Erratic paddling



Another landscape from my day on Nixon Creek. Bright light, but so cheerful and inviting - this little section is the only place you can see very large glacial erratics present. It’s no trouble to paddle through them (plus it’s kind of fun) and I grounded the boat on another one to be semi-steady for this shot. I really need to be more careful about keeping the boat as still as I can for landscapes. Sometimes I’m lazy or impatient and neither is a help. This shot isn’t bad at 1/200th, but much slower gets obvious and the photos too soft.

Specific Feedback Requested:

Does it do anything for you?

Pertinent technical details or techniques:

Handheld with CPL


Lr for all processing which wasn’t much really. A lot of highlight taming and tonal management. WB was good, but I hit the blue saturation in the Calibration panel and that really made the greens and blues pop nicely. No need for vibrance or saturation. Didn’t even use any masking. Some distortion correction for the wide angle. Topaz Sharpen for detail enhancement.


What a great image with great colours. Looking at it just makes me feel happy!
It looks like it was taken right out of Hobbiton in Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

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Love this, Kris! This is my favorite photo of yours ever. I agree with @Tom_Nevesely that it looks like another world. It has everything, trees, clouds, water, rocks, reflections, leading lines, it looks like such a peaceful, refreshing kind of place! Great capture!

Kristen, I thought about whether to critique this photograph but because you specifically asked, “Does it do anything for you?” I decided I would.

First, I want to share with you why I take the time to come on this site and give critiques in the first place. I’ll be honest, it isn’t for the benefit of the person whose picture I’m critiquing. It’s for my benefit. I find that critiquing the photographs of others, photographs with which I have no emotional attachment, is enormously helpful in learning about what it is that makes photographs meaningful for me and what I need to be paying closer attention to when making my own.

That being said, when I look at this photograph, I have no nits to pick. Everything about it is fine – perfect really. Compositionally there is nothing that jarringly jumps out at me. The colour is very nice as is the post-processing. But this is the thing I’m struggling with in so many of my own photographs – when I look at this image, I don’t care. I know that sounds harsh but it’s true for me. I feel like I’ve seen this image thousands of times and even more, I feel like I’ve taken this image myself, certainly hundreds of times. And that doesn’t make it a “bad” image. I have no idea, for example, what it means to you. But, in answer to your posted question, there is nothing about this image that calls to me to give it attention. Again, Kristen, this is really me thinking out loud in attempt to understand what a meaningful photograph means to me, how little it has to do with technique, and how hamstrung I often feel when I look at so many of my own photographs and really start to wonder – “why do I care about this particular image and not those”? Obviously it’s subjective but I’m asking the question not in some universal way but only in so far as what makes for a photograph that I care about. And I’m beginning to understand that it is not an easy question to answer.

I hope you aren’t offended in any way with my musing – that is certainly not my intention.


Kris this is postcard perfect. I love the light, the colors, and the composition. Well done.

I love this image Kristin. The composition is just about perfect. The X composition funnels everything from the sides and corners into the middle. And you are blessed to have those clouds. If you think of those puffy clouds and lily pads as both being alike then there is a compositional mirroring effect.

Mostly though, as someone wrote, it makes me feel good. I feel like I’m there in the boat as well. Oh, and one thing. I like that the pads aren’t being cut off by the frame at the bottom but there is separation instead. I find that to be important.

Fun photograph…very well done in what looks like mid morning light.

This is certainly cheerful and a lovely representation of the scene. Composition, exposure, colors are all perfect. But does it speak to me? I’m rather with @Kerry_Gordon on that front - it doesn’t “do anything” for me. That is certainly more a reflection on where I am in my photographic journey than on this (or any) particular photo. Like Kerry, I have lots of photos of interesting landscapes, but upon reviewing them, I wonder why I pressed the shutter. They just don’t speak to me afterwards beyond being a nice representation of the scene. And like Kerry, I can’t articulate why I care about some images and not others. We can analyze the technical details, even the mood, of an image, but I suspect it comes down to something subconscious in us. There are some images in which the combination of composition/colors/light/mood/etc. come together in a way that triggers a reaction in us based on our subconscious mind.

All that being said, it doesn’t matter if this doesn’t speak to me, if it speaks to you.

