What makes this image expressive?

While hiking around in the White Mountains of California I wasn’t looking for a particularly expressive Bristlecone Pine but when the sun started to set and the this glow appeared from behind this long ago dead Bristlecone Pine I thought of how alive and invigorated it looked. It was literally spewing a life force from within. Now, many Bristlecone Pines are terrifically expressive but combined with the bursting warmth of the sky and the 2 leaning trees behind it makes it appear as if they were awoken from from a long rest rejoicing together in such an inhospitable location.

Specific Feedback Requested

I worked hard to reduce the bright, almost blown out highlight from the sun between the branches. I have reworked this image several times trying to get the feeling right (colors. composition and of course that bright spot). I feel like I’m close with this newest version but any insight and recommendations would be terrific so I can finally put this one to rest.


I like how the sunlight radiates across the entire sky from the tree. I think I would bring up the shadows still higher, even if it might look less natural.

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Well that’s fairly spectacular…Yellows and reds are nicely done and it doesn’t look blown at all on a zoomed in net version.

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Thanks David for this beautiful image and a great title too. It is harder with images that are perfect to come up with something meaningful to say!

This looks pretty spot on to me, and the fact that you’re feeling that too is a good thing. Sometimes you just have to put them to bed and move on. Maybe 5 years from now you may choose to revisit it when you have more insights as to your relationship with it.

Expressive Photography and well crafted photography aren’t antonyms, the co-exist as our skillset allows nuances of expression.

Often the meaning comes after the event, or during, but neither is a goal. Being out in nature and feeling emotions is a great thing. I think these old trees make excellent subjects, yet they are not expressive in their own right.

What makes something expressive? Well, it’s you of course. It is your imagination, playfulness, intellect and insight. You anthropomorphise and place meaning when none explicitly exists.

This is creativity, congratulations :slight_smile:

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Excellent! Very impactful image radiating energy. I would not change a thing. Great work.

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One thought I had was to brighten up the main tree…a tad. Just enough to make it stand out a bit more against the ground areas around it. For me, there’s no question it is the ‘leading actor in a starring role’ of the image and creating a bit more separation would serve to enforce that notion…I think. I may be all wet and it might not accomplish what I’m thinking. But might be interesting to experiment with.

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This is wonderful!! The sky is working so well here in a relationship with the tree! I do think just a touch more detail on the tree could be interesting, especially the top branches where it is against the sky. It might be one of those 11/10 touches.

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Thank you for your comments and suggestions @Igor_Doncov, @Dan_Kearl, @Harley_Goldman, @rjWilner, And a special thank you to @Alister_Benn.
I was recently watching one of your videos Alister (I can’t remember which one) and you were talking about how your mood, emotions and your wellbeing can affect how you perceive your images. You mentioned that when you were depressed you saw an image in a certain way and that same image when you were excited came off looking different. I think that’s what I’m struggling with in regards to this image. Each time I come back to it, it feels different to me and I tweak it to meet my needs for that particular emotion I’m feeling at that particular time and my emotions apparently are always changing. Your video reminded me that this will probably go on indefinitely and that I should simply enjoy the image as it is and be done with it. Thanks for your kind words and for taking the time to do a thoughtful analysis not only of this image but all of the images that were presented to you over the course of the last 3 days. That was an incredible time commitment.

Igor and RJ, I have a copy of the exact recommendations you are asking for. It feels slightly less real than this version which is why I presented this version for critique. This is backlit and so there are definitely some dark areas which is natural but maybe too dark. I’ll repost when I get home tonight. Thanks for the suggestion.

Dan and Harley, thanks for your comments. I’m glad you like this one. Harley, good to hear from you.

Yeah, stop doing that!! That is the road to hell right there!

Make more images, fall in love with more aesthetics, allow them to articulate the full spectrum of your emotional spectrum.

Thanks for your kind words, I’ve enjoyed it, I always do. All the best mate.