Hilltop Oak

Critique Style Requested: Standard

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


A frame from a rare foggy morning on a nearby bluff on June 30th, 2023. I remember that date because of the awesome foggy conditions we had here in southern Wisconsin. I climbed a local bluff and natural area for one of my most productive mornings of the year. Included were some misty-moody images such as this, as well as captures with vibrant sun rays.

I like the various leaf textures surrounding the tree and intentionally let that be a secondary focus for the image.

Despite my love of green, I look to use b&w when the color doesn’t add value. I normally like a higher-key approach to monochrome, but I don’t think that suits the mood of this image.

Specific Feedback

In processing this, I first turned it to b&w in Lightroom. I did some additional dodging and burning in Photoshop - but found those edits leaving the bushes below the tree without any pop. I tried again, importing into PS in the color format and making all b&w edits there. I think the result is better - but wonder if I could have taken it further still.

Open to any and all thoughts and suggestions.

Technical Details

Nikon D750 with the 28-300 f/3.5-5.6. That’s not my best lens for this camera, but it is the most versatile.
f/14 for 1/5 sec at 28mm and ISO at 80.


I think this is lovely!! I love the tree being off-center and the base surrounded by a garland of foliage. The fog does a wonderful job of fading out the BG and letting me enjoy the tree and the very interesting foliage at its base. I don’t see any difference in the two images posted but I agree it’s an image well worth a bit more tweaking. I’m sure you have captured a very good tonal range in the raw file.

I pulled it into PS and used a curve to bring the black point down a bit more and then raised the mids a little. That gave more pop to the middle area. It might be possible to increase contrast in the larger branches a bit (if that works for you) with some structure in Nik Viveza or Texture or Clarity in the raw file.

Magnificent Bill. The combination of the beautiful trunks with that foggy background sings, and I love the composition and the way it captures that arch of the branches. I also like @Diane_Miller’s tweaks.

Thank you so much @Diane_Miller and @John_Williams! I appreciate your input.

I started with Diane’s suggestion, though implemented it a little differently using luminosity masks and some selective overlay painting. I currently prefer to not let the image get too dark, so focused on only darkening the textures of the tree and the foliage underneath to create some depth. I hit the highlights again and this is where we’re at. The main truck of the tree is more prominent, as is the foliage.

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Yes! You used a much better method than my quick sketch of the idea. I think this is a very nice tweak! You can edit your original post and add it there, above the original, to allow toggling between it and the original and in order for it to be seen in the thumbnails and considered as it deserves for things like an EP.

Bill, your final version really nailed it in my opinion. There is just enough contrast and detail to keep my attention, and you were able to convey the misty atmosphere in a convincing way for me. There is also a wonderful balance of the diverse elements and dynamic forces to my eye.