to this bend in the river than just the big rock (no matter how nice it is). Once the big rock becomes less dominant, some of the other more subtle elements get a chance to step forward.

Kris has already more or less nailed the composition that features the big rock. I think the other small mossy rocks and the forest are some interesting elements as well, and encourage her to explore other takes on this spot.

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I can’t offer any suggestions to make this image any better than what has already been stated by Ed and Igor. It’s a very interesting thread. Cropping down to the big rock has certainly made me shift attention. I can say, I didn’t really notice the small rock in the OP.

The image has such strong compositional appeal, from the big rock to the rushing water and then the log that draws me deeper into the image until I get to the two “V” trees at the end where I linger a bit before I come down the opposite side of the river back to the big rock.

Thanks so much @Diane_Miller, @Ed_McGuirk & @glennie - not too hard to understand why it’s my favorite stretch of this river.

You’ve hit it squarely there. One of the things I always think of doing when reviewing pictures is work from within the forest to see how the river is seen. I’ve only ever actually done it well once and on a nameless little stream in New Hampshire. Trouble is I never think of it when I am on the spot. The urge to get right in the water is huge as you know and that last time I had tall boots to make it possible. But the story is also about the forest around the river and how wild and unmanaged it is. Hopefully next time I go, I can remember to do that and to slow down a bit more to vary compositions in each set up. I think another thing we do as photographers is get ‘the shot’ and move on. I think I did that here since I was concentrating on the big rock and not much else.

As I said, you have nailed the best comp featuring this rock. The next time you are here, try some different approaches, it looks like a cool place that has a lot to offer. I think I’ve noticed a that a lot of your forest shots use wider focal lengths (and this generally works very well for you). Maybe next time you are here, make a conscious effort to try some telephoto shots, and see what you can do with a different lens. Mixing it up a little can be a worthwhile exercise.

Yep, that’s something I should do. Every time I use my 35-100 f/2.8 I realize I should use it more. Probably we all have lenses like that.

One thing I do to mix things up is to switch lenses going in and out of a location. It’s especially useful on an out-and-back hike. Wide angle on the way in, medium tele on the way out. So I don’ t keep taking the same type of shot all the time. It also focuses my attention differently when I use the medium zoom (70-200 in 35mm terms) - I’m deliberately looking for slices. Probably I should have done that with my river walks.

I’m always changing lenses based on what I see. I don’t search with a particular lens.