After reading the reviews I think that the idea of landscape photography has been made so easy with Phones, most are jaded…
Images like this can be captured with phones and captured nicely…No DSLR or new expensive mirrorless required.
Landscape photographers are going to have to get very creative or use techniques that cannot be acquired with a phone to stay interesting…


A lovely image. Peaceful, tranquil and an image that makes me wish I were there.

If I had a nit, or suggestions, would be to clone out the two lily pads in the LLC. Well, maybe. I guess they create just a little tension being cut off on the edge. Then again, the corner may be too empty without…

I have a different answer for your question. Actually, just return with more questions:

Does it have to? Why can’t a picture, an image, a photograph simply be pretty? Where is written that a photograph has to have meaning? Of course, and yes, photographs and the act of photographing (and/or being immersed in nature,) can and do have tremendous and serious meaning - both to the viewer and the creator. Photograph’s capture and project stories, meanings, emotions, brutal truths, honesty as well as fiction, fantasy and imagination. Just as valid however, is the notion of “wow! look at that sky!” Nothing deeper than just a pretty sunset.

We attach meaning to many different things. Perhaps, just maybe that photograph represents the opposite of meaning? Maybe that moment in time has no meaning at all - but is an escape? A moment in time to be remembered that transports you to another place and time, devoid of emotions and meanings? Or conversely, takes you to a place filled with emotions and meaning?

And to wrap this up, I’ll quote the very famous philosopher, Forest Gump: “… or if we’re all just floatin’ around accidental like on a breeze… Maybe both is happening at the same time.” :slight_smile:

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Well that will teach me to throw a question like that in for feedback!

No one has offended me, although I admit to being a tiny bit bruised that you all don’t automatically love and cherish the stuff I love and cherish And that you don’t all love my pretty picture. Lol. Seriously, it’s perfectly ok. Not everyone has to love everything. We keep surprising each other with our different perspectives and personal connections. My favorite music would probably horrify most of you.

@Tom_Nevesely & @Vanessa_Hill - it is like another world in a sense; one not many see because you need a kayak or a canoe to do it. That’s part of what I love about how I get around the water. It’s quiet and unobtrusive and has a far reach; meaning I can go where motorized craft can’t. Nooks, crannies, shallow spots and hidden backwaters. Yesterday I went into one and came across the biggest snapping turtle I’ve ever seen up close. The water was maybe 8-10 inches deep and this monster was as long as my kayak is wide, with back feet as big as my hand. A little scary as it sedately turned and swam under the hull and into the waterlilies, but so amazing. I found a 100 year old turtle!

@Kerry_Gordon - I go through a similar thought process with images that don’t grab me, too. Some are yours, some are not and, frankly, some are mine. I shot it and clearly something grabbed me at the time, but on the computer I can’t see it anymore and pass it over for processing. We all have mysterious centers in our brains that control pleasure, interest and intrigue. What lights those up is as infinite and varied as the stars in the sky. You have done what I haven’t though - commented when you have this non-relationship with a photo. Both as creator and as viewer. Putting into words why something doesn’t interest or have value to you is more difficult than saying why something does. At least it is when it comes to photos. I can write scathing book reviews all day long, but I have the hardest time articulating why I loved and found meaning in a book. Anyway…it’s all good and I appreciate you putting yourself out there and starting an interesting discussion. All with my pedestrian little paddling shot!

@David_Bostock & @Igor_Doncov - I’m so glad you like it because I like it and, well, shouldn’t everyone? :laughing: But seriously, you mention the perfection of the composition. Sure, I worked at it and moved the boat around a bit, then waited to be relatively still. I debated how far to move back from the rocks, how much of the lily pads to include and how to fit both hillsides in, but now I wonder, is it too perfect? Should there be something jarring? Something out of harmony? Hm…

@Bonnie_Lampley - as I did with Kerry, I applaud your openness, honesty and willingness to share. You got it right - our photography is personal to us as individuals and artists and not everything has to resonate or even appeal to everyone else. Some of your shots make me scratch my head, too. That’s the fun of it and one of the valuable aspects of this site - we’re not competing with each other, we’re exploring and learning together in a way. If we all took the same photos, none of that would work and it would be pretty damn dull.

@Dan_Kearl - jaded is an interesting choice of words. Maybe we are, especially with the easier types of pictures to make as you also state. Is that a reason you are drawn to astrophotography? Because it isn’t easy for anyone to do? That there aren’t many photos out there?

@Lon_Overacker - oh I had a bit of a wrangle with myself about those two lily pads. In the end I left them because I feel it adds some balance to the composition - empty water would just look too artificial in my view. But then again maybe not. LOL. So many choices we can make these days.

