...Dust to Dust

Critique Style Requested: Standard

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


I was on the beach last fall and found a sandstone boulder with beach sand in the low spots on it. I took a couple of shots because I liked the ambivalence (is the sand going to stone or the stone going to sand?) but didn’t do anything with them. Kris’ latest post in Flora made me think about going back and looking at them (it’s air conditioner weather today). I processed this one in color, but it didn’t really speak to me. Then I used a TK darksII mask and exported it as a pixel layer. It seemed to have much better flow with the tones reversed, so I added a curves layer to get more contrast and did a little additional fussing in LR.

Specific Feedback

Does this resonate with anyone?

Technical Details

Sony A7Riv, Tamron 28-200 @ 118 mm, hand held, f/13, 1/500, iso 1250. Cropped to 5040x6336. Taken on October 4, 2022 at high noon (well, 12:01:45).


An interesting contrast of textures and use of masks to reverse the tonalities. I know what you mean about not being able to decide to process and how to do that if you take it on. I like it, but am not sure it’s got enough to hold its own. Too much of the same happening throughout, but I’m only one opinion. It always amazes me what speaks to others, but not to me. Like the mermaids.

This sure speaks to me. I love the subtle lines and texture throughout the image. This really works well without color. More simplistic as it really is about shape, lines and texture and relatively low contrast. You might be able to dodge and burn to bring out more of the shape and patterns in this image but I rather like it as is. It makes me want to look at it for a while.

I love the flow of shapes moving through the image but wonder if a less-sharp version would convey that better?

Did I just suggest that natural-looking sharpness – the kind we pay for with our lenses that are sold by the pound – as opposed to over-sharpening, could be reduced? Maybe I’m getting soft…

This is definitely my sort of photo…sand/sandstone abstracts and arrangements, and like @David_Haynes this shot certainly resonates with me and I just like exploring the entire frame.
I do like the overall patterns, but as @Kris_Smith commented it seems a wee bit flat without any sidelighting to show the small contours and separations between sand and sandstone.
The sharpness seems fine to me as it conveys the ‘feeling’ of sharp sand and sandstone in the scene, whereas a softer version would probably result in a soft flowing photo that may not be what you want to envisage with this. Cheers.

Sometimes we photograph things where we know something is there, we just don’t see it right off. These are images to set off to the side and look at once in a while. Sometimes the solution comes to us and other times it does not. At other times it takes approaching the image from a new perspective. In this case you did so but maybe didn’t proceed far enough.

One suggestion would be to try the cropping tool. At times the initial vision needs help. Here is an example. The image now seems to have more of a focus.

Thanks @Guy_Manning. I had already cropped it a fair amont, but I really like your crop. It does create a much nicer flow and focus.

Hi Dennis, awesome work on this abstract image. Not sure if anyone else sees it but I see a face at the bottom half of the image looking up. I quite like the sweeping lines and the bands in the rock.

Folks have mentioned an oversharpening effect and I do see a bit of that but I believe it’s due to the high frequency texture of the sand and rocks. You could try a bit of negative clarity to help offset that. I think black and white was a good choice here. You could try expanding the tonalities in the image and add a bit of dodging/burning to add more dimension. Overall, I think you did a good job with the abstract image.