Autumn Gifts

I was walking Taughannock Falls trail near Ithaca two years ago in late Autumn. The water level was low in the stream bed, so I decided to walk down it. There were lots of cracks and crevices that had water in them that I found very interesting. I came across the one I’m posting and couldn’t believe what I saw. I didn’t place any leaves in the photo. It is as I saw it. Sometimes we’re given little gifts if we look for them.

Specific Feedback Requested

I think D&B is what I struggle with most. I understand the concept and I have become better, but I’m still short on getting it perfect. Alister, I just purchased your D&B Masterclass because I don’t need to learn the tools. I need the skills you have of teaching the “whys”. Thank you for doing this critiquing session.

Technical Details

I actually took this with my iPhone on a tripod with a Moment lens attached before I got my professional camera. It’s one of my favorites.


Hi Donna, and thank you for posting this and your very kind words on my video series. I think the Why is infinitely more important than the How, although some of that is also useful.

Now, given that we are talking about Why, you’ve given me precious little to work with in terms of what you are trying to express with the image: So, I’ll wax lyrical about what it says to me, but I would urge you to write a short essay to yourself entitled Autumn Gifts. What can this image tell you about you?

This image speaks of abstraction, atmosphere, nostalgia and impermanence. Leaves fall, water flows, life continues, some does not. The overall colour theme is neutral towards cool, punctuated by splashes of warmer tones. That overall colour palette feels like the nostalgia to me, reflective, mildly melancholic.

The little gold highlights are hopeful, optimistic and forward looking. They are the bits that say: “Yeah, I’m falling, only 6 more months til spring!!”

I love the banded feeling too, layers of time from top to bottom.

I really love the image, and would have no trouble writing an essay about it. But, it is your story, your moment, your life, your perspectives, your insights. What can you share? What do you know of time and life that can help others who may not have optimism? This is expressive photography.

Thanks for posting, I love the image.


WOW! This is outstanding. Gorgeous! Kudos to you for finding and recognizing such a wonderful little scene.

I will say for sure this conjures up many themes, messages, etc. “Moment in Time,” the fleeting nature of life - flow of life, “transition”, etc. etc. Many meanins and messages here.

On the flip side, I’m one that also subscribes to “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Sometimes, meanings aren’t required and one can simply enjoy the pure beauty of nature.

The ONLY suggestion I have would be to tone down the LLC. the brighter edge of that leaf pulls the eye just a bit to that corner. I can’t see CA cloning or cropping - would want to change anything else with a crop (like infringing on the yellow leaf)

Gorgeous! Love this one!

This is an amazing image, I like it a lot. Subject, colors, textures and patterns are just great. Have you tried a tad of vignette (of course without darken any part of the leaf in the ULC) ?

Donna, this is very nicely moody, a bit sad but very inviting. It does feel like late fall, when the brilliant colors have faded and quietness settles in.

Excellent work, Donna. There are many things that I like about this image but perhaps the most is it’s ambiguity. To me the background looks like a dry riverbed. But on it lies this enormous purple leaf. And then there are lines across the entire lower end which is even more confusing. That’s because it’s not obvious that we’re looking at water with reflected branches on its surface. So all these inconsistencies make me start to interpret it in my own way. Because reality has lost its grip on me.

Anyway, I felt the yellow is a bit strong in that one leaf and trying to dominate. You decide.

I think this is amazing and gorgeous!! I do like Igor’s tweak, and think it would be good to burn down the brighter area in the LL corner – but just that discrete area, not a vignette. I’m not very analytical about feelings or meanings – I just go with gut reactions – and this one is a WOW!


@Lon_Overacker I’m so happy you like this image. It’s not often you find a small scene all set up for you and perfect. I was thrilled that I actually saw this and knew instantly I could do something with it. I did take your suggestion to darken the LC leaf. I thought about cloning it out at first, but decided it added to the composition even if it was in the corner. :wink:

@Ola_Jovall Thank you Ola. I did put a light vignette around this photo and used blend-if to protect the shadow. I’ll take another look to see how that would work. Thanks for this suggestion.

@Mark_Seaver Oh Mark, I didn’t want to make you feel a little sad. It was late fall when I took this and I guess we all know what follows. I’m glad you found it inviting. Thank you.

@Igor_Doncov I can certainly understand the confusion in this photo. Since I took the shot, I knew there was crystal clear water in the little crack, but it’s almost invisible and the only clue that there is water in the crack is the reflection of the trees. Thank you for pointing out that the yellow leaf was a little bright. It actually was bright and I kept it that way because it was floating on the water and I thought it would help make it better appear above the darker leaf underneath it. I have darkened it down a little and it does look better. Glad you liked this photo despite the confusion you had with it.

@Diane_Miller I’m so pleased you like this little intimate scene. I’m not very analytical either. I just like what I like and try to compose it in a way that I think works using the little bit of tools I have learned. Many times it doesn’t and I’m fine with that. Thank you.

I liked it BECAUSE of the confusion (actually, visual ambiguity).

I would print and sell this… It has so many nice qualities, Painterly, abstract, muted color. Terrific.

Wow Dan, thanks for this wonderful compliment. All these critiques have boosted my confidence in my photography.

Beautiful image Donna. Most has been said so I wont repeat what has already been said but I will say kudos to you for even seeing this while walking around. I will say that the lower left corner tugs a little bit as @Lon_Overacker has already suggested and so too does the ULC with those 2 bright sand rings. I would actually clone those out instead of trying to darken them and just make that corner the rock. Otherwise, Beautifully composed and captured.

Thank you David. I’m glad you like this photo. I have darkened the brighter yellow leaf that @Igor_Doncov suggested and darkened the leaf that @Lon_Overacker suggested. I didn’t see a way to edit this post and add a rework image. Maybe because I had Alister Benn critique it. Anyway, I know the sand spots you’re talking about. I try to be careful not to clone out too much in my images that starts to change what I saw. I think if I was not doing this for fun and trying to sell my images, I would be a lot more aggressive altering my photos. I appreciate all comments on my images because I always learn from them whether I use the suggestion or not. I want to thank you for the time you spent looking and critiquing this photo!!

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This is an outstanding image. I could look at it for a very long time. I love the tones, the movement portrayed and the different elements. A beautiful work.

Thank you, Marie. I really got lucky to spot this little scene. I been back walking this stream bed several times to see if I could find another small scene that comes close to this but different and have had no luck. Guess it’s not meant to be and that’s ok. Glad you like it.