Autumn's Gift

It’s a bit out of season I know, but hey, it’s never too early to enjoy some fall color, right? I actually tried to process this image back in the fall, but for a variety of reasons I just wasn’t feeling it.

This is an image that I took last fall in the Smokies. For the composition I wanted to fill the foreground frame with the cascade and I also wanted to minimize some of the clutter in the background so I shot this image at 20 mm. I like the triangle formed by the water in the foreground as well as the zig-zag shape of the primary water flow that leads back to the most vibrant of the fall color in the background. The midground shore on the right hand side of the stream is still a little busy, but I feel like the impact of that is minimized a bit with the emphasis on the flow of the stream. To get this perspective I waded out into the stream.

This is a blend of two different exposures - one captured at base ISO and one with a faster shutter speed. I shot several images for the water from shutter speeds ranging from 1/4 sec up to 1/20 sec. I settled on a shutter speed of 1/6 sec because I like the way that the lines from the water flowed in the composition. The faster shutter speeds just left the water feeling a bit too choppy and broke up the lines in the composition. I feel like there is still a balance of motion and texture at this shutter speed, though I suspect some may prefer a slightly faster shutter speed.

Specific Feedback Requested

All comments and critiques are welcome.

Technical Details

Capture Info:

20 mm
f/11 @ 1.3 sec ISO 64
Second image blended for water with a shutter speed of 1/6 sec


RAW Adjustments to balance global shadow, midtone and highight detail in Lightroom.
Additional processing to blend image for water as well as targeted adjustments to contrast using luminosity masks. I also added some dehaze from the TK actions panel as well as a vibrance mask. Finally, I added a subtle vignette.

Brian, I like the shutter speed just fine. It gives the water some texture. Nice work on the blending. I’ll have to try that technique.

This definitely has an in your face feel. I feel I’m in the water, which of course you were. Great image.


Gorgeous! I think you’ve handled everything beautifully - the composition, execution, processing, etc.

The shutter speed is just right. While I think there are times when I like the silky water, it’s almost always a great choice to allow texture, detail and flow to come through in rushing water like this.

Your 2/3 - 1/3 composition is very nicely balanced - we know the main subject is the flow of the stream and the rocky, moss-covered stream bed. The bg forest and autumn colors are a beautiful compliment and actually help illuminate the entire scene. Love this!

The only suggestion I have would be to address the brighter face of the rock on the left edge. Either a little burning or color painting at low opacity just to reduce the eye-magnet effect. Otherwise, Print it!