Echoes of chaos past (w/ edit)

Edited v2



Critique Style Requested: Standard

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


I explored an ever-narrowing side canyon to its dramatic finale. The silence was profound but I could still somehow hear/feel vibrations of past events.

Specific Feedback

How do the light and colors seem to you? Realistic?

All comments appreciate, thank you!

Technical Details

Canon EOS RP + 24-70 @ 24 mm
1/10 s, f/11, ISO100


Cathy, there is so much drama in your photo. I like the colors and perspective you achieved with the image. It reminds me a lot of Closed Canyon in Big Bend Ranch State Park (near the national park of the same name in Texas). I also like that “rock” waterfall that leads our eyes to the top of the image, where the light is coming in.

Yes, they look realistic to me. This is a beautiful image.

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Gorgeous, both the location and the crop!! I get an “In the Hall of the Mountain King” vibe. Complete with the soundtrack! I think the colors are very nice and suitably mysterious. I wonder about the brightest highlights at the top being pulled down just a bit and maybe a graduated burn on the sand at the bottom, but wonderful as it!!

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Diane, thanks for your soundtrack and for pointing out the too-bright areas at top and bottom. I’ve attempted to tone them down in the edited version.

Nice on top! You might consider a gradient at the bottom. It’s a small area but the mauve color there is a nice touch and I’d hate to see it all darkened. A gradient gives it a tiny bit of base that helps keep the eye from being pulled out of the image.

Diane, thanks so much for your commentss! I really appreciate it. It definitely looks better with the gradient. I saw that in your first message but gave up after fighting with the gradient tool for a while and being unable to make it do what I want. (PS is such an annoying learning curve! But I’m slowly making progress with it. ) Anyhow, I replaced the edit with another version where I tried to just feather the burn to get a gradient effect that way.

Egidio, thank you for your comments, so glad you like it. I haven’t been to Big Bend, but seems like it would be well worth a trip (in the winter when it’s not too hot!)

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Cathy, that is wise. I only go to BB in December-February. It’s very mild, even for desert hikes.

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Gradients are easy in PS. Double-click the quick mask icon at the bottom of the toolbar – below the black and white brush color squares. Choose whether you want the mask you will paint to be for selected or protected areas. (I almost always want selected areas.) Then choose the Gradient tool with its defaults. In this case, drag the cursor from the bottom edge up to a little short of the edge of the sand cascading down the chute. Hit the Q key to turn the mask into a selection. Go to the adjustments at the bottom of the layers panel (middle icon with a B/W circle) and choose Curves (or Levels if you’re more comfortable with it). For Curves, pull the top right of the curve straight down to darken light tones or the middle to darken a wider range, or a mix of both.

I like to then hilight both that layer and the underlying image layer and click the link icon to keep me from inadvertently moving the adjustment layer. (Not necessary for an adj layer that doesn’t have a mask.)

In PS go to the top of the screen and under Window choose Photography to give a better workspace.

You can use the Brush tool to paint selections in the same way, instead of the Gradient tool. It’s something I use on virtually every image.


OMG! Thank you so much for the detailed directions!! You saved me untold hours of grumpily searching/surfing. I replaced the edited photo with a new version with the gradient. Looks much better! And, most importantly, I have made another baby step in photoshop. :laughing:

You are more than welcome!! I have no idea how I learned this stuff but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t born knowing it! Osmosos, I guess. Keep at it! The best way is to find something you want to accomplish then search for that answer – thus adding a new tool to your collection – rather than trying to “master” it.

The basic things to understand are the fundamentals of layers (and adjustment layers) and masks. After that it’s tools.

I’m just diving into Photoshop and trying to get it to do what I want it to, but it’s a pain. I’m a scientist by day and I have regularly used all sorts of cumbersome data analysis software. I have to say that PS takes the cake for most cryptic of all of them. I’m still struggling with the basics of layers and masks. But little-by-little I’m prevailing and I think my edits are getting better. It’s certainly more powerful than LR.

What is your field? I’m a very-retired biochemist.

Physiology and biophysics of cardiac pacemaker cells and ion channels. Mainly patch clamp electrophysiology but also a bit of biochemistry, FRET, mobio, etc. Nearing retirement!!!

I did my postdoc at the Cardiovascular Research Institute at UCSF, in a very narrowly focused group working on muscle contraction. I burned out, got married and retired. Have been a happy bum ever since.

We probably know some of the same people at CVRI! I worked on muscle contraction (EC coupling) as a grad student. Science is great but so demanding. Easy to burn out. I love it in some ways but can’t wait to retire and never agonize over another grant.

Well seen and captured Cathy. The funneling of the V really leads the eye in.

It looks like @Diane_Miller has you covered on the highlights. I wouldn’t be afraid to add just a splash of a Shadow/Highlights adjustment to the LLC as well. (Just a touch; I wouldn’t want it to snag the eye.

Color is incredibly in the eye of the beholder for this type of image. For my taste it looks good as is, but I sure wouldn’t argue with a touch more saturation either.

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Thanks for your comments John! I like your suggestions and tried to make subtle changes in the revised version to lighten the LLC and increase saturation a bit.