Dueling Hot Springs

Critique Style Requested: Standard

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


This was an Aurora display for the record books! I have always wanted to shoot the Milky Way here, and technically it would have just been coming into view low on the horizon, but there was simply too much light in the sky to see it! I have never seen such an odd display as what you see here on the right, which is pretty much straight south over Grand Prismatic Spring.

Specific Feedback

Given the differences in the aurora display on the right and the left, is this too unbalanced to show in one big pano? The boardwalk splits it nearly down the middle, but also gives a bit of a “what’s down the path” vibe.

Technical Details

This pano gave me fits! It would stitch in Lightroom. I then tried PTGui, but encountered the same issue. Somewhere in the fog about Grand Prismatic on the right, there was enough lack of detail for it to not see overlapping areas, even though it was there. I tried adding points in PTGui, which is a hand feature, but it kept saying there were not enough of them! Then I had an idea, what if I lightened the exposure and shadows, saved them as TIFFS so the changes remained, and then tried PTGui. It worked! Then I took my new found knowledge of the Liquify Filter in Photoshop to straighten the lines of the boardwalk that both the 14mm focal length and the pano effect had curved. I’m also finding that filter useful to regain some of the image what shows up under the “winged out” areas at the end of a pano when the lens is pointed up a bit. I used several masks to work on various areas in the image and then used Topaz Sharpen to reduce some noise and sharpen the foreground. It left some weird artifacts in the upper sky, especially on the left side. I tried to lessen this with some healing brushes and clarity reduction. They probably dont show up as much in this reduced resolution version.

Nikon D850
Sigma Art 14-24mm 2.8
ISO 1600, f/2.8, 3 sec, 14 mm
9 image pano

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1 Like

Wow!! The stitching looks fine, as does the composition, although it feels like a little more on the right could be good if you have it. I love the boardwalk leading me off into Oz! The two geysers feel well-balanced, with the heavier steam on the left balanced by the heavier aurora on the right. Tonalities in the sky look great and I can’t see any issues with stars at this size. The gray tones of the steam feel a bit dark but I’m not used to seeing geysers against very dim light in the sky so that’s just an emotional reaction based on the daytime appearance of steam, which certainly wouldn’t be right at night.

You managed a heroic capture and processing! I’m surprised the light was to the south – I would have thought it would be north. Maybe you were actually inside some sort of huge ring or cone of light?

Thanks Diane! I did actually use a brush to lighten the steam some, but didn’t want to take it too far. I double checked, but without really stretching the right side, I dont have any more data left there to work with! That shot I shared first, the one with the corona over Silex Pool? That is also looking to the south! It was an insane thing to see the lights all around. It truly was like being inside a cone of light. I read somewhere that this part of the aurora was strongest right over This part of Montana and Wyoming. Truly unbelievable.

I never knew it had “focus points” – amazing! And there may be another chance this week! See my post of today.