You bring up the subject of meaning in photographs, something I don’t often think about or try for. I’m not an emotional photographer. I’m more of a documentarian. A documentarian with flair, perhaps. Mostly I photograph things that are beautiful or at least interesting and I try to tell the story of a place with those. Nature and the places I find are what I want to show. I can’t explain it. I find wonder and drama in the most mundane things, in the tiniest scenes, in the most insignificant creatures. For me, none are insignificant. Yesterday I spent hours sitting still in the kayak watching turtles. Yes, I’m nuts, but it was so gently fascinating and calming. Tiny creatures going about their lives with no knowledge of, or need for, humanity. It’s humbling and I love being humbled in that way.

So I’ll wrap this up since I’m rambling. Thanks everyone for a nice dive into what we connect with and value in photography that isn’t our own.

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I just wanted to add something to this. And that is - how fickle our likes and dislikes can be. That, at least, is true for me. I have now come up with a strategy of taping my best prints to my bedroom and studio walls so that I see them all the time. The hope is that their individual merit would become obvious over time. And to some extent that has worked. But the darn thing is that it still keeps changing from day to day and hour to hour. The other morning I woke up in a splendid mood and darn it if the image I considered second rate looked downright brilliant. So when people critique your image it happens at one point in time and can very likely change at another.

The other thing is that people grow in photography and take different paths during their growth. We then critique images from the perspective of the path we have taken. Ideally you want to critique it from the mindset of the photographer and not your own. I know I don’t always do that. I usually just don’t comment at all on images that ‘don’t turn me on’ because the motivation isn’t there and doing so is like exchanging pleasantries. So I get Kerry when he says that he writes a critique to learn something and if he’s not turned on then there is nothing to learn and it’s an empty experience.

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It was a great question! You made us think about why some images resonate with us, while some don’t. As you note, it is difficult to articulate the why of that. And as Igor pointed out, our critiques should consider the intent of the photographer, not our preferences or interpretations of the image (unless that is asked for). In light of that idea, your photo here is perfect.

And you’re not alone - ha ha. My husband very often offers a “hmmm” to my work, most of which doesn’t make it past my hard drive. I like them, but I understand that most folks find them odd.


Interesting discussion! I don’t usually do a deep dive into why I like or dislike an image – mine or anyone else’s. Maybe I just have trouble sitting still that long. And critiquing a very pretty image is difficult, and this one is very pretty to me. I like the point of view – the feeling of being so close to water level out in the middle of the stream. (Have to admit, my first reaction was to think about mosquitos – but that’s just me – they find me irresistible.) I do love the line of the lily pads leading past the rocks to the large trees and then to the sky, then coming back down to the more distant trees on the right and back to the rocks. But I wonder about making it a little more unique by making it less symmetrical. The right quarter or so is the least pretty to me, with the ripples in the water and the uninteresting vegetation on the bank and in the water. But a squarish crop doesn’t feel right and with no idea what might have been on the left, maybe there was no good choice for a different composition. Maybe a more wide-angle vertical with more water and lily pads, shot from slightly to the right?

The images that grab me are the ones I can’t imagine I would ever see in person – ones with amazing lighting or subject, or both.

For me, the problem with iPhone images is lens quality and control of tonal range. They can’t come close to competing with a real camera unless they were shot in perfect light and you view them at a tiny size.


Well that opened a can of worms :grinning:

I love lily pads, and I think your composition is very strong the way you placed the rocks and the v the sky makes. It’s a very pleasant scene.

However, in addition to the usual questions I ask about composition, processing, subject, etc., I always ask myself about timing. For me, it is really hard to beat what rich lighting adds to a scene. This same image taken with golden-hour lighting would do much more for me; I think it would be even more beautiful.

Now this is interesting.

Daylight landscape that doesn’t need the crutch of dramatic golden light to make you say “I really wish I was there for that”

Wonderful image.

Hi Kris! I also think this is a lovely image. It is not easy to get an image as well controlled as this one in bright mid-day light but you did it very well.

I totally get @Diane_Miller 's comments about the potential comp changes if you were able to move to the right a bit (and especially agree with her about about the mosquitoes - funny I hadn’t thought of that 'cause they love me too. In fact no one near me gets bit 'cause I get all the bites - lucky me! :crazy_face: ), but that probably isn’t possible now and this image works very well.

