Blue Canyon Rocks

Second Vertical Option

Horizontal Option

Critique Style Requested: Standard

The photographer is looking for generalized feedback about the aesthetic and technical qualities of their image.


While exploring a canyon in Death Valley National park, I came across this scene of vividly contrasting light. The warm reflected light bouncing through the canyon contrasting with a pile of rocks, already perhaps slightly bluish in color, illuminated by the blue sky overhead. I captured a couple different compositions and I have been debating posting any one of these 3 for quite a long time now. I can never seem to land on which one I like best or if it was worth posting at all. So, it seems a ripe subject to ask for my first critique here.

Technical Details

Wider vertical - 24mm, f/11, 1/25th, ISO 100
Vertical - 60mm, f/11, 1/30th, ISO 100
Horizontal - 56mm, f/11. 1/30th, ISO 100
All - Sony A7r3, 24-70 2.8 GM, Lightroom, RRS tripod, FLM head

1 Like

It’s either the 2nd or 3rd for me. It depends on what you want to say. The 2nd says Death Valley. The 3rd says alien intruders. The 3rd is a much more expressive statement, a more creative one. Due to the lack of scale and context it allows the viewer to fantasize. Yes, it’s definitely the third for me.

The third for me Kurt. I prefer the composition, it seems to me more dynamic and with less distracting details. I like the photo.

Hi Kurt,
I think each is indeed very nice in its own way.

I’ll admit that for me the winner (by points…) was the first one, at first glance. It seems to have the right amount of space around the canyon wall - which gives a sense of awe. It shows the texture beautifully. And it has less distractions on the bottom part of the frame than the 2nd image.

The second image is very nice too, I really like how the shape of the wall enters the frame from the right. However, for my taste the rocks in the bottom are too much of a distraction.

And on a deeper look, I think I agree with @Igor_Doncov that the 3rd with the tighter crop is the winner. It does not have that space around the rock wall, but it compensates for that with a much better flow in the frame. The composition works great leading the eye to all the important parts, and the abstract shapes are very nice.

So +1 for 3rd.


Wonderful imagery from DV. Kudos for crafting the various comps - interesting too that they create totally different impressions.

The first seems to be more about shapes, form and as you noted, about contrasts. The central wall is dominating, but supported well by the cool rocks at bottom and the varying contrasts/light on left and up top. I get less a sense of location or context with this one.

The second image has an immediate sense of place; while I personally can’t identify this as specific to Death Valley, one can certainly get a sense of the narrow canyon and the ephemeral nature of water flow at any given moment. In fact, the soil looks wet like from a recent down pour. There is a definitely feel of wandering this narrow canyon and the mystery of what’s around the corner. Image wise, the little triangle up top pulls the eye a little and conversely I would like to see a little more detail in the left wall - it occupies a bunch of real estate and I’m wishing for detail. IMHO, a litte more up top and some detail on the left… this one has great potential.

To the 3rd one, count me in on another vote. I think this combines the best of the first 2 in the series. You have big, bold shapes and forms as well as the color and light contrasts. But there is also the sense of the slot canyon, and a path moving thru the image.

For the third, I could see burning down the brightest area up top.

Personal choice, but I’m wondering if the blue is too strong? (not by much for sure). I’ve made an effort thru the years to pay attention to the warm/cool tones while inthe field and no doubt I can “see” the blues often in scenes because of either the lack of sun (yellow light) OR the reflected blues from the sky. So for sure, the blue presence is there… and I think the warm/cool balance is important here. For #'s 2 &3 I could see dropping a little bit of blue saturation - but again, completely subjective and personal choice.

Excellent series, thanks for sharing.


Great subject Kurt. And good working of the shot. 3rd one also. It has the wonderful shape and color of the blue rocks on their dome. And catches more of that massive white wall with all of that texture and pattern. Dark and light for depth. Simpler.

Thank you all for your insightful comments. The horizontal wins! As I mentioned before I’ve been pondering posting this for some time and could never really make up my mind, so I’ll soon post the 3rd option. Thank you!