A place to chill

I’m here for the learning. I know there’s a ton of room for improvement and would greatly appreciate your comments/thoughts/critiques technical and/or artistic.
Why can’t I get a good focus? How’s the composition? Is it too bright?
All critiques welcomed.

Canon 5DII ISO 160 24-105mm f22 1/5sec

Camera on tripod but didn’t use a remote clicker. I went with small aperture to get the sun-star. One shot, minor processing in LR then PS for finish but my knowledge is limited.

You may only download this image to demonstrate post-processing techniques.

What a lovely scene, and don’t we all need a place to chill at the moment! I can imagine sitting on the granite slab there and putting my feet in the chilly water.

As far as focus, what were you focusing on? What type of focusing were you using (matrix, spot, auto or manual)? It doesn’t look OOF to me.

It isn’t too bright for me - California summers are bright! It does look a bit too contrasty for my taste; but that’s just me.

Compositionally, it seems to be about the trees and the sun (nice touch with the two sunspots, btw), the shade on the beautiful granite slab. The rightmost third of the frame almost looks like another photo, with an emphasis on the cool, blue water.

This looks really good to my eye. It is not too bright, looks sharp and the composition works for me. You may consider getting a wireless or wired remote or use your timer. You can definitely get significant vibration from hitting the shutter with your finger. No nits here, a fine scene.

Ynez, lets start with your question on sharpness. Kudos for using a tripod, but a cable release will help a lot with image sharpness, it does make a big difference. I prefer this to a timer because I can control exactly when the shutter is tripped. The image does look a little soft to me, especially in the tree branches. Some of that may be due to wind, so to keep it at f22 for the sunstar, a higher ISO would help freeze wind motion. But the rocks at the base of the trees aren’t tack sharp either, so it may be another issue at play too. Where did you place your focus point? Is this image a significant crop of a larger scene where you maybe focused on something that is not in this scene. It could be a combination of all of these things but a cable release would definitely help.

The sunstar, and it’s reflection look great, you did a good job of placing the sun in a crook of the tree. The composition is good, with a clear foreground, midground/ background, the viewers eye does get pulled through the scene.

Obviously, this is a very difficult image in terms of dynamic range, and assuming this was just one exposure you did reasonably well here, you have good shadow detail in the rocks and trees to the left. I could see taking this a little darker and adding some shadow contrast, especially in the upper center and upper right of the image, it’s starting to look a little too HDR-ish there.

I also agree with @Bonnie_Lampley, a crop from the right might help too, especially with reducing th ebright sky.

It’s hard to judge focus at the web resolution, but I don’t see anything that looks out of focus. I think what you may be seeing is a loss of critical sharpness from using f/22. This is the result of diffraction which is inherent in all lenses at their smallest aperture settings. You might experiment with shooting at f/18 instead to see if it improves the overall sharpness of the image and still gives you a good sunstar.

This is a difficult scene to capture due to the wide dynamic range. It looks like the sky in the upper right hand is blown out. The best way to deal with this issue is to bracket exposures and blend them in Lightroom or Photoshop.

From a composition standpoint I think that your main point of interest in this image is the sunstar and it’s reflection. I like the idea behind your composition and the vertical lines of the trees join the two elements. However, I think it would be a stronger composition if you had captured the image in a vertical composition making sure to leave more room above the sunstar and beneath it’s reflection. This would also emphasize the vertical lines in the trees and would eliminate a lot of the empty space in the over-exposed sky.

Anyway, hopefully this is all helpful and will give you some things to think about the next time you have an opportunity to photograph a similar scene.

Here’s an example of what I was thinking with my comment above. You would of course want to leave more space above the sunstar and below it’s reflection by zooming out to a wider focal length. You would also want to be careful about the trees that are leaning in on the left hand side of the frame as well. I would try to re-position to see if you could leave them out of the frame.

@Bonnie_Lampley @Harley_Goldman @Ed_McGuirk @Brian_Schrayer Wow! Thank you all for your valued comments: remote shutter release, f22 extremes, wide dynamic range, crop or vertical orientation. All very helpful and will keep in mind as I move forward. Cheers


This is quite a lovely and refreshing scene and your image takes me there. And if a photographer can do that, well it must be a success!

Can’t add too much to what’s already been said. I echo most of what Brian wrote. It’s hard to judge sharpness on the web, but from what I can see it looks very good and I agree with Brian that the small aperture can be a source of image quality reduction.

Two very minor things that haven’t been mentioned. The processing, colors, range, contrast are all excellent. The one small thing I’m seeing is some blue in the gray, dead branches in the LL quadrant - in the shaded area; mostly the roots, but some of the branches are just a tad blue. Not a big deal, they’re in the shade after all.

The only other thing would be to take a trip around the border. I call it the border patrol. Like Brian and others I’m wishing there was more room for the sun star - especially the bottom. The left edge is something that catches the eye a bit. I would crop in just enough to remove the bit of gap on the left edge. Lastly, maybe burn down the sky a bit in the UR?

Overall, a couple of thumbs up. Wish I was there.


Neat, two sunstars in one image. Don’t seen that very often. Even though their centered, the other elements in the scene creates unequal weight to create a more dynamic composition. This feels a tad overexposed to me. The shadow areas look OK, but the highlights seem a bit bright.

@Lon_Overacker @Tony_Kuyper greatly appreciate your comments. I gave it a go and tried some changes. As for the blue in the gray I used the gradiant slider in LR for the shaded trees and dialed down the blue saturation. I’m sure there’s a better way to do this but for now this is my knowledge level. Attempted some healing/cloning and cropped on left and right side.
Could you give me some ideas for chromatic aberration or the blue/gree/purple spots I see when I zoom in - yuk. In LR lens correction panel I click remove but don’t see any changes. When I use eye dropper in manual I only make it worse. here’s how it looks.

The sunstar is so close to the top edge and the bottom edge that this scene is difficult to look at. I find my eyes going from the top to the bottom and no being able to explore the middle so much.

Thank you for taking a look and commenting Eric. Good stuff to keep in mind as move forward. Cheers