The thread that wouldn’t die! Muhahahahaha!

Sorry I didn’t get back to @Bonnie_Lampley , @Igor_Doncov or @Diane_Miller before now. I feel badly about that since this is a conversation not an echo chamber.

Totally true. I like the idea of printing and putting them in a place where you will see them and rotating them frequently so you will see them and not pass them by. Similarly I go back to review “picks” from previous outings that didn’t make it through the edit process. Sometimes they didn’t for good reasons, other times I see something, maybe the original something that made me shoot the scene, and I dredge it from the depths. Otherwise they stay down there or even get the boot.

I wouldn’t say it’s an empty experience, but it’s one I don’t want to share since it isn’t likely to be a productive conversation or a positive one for the person who took it. Mostly when the photo is technically good, but just not my cuppa. Telling a person my taste differs from theirs won’t get me very far and will probably prove frustrating. So I get where you’re coming from. But I also think that I’m more apt to encounter “like minds” here on NPN than a lot of other places.

Maybe I need to take a page out of your playbook and go for the odd. It’s what makes your work interesting, unpredictable and kind of a palate cleanser if that doesn’t come off as insulting, which isn’t my intent.

Ah, maybe I should have instead of going for balance, which I was. The trouble with kayak landscape photography is getting the boat still. This means I’m at the mercy of something to ground the boat on whether it’s the bank itself, a rock, thick vegetation or a log. If you look at my weekly challenge photo with the cypress trees, you can tell I was in open water with nothing holding the boat still. So sometimes it’s impossible to change compositions or at least change them quickly. That sounds like laziness and in some ways it is, but mostly it’s just reality. But maybe I should work a scene more thoroughly before paddling away.

Oh and I’m rarely bothered by mosquitoes when I’m kayaking. They stick to the woods on the shorelines mostly. It’s flies that are usually the problem, they don’t bite me, just whip around my head and make me nuts!!

Thanks for adding your ideas. And yes, I agree, but early morning and kayaking don’t agree with me most of the time. And staying until sunset is usually problematic, too. This location might work since the launch site is big, open and has a dock. Then I could paddle with a headlamp and hope I could find whatever I stuck the boat on. Or if the water level rose a lot, I might not be able to. It’s tricky in a boat, but maybe I should be less lazy. Especially since I can just dump the boat in the backyard and paddle down to this -

Thanks @andronik - I don’t go out on crappy days so full sun is usually the prevailing condition. Clouds, too if I’m lucky, but not always. Yes, I’m a photographer so light is important to me, but I’m not a light snob and I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t force your vision of the best conditions onto the ones you get. Sometimes you have to work with what the rest of the world considers less than ideal or you don’t get to shoot. In this case I thought I could make it work and I’m glad you think I did.

Thanks @Steve_Kennedy - as I said up a ways, the comp isn’t always up to me, it’s up to the landscape to let me get the boat still. Or as still as I can, which depending on the wind or current or both, is sometimes a hopeless situation. And working in bright sunlight isn’t always a bummer - bright sunny days speak to us in ways that moodier landscapes don’t and frankly I find a portfolio of images all taken at the same times and in the same situations pretty boring. For me the near ecstatic quality of this scene - the blue sky, the green lily pads, the stretch of water narrowing between the points of land, pretty engaging and satisfying to look at. Clearly that’s just me, but that’s who I photograph for in the first place - me.

Which sounds pretty assholish - OMG. But I think we all serve ourselves first if we’re not shooting for a client. And I paddle for me, too. 99% of the time I’m alone and get to pick from a long list of gorgeous waterbodies. Yesterday I was on the Spirit river and I’ll probably hit it again today, albeit much farther downstream and with another person. Kayaking is my love and one of the reasons I can’t leave Northern Wisconsin. It’s a paddlers paradise, but maybe not every photographer’s.


Though not one for mid-day color photographs, I think this photograph is a wonderful example of there being no such thing as “bad light.” The manner in which you exposed the scene maintains the reality of it - it is one which I could easily step right into, as if I were truly there. Try as I might, I really have no criticism of this piece. Well done, Kristen.

Thanks @Cody_Schultz - I think the glorification of dusk and dawn in photography really started with digital. Back in the day I used to shoot daylight film and that’s what it was made for. I’m not saying it’s perfect for everything, harsh light isn’t, but if you do it enough, you can manage the noonday sun.

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