This handheld image was shot from a moving boat in the Atchafalaya swamp in Louisana on a November morning. Didn’t get a sunrise, but instead got beautiful fog that engulfed the trees and lingered on top of the water. I had to shoot fast due to the moving boat and didn’t get an opportunity to fine-tune my composition.
Specific Feedback Requested
Is the image off balance? Is there too much going on on the right hand side? Does it need to be cropped on the left to make it more balanced?
ISO 100, f/16, 1/4 sec
Processed in LR and PS
Beth, I love this photo. I am a big fan of fog in photos - it really give is a magical feel. I am also quite envious as I’ve been wanting to go here for years. I love the muted colors and the feeling of tranquility. I’m a complete novice at critiquing, but I would have loved to have seen more of the main subject reflected in the water in the foreground. I assume that this was not possible, unless the photo was cropped. Otherwise I love it and the way that the leaves and branches on the top and sides frame the main subject.
Hi Sarah Jane,
Yes, I agree, I would have loved a reflection from the big tree in the front of the frame. Even just a little of a reflection would have been neat. However, I was at the mercy of the boat I was in. I was just shooting rapidly as the boat was moving around. I really didn’t know what I got until later. I don’t believe I cropped this photo at all.
Thank you for taking the time to comment. If you ever get to go down to LA or TX to see these trees, it really is a magical experience!
Hi Beth, I know you’re looking for Alex’s input here, and I too, look forward to his thoughts. I did want to give you my impressions for what they’re worth. Please take them or leave them…
I think your idea of cropping from the left might be a good idea. It seems to better balance the main tree with the rest of the trees on the right. I also appreciate a great fog image and this is one, but I tried adding a bit of contrast to bring out the main tree as the subject while still retaining the fog. Finally, fog does tend to cool things off a bit so I added just a touch of warmth in the white balance. I hope you don’t mind, this is my interpretation and may not represent what you saw in your wonderful boat trip.
I’ve always wanted to photograph these lovely bayou trees. Glad you had the chance to do so.
I like the symmetry of the frame of foliage around the scene in your original composition, and that is certainly a situation that can call for centering the main subject. But I think your inclination to crop off the left was correct, if only because you have those two smaller trunks cascading into the distance on the right, and nothing really going on at that depth on the left. There’s also the fact that the sky in the upper-left is a bit distracting, so @David_Bostock’s crop is spot-on and helps mitigate that.
I agree with Sarah about wanting to see more of a reflection - not because it’s strictly necessary for this subject, but just because the base of the tree is placed so close to the bottom edge of the frame, creating some unwanted tension and breaking up the overall cleanliness of the water framing your subjects from below. However, I like the overall balance where you have it framed now, as the focus is on the subjects and the reflections are just there to support them and provide context.
With that in mind, I would try some negative dehaze in the water where the foremost tree is reflected. This could act as a “vignette” of sorts (even though it would actually brighten the area), so that it feels like the trees are fully enclosed in the frame rather than running out of it. This adjustment (done in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw filter) would need to be paired with a couple other adjustments (negative contrast and negative exposure when I tried it) to compensate for how it brightens up as well as creating a “foggy” effect. Then it needs to be carefully worked in so as not to look painted.
I also agree that some warmth/saturation could be experimented with in the foliage (although the more subdued colors here are very classy and I don’t think that’s an error in any way). Whatever you decide to do with the color, I love the cool tones in the foggy areas and how they give the warm foliage a nice backdrop to play off of. If everything was warm, then the foliage wouldn’t feel so colorful by comparison. So rather than doing a global white balance adjustment, I would try punching up just the warm colors in the foliage a bit and leave the rest alone. Or you could leave it as-is, too!
Here is an example with the dehaze below and the punchier reds, along with slightly darkening the patches of sky:
Hi Alex, Nice to chat with you! Thanks so much for the critique. I love the addition of the fog at the bottom of the photo. The crop looks great and the photo definitely feels more in-balance. Awesome changes!
Thanks for taking the time to give me your thoughts. They are very much appreciated.
The crop absolutely makes a huge difference in balance. It’s funny, I didn’t even think about the photo being off balance until I took a good look at it before posting it here. Now I can see clearly that taking some off the left is the right thing to do. You did a nice job with the edit as well.
Boy, I really like that tree centered. And the branches come in from the side to form a perfect arc with the tree in the center. That composition gives the tree a certain aura. If there was a way to clone distant foliage into those area where the sky breaks through on the left. Maybe if you created a mask with just the bright sky then had a layer of distant trees below the present layer you could replace the sky with those trees using that mask. Never tried it but it makes sense to me. Personally I don’t think the cropped version is as good as the original for the reasons given. It’s a compromise.
Lovely Beth! If you fall in line with @Igor_Doncov , another option is just to darken that bright sky to better match the rest of the image so it doesn’t pull the eye away. A mild vignette can help with that effect to, since the bright is mostly in the corner. Here’s a rough stab at that:
Thanks for your feedback. I too love the framing on the top It’s a hard call - crop it or leave it alone. I’m happy I got a vote of confidence leaving it centered and keeping the top as is. Something to definitely think about. Thanks again.