Greenbriar Spring II

Critique Style Requested: Standard

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


Even though this image was taken in spring, it could really be any time of year. The only giveaway that it isn’t autumn is the amount of water flowing down the slight cascade. Our autumns can be dry. This year’s seems to be in between!

At any rate, this is one of my favorite locations in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park—the Little Pigeon River that flows through the Greenbriar area of the Smokies (near Gatlinburg).

Specific Feedback

I’ll appreciate all comments. One question I have is if the water is too creamy looking. It seemed fine to me until I was ready to post it here!

Technical Details

Canon EOS RP; 70-200 EF lens; ISO 200; f/20; 5.0 seconds


The bane of the fall photographer is low flow (I don’t like the sound of that). I like the monochrome handling and how nicely it still lets us see the light so well. That’s difficult to do with B&W in my experience. The section of cascade you chose works well too because it winds and bends in a pleasing way and the highlights you’ve emphasized in the canopy mimic and continue that flow. Good interjections of darker areas as well as a nice range of textures to enjoy. Many folks don’t like longer shutter speeds with water photos like this, but I don’t have that prejudice with enough texture in the scene to set it off. That said, you could take a brush and paint in some clarity directly on the rocks to emphasize those more. Nicely done.

Gorgeous!! The water suits me fine because you don’t have blown highlights on it. My only thought is to wonder about a little more light between the brightest water and the foliage.


@_Kris and @Diane_Miller, thanks for your feedback! I will work with both of your suggestions. I can see where they would strengthen the image!

Hi Susanna, I’m new to NPN and your photo is the first for me to view. As soon as I saw it, I wondered if it was the Great Smoky Mountains NP. Decades ago during the film era, when I lived in Missouri, I used to teach in autumn at the Tremont Institute with Willard Clay. This photo would have fared well in our classroom critiques because it is sharp, has a good balance of light and dark, a pleasing composition, and peaceful story. Anytime you can produce a composition with a “C” or “S” in it, you will attract the viewer’s eye, and you have certainly done that with this photo. The bottom right corner serves as an anchor that directs your eye to the left and keeps it from wandering out of the frame at the right, and the dark bottom left corner gently stops you from wandering out of the frame at the left. Nicely done!

I quite like this. The water is almost perfect IMHO. Might be a little hot in a few places. The composition is nice. Maybe bring out the shadows a tad more?

This is a lovely B&W image, Susanna. I particularly like the way the zigzag flow of the stream takes my eye through the scene toward the light toned foliage in the BG. I do like @Diane_Miller’s small tweak with the light as it evened that slightly darker area. This also has a nice range of tones throughout the scene. Beautifully done!

Lovely scene, Susanna! I like the composition and the overall scene, but I do like @Diane_Miller’s suggestion as well. I think that bit of extra light does help. My wife & I are headed to the Smokies in a week; I hope there will be some color left on the trees.


This is a beautifully captured and gorgeous scene. Great choice with the b&w - normally, at least for me, spring greens, white blossoms and all the colors of the rocks and forest would speak color… but what b&w has done is simplify this scene, removing the complexities and chaos of the forest. Plus, you’re retained the spring beauty of this scene.

The curves of the flowing water make for a soothing composition. My comment on the tree on the right - is that you’ve included enough of it that it’s obvious and works well framing the right - also providing depth. The water? Silky, creamy and dreamy has it’s place - and this is one of them! I love the water and the rocky stream leading the eye in to the scene.

The only suggestion I have follows what Diane and others commented on - raising and evening out the shadow luminosity. Pretty minor, but a case of raising a wonderful image up just another notch.


Susanna I am out of the core for this photo. I like the lights and shades exacty as they are because they compose an intimate image, show the soul of it and this is the characteristic of your photos that I like more. About the creamy look of the flowing water my eyes see a lack of balance between the cold white of the leaves and the warm white of the water. I very seldom do B&W photos, could you edit a warmer white in the leaves?

Thanks so much, @Ruth1! And welcome to NPN! I’ve joined recently and love it.

Your experience in the Smokies using film must have been special. Were you shooting in large format or 35mm? I’ve been making photo forays there for the past 28 years or so, since moving to Asheville. I was at Tremont last spring. It is a lovely area, especially when the dogwoods bloom (which, wouldn’t you know it, I missed this year).

I appreciate your assessment of Greenbriar Spring II. I love that scene in Greenbriar. The sun had come out, but I managed to work with it. It was one of those days that went from misty overcast to bright sun.

Thanks so much @Ed_Lowe, @Giuseppe_Guadagno, @Michael_Lowe, and @Lon_Overacker @Bill_Chambers for your comments! I will definitely work on those shadows. Giuseppe’s observation about the cool versus warm tones is very interesting. I’ll see what I can do. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Very artistic and technically excellent image Susanna. Since you raised the question about the water being “too creamy,” I’ll jump in and say in my opinion it is too creamy. I find myself shooting streams and rivers with the ND filter at about 1/10th to 1/15th second because I like to capture the movement as lines and streaks. I think that would give your water in this image some of the same impressive detail as the rocks and leaves, making for a more consistent look.

Thanks so much, James, for your feedback! I absolutely see your point. I’ve done a lot of waterwork at similar (to your suggestion) shutter speeds. I’m usually careful about the surrounding area. In this case, I didn’t want the water to meld into the surrounding landscape or clash with it, so wanted a smoother texture. However, with that said, it could have been a faster shutter speed (1-2 seconds) to provide a little more texture. I’m going to check my images to see if I have one that might be less creamy. Thanks, again!

That is very nice Susanna. There is something about the way the chaos of the trees blends down in the smooth calm of the water that works really well. Great shot!

Thanks, Cameron! Your perspective is aligned with what I was thinking when I shot it. :slightly_smiling_face:

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You are welcome. Thanks for posting.

Susanna, congratulations on the editors pick. Very well-deserved. This is an awesome image. I love everything about it and wouldn’t change a thing.

Years ago, everyone wanted to get those soft, puffy cloud like looks on the water. It was a thing. Now days, people seem to frown on that…For what it’s worth, I like the water as it is…but then, I am old. :grin:

So, either way works, but I appreciate the look in this image. It is a fine art masterpiece.


Thanks so much, David!