A North Wind

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Critique Style Requested: Initial Reaction

Please share your immediate response to the image before reading the photographer’s intent (obscured text below) or other comments. The photographer seeks a genuinely unbiased first impression.

Questions to guide your feedback

Does this image capture the feeling of a strong prairie wind in a way that is aesthetically and emotionally pleasing?

Other Information

Please leave your feedback before viewing the blurred information below, once you have replied, click to reveal the text and see if your assessment aligns with the photographer. Remember, this if for their benefit to learn what your unbiased reaction is.

Image Description

Winter’s snow drifts have finally just released their grip on (some) of Minnesota’s tallgrass prairie, but the cold north wind battles on. Here, on a Nature Conservancy Preserve near the South Dakota border, remnants of last year’s grass bend to Boreas’ will while his sharp cold breath sends clouds racing southward across the plains.

Technical Details

This is not an ICM image! 28 mm, ISO 50 at f/22 for 25 seconds, using a 10-stop neutral density filter. Basic processing in LrC and PS oriented towards enhancing contrast, and eliminating a slightly warmish color cast from the sky (while keeping it in the grass).

Specific Feedback

Per my question above, my artistic objective with this image is to emphasize a feeling of expansive space and ceaseless motion as the wind blows across the dormant grass of an early spring prairie. Have I hit that mark? Would the image work better if there was a sharp anchoring feature somewhere in the scene, perhaps a solitary rock? I’m pleased that some of the lowest lying, sheltered grass, remains pretty sharp given the long exposure time, and hope this is sufficient to provide contrast with the motion of the taller grass. But, is rthe overall blur int he scene just too distracting?

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I like this quite a bit. This is different. My initial reaction is that this was a dream you had where nothing is really clear because everything is changing. Dreams often lack detail yet there is strong emotion. I wouldn’t know how to critique this other than cloning out the bright spot in the very lrc (not really a big deal).

Initial reaction is it reminds me of a windy day. Blue and gold are a wonderful color combination.

Hi Jeff,

I did get the feeling of a brisk and harsh wind, it made me want to hang on to my hat (if I had it on that is), it was nearing a foreboding feeling like that of a tornado but I think the relatively calm looking cloud formations kept that at a safe level for me.
I did also get the feeling of cold but I’m not sure why, maybe it’s the cold blue color temperature in the sky? Or maybe the fact that I have on a hooded sweater and it’s cold outside here at the moment? :slight_smile:

The nearly hidden stalks under the blurry grass tops do help with anchoring the scene IMHO, so, to me, that worked very well.
I don’t really get the sense of vastness or a large expanse and maybe that’s because of the rounded, uphill shape of the grass field, maybe if there were more depth by looking down on the grass field where there is a horizon off in the distance would work better for that? That may not have been possible though. Maybe the wide angle lens played a role in creating some of the rounded shape?
It’s hard to tell where the lens was pointed from where I sit (was it pointed upward, level or downward?).

I didn’t get the idea of this being an ICM image, probably because of the anchored stalks under the grass tops.

This may not ‘entirely’ be the results you were hoping for but it looks like you achieved at least part of your vision? And…this is just my personal take on it, others may have completely different views and feelings.

Still, it’s a nice image from my old home state where I was born, I used to live in central Minnesota in a town called Bagley. :slight_smile: I miss all the lakes, ponds and streams where we would spear fish Northern Pike and other game fish, but I don’t miss the flies and mosquitos. :roll_eyes:
I don’t even remember what quail tastes like, it’s been a long while :slight_smile:

Contrast in colors and hold on to your hat. I immediately see that this is not likely an ICM since there are many of the stalks near the bottom of the frame that don’t appear to be moving at all hence the feeling of a strong wind. This looks like a reasonably long exposure also since the clouds are very soft and this usually takes several seconds to create. I think you nailed your intent to show a strong wind on a midwestern prairie.
You might experiment with making the gold a little bit more gold and removing some of the green tint in it and also maybe lowering the overall contrast. I’m at work and can’t really try that on my computer and it may not actually make things better but those are two things I would suggest trying. There is also the bright spot in the LRC and a blade of grass dead center near the bottom of the frame that is going horizontal and catching my eye. Other than that, I can’t really see changing much and even then it’s more experimental than anything.


This most certainly evokes a sense of prairie grasses, wheat, etc. blowing in the breeze and also that sense of laying down in that field watching the clouds go by… and either using the imagination to pick out creatures and things in the clouds… or as Igor quite nicely put it, being in a dream…

I expect this may be true for many, but I’m not sure. for me, capturing a depicting “wind” as it blows across a field or hillside… has and continues to be a very illusive concept. It’s like driving by vineyards or orchards thinking how cool the repeating patterns “animate” as you drive by… but then when you stop - it’s never the same.

Watching the winds impact on a field of grass is silimar to that and seems to be one of the most difficult things to capture … And you’ve come dang close. I say close, because what is holding me back is the fact that BOTH the clouds and the grasses are in motion. Not that this will make sense to anyone, but if I’m laying in that field of grasses - or simply viewing from afar, and the wind is whipping across the field or hillside, I see and can watch those “waves of air” move over the grasses - BUT at any given moment, the pretty puffy clouds are essentially motionless - at least at that moment. So… I’m thinking a blend of course with a more static cloudy sky, against a field of grasses in motion - like you have here. Just my .02.

On a tech note, I agree with David about a little less contrast and more gold/yellow (pale) in the grasses for a more “airy” look, rather than the slightly heavier contrast. Not sure, but just a thought. And ditto on the brightness in the LRC.

For sure, you’ve succeeding in capturing the motion and feeling a a wind-driven prairie.


Thanks to each of your for your comments and suggestions. I have posted an updated edit that takes into account the suggestion to remove the bright grass blade in the LRC (thanks @Igor_Doncov, @David_Haynes and @Lon_Overacker). I used a crop rather than a clone in this instance. I also dialed back some of the contrast I applied in the grass and adjusted green downward and yellow a bit upward per @David_Haynes and @Lon_Overacker. What do you think?

@Merv, the image was captured looking straight on, but with the camera poisitoned no more than 6" above the ground. I agree with you about the expansiveness being more pronounced when the horizon is more distant, or perhaps there is a visible “fold” in the horizon. Unfortunately, because of how little native tallgrass prairie there is left in Minnesota (and everywhere else), there isn’t much opportunity to create a scene without distracting horizon elements. As it was, this perspective was about all I had that excluded fence posts and wind turbines. Thanks for your comments.

@Lon_Overacker, interesting thought on the benefit of keeping the clouds more static while allowing the grass to blur. I get what you are saying, and will have to give it a try with a similar composition. I’ll admit to being a bit skeptical, but then I know I’m just a sucker for long expsoure blurring in water and clouds, so maybe I’m just a lost cause.

Thanks @Eva_McDermott for your kind comment.

Qiute like this. Initially thought ICM? But is not after careful look. Curious what your settings were.

Hi Jeff!

First: very nice colors and interesting movement of elements.

Concerning your intent: I think the movement becomes very clear. I was asking myself, though, if the tension was raised, if only the wheat
moved, not the clouds.

Personally, I would have split up the image a bit differently (1/3 sky, 2/3 field). It feels to me that there’s barely no midground for my eye to wander. I would have loved to look „upon“ the field just a bit, which would give the image a sense of depth, too.


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