Backlit Elk

First post here. I am still learning to shoot (and then process) for Wildlife. Appreciate all feedback on composition, processing, etc.

Adding Settings (I wish I had dropped the ISO):
ISO 2500

You may only download this image to demonstrate post-processing techniques.
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Joel, you have some nice backlighting here. It turned out pretty well.

One thing to watch for in the future is the alignment of your horizon lines with your subject. It’s actually not bad here, but the separation between lighter grass and darker trees in the background almost lined up directly with your elk’s back, which could cause a distracting convergence. Who knows, maybe there would have been an opportunity to find an angle where the antlers were against a lighter background (I ran into this very challenge with a similar backlit elk a few weeks ago), making them stand out a bit more. I think the tangle of foliage actually helps a bit, as it creates even more backlighting to help with that separation.

I would also recommend you include your camera info and settings whenever asking for critiques (this used to be required on the old site), merely because it can help folks with their recommendations.


I like this a lot, Joel. The dark presentation creates an interesting mood. If you didn’t do so already, you might try playing with the overall brightness. I think you could go a touch brighter without losing the mood, but that’s going to be a personal judgement call.

Joel: I like the rim lighting the situation has given you and the glow of the grasses. The elk’s body stands out very nicely against those grasses.
You mentioned that you wish you had dropped the ISO. You could have done so easily by lowering your shutter speed since 1/8000 was overkill for a walking animal. Lowering your shutter speed by 3 stops to 1/1000 would have been a good choice and would have allowed you to lower your ISO by a similar number of stops.

Very interesting image, which different people will process differently, as there is lot of scope to play around the image. No wonder you already have so many suggestions, which are worth giving a try.
I may experiment with the following:
I may try to add some punch to the rim of antlers;
play with the overall exposure;
try to get some details, especially in the face;
tone down the bright grasses at the bottom center.

Jagdeep Rajput

Excellent capture. I really like the rim lighting on the front quarters. The antlers show up somewhat better in the larger version, but playing with the exposure might display them better.

Overall this is a really nice photo. I really like the light around the head, neck and antlers. My preference would be to try to get a touch more detail on the elk so there’s at least a hint of his eye. But the contrasts and light are really nice.

Thanks for all the great feedback! Attached is an edit. I lightened the image a bit, darkened the foreground and brought out a bit more detail on the face. Again, appreciate all the input!

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Much improved, Joel. I really like this.