Intimate Yosemite

Critique Style Requested: Standard

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


One day in Yosemite went incredibly fast - but was better than nothing. I had hoped to go to the higher elevations, but in early April, all those roads were still closed.

I have an aversion to iconic shots - so would never show the obvious compositions. I stumbled on a number of smaller scenes - this was one that caught my eye.

Specific Feedback

I think this one is done - or nearly so. I have battled a bit with the color balance. I wanted the shadows to be predominantly cool with the sunlight warm. I have gone back and forth with color balance adjustments and I’m not sure it’s there yet. The image feels very green and purple - which is fine - but for a really strong color harmony I need some orange - and that feels missing.

Technical Details

Nikon D750
Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 - set to 29mm
f/10 for 1/6 sec
ISO at 50


Wonderful image. Yosemite is so often portrayed on a grand scale that it’s nice to see this aspect of it.

1 Like

Bill this is really nice intimate view of the cascading creek. I love the smooth water, you did great with the shady areas, the water color is also really nice, and I do see a bit of orange in here under the tree. At first I wanted that tree a bit farther to the right in the frame, but that would reduce the really nice view up the creek farther, and that was thinking with my formulaic vision. I think you have a wonderful image here.

I love its great tonal balance and temperature split.

This is wonderful, and a classic intimate landscape! The composition invites me to relax and enjoy the scene and the colors and tonalities are very pleasing. The tree leaves have interesting light and a very pleasant, feathery softness. I don’t feel any need for orange. A very nice SS for the moving water. My only small suggestion would be to darken the trunk leaning out of the frame on the left. I think it could almost be made to disappear toward the edge of the frame.

This one image was well worth the day!

Thank you @Igor_Doncov , @Ed_Williams , @Steve_Rosendahl and @Diane_Miller! I appreciate your taking a look and sharing your thoughts!

Beautiful image. Technical aspects of this shot are perfectly executed. Just one thought: have ever experimented with the Orton Effect? I like the ‘feathery’ trees in the background; just wondering if that can be enhanced by using Lightroom/Photoshop techniques to add an Orton Effect. Just a thought; overall, very nice image.

This enjoyable scene brings me back to youthful spring days in the Sierra Nevada foothills. I particularly enjoy the great depth conveyed by the composition and luminosity choices you made. It conveys the “Gentle Wilderness” described by John Muir.
I found myself wanting to burn the bright water at the bottom a bit. Burning the bright rock face brings out a bit out the orange you are after, as does increasing orange saturation on that face and the adjacent moss-covered boulders. Just me, but I could do with a crop of the feathery bit of water at the bottom.

@Dick_Knudson , @gregory1 - thanks for adding your thoughts. I really appreciate it.

Gregory - I did apply a bit of Orton - I sometimes do but then the files get so big that they get harder to work with. I had already taken quite a bit of contrast out of the shadowed background - but adding it in does soften it a bit more. I am ,more likely to use Orton in more obviously backlit scenes - but I do think it adds value here.

Dick - I did do some more burning and added a selective color layer to work on the color balance. I think I made the image cooler overall while adding some warm spots where I think they needed to be. I didn’t want to crop it anymore, so the feathery water is still there, but I did some dodging there to blend it in a bit better.

And I also tried to fade out the rock in the upper left as @Diane_Miller had suggested. I think I got what she was talking about.

Overall - I’ve probably overworked it a tad but I think it’s what I was largely shooting for. I appreciate all the thoughts.

Ah – that’s a rock on the left edge – apologies, I mistook it for a fallen tree. It’s better now (IMHO) but I think you have lost a lot of the charm in the foliage above it by lowering its contrast. If it were me, I would select just that rock and darken the whole thing. (It would take some care tweaking the mask to make the edge look natural.) I like what you did to the water and FG rocks. A very gorgeous scene in any case!

I agree. The original was better.

Thanks @Igor_Doncov and @Diane_Miller. I have been staring at this in the evenings and making changes the following morning for the last few days. Ihave become a bit disenchanted. I think I shared that I was struggling with the color balance - and something else isn’t sitting right with me. It may be too busy, too much going on.

Last night I spent some time browsing Guy Tal’s website and a couple other folks I follow. Comparatively, my work has too much going on. I don’t think I would be happy with images that are as “simple” as Tal’s - but it helped me realize I need to simplify my image and have a clear center of interest - not competing ones. With this, is it the tree, or the water, or the sun highlights, or the rocks?

I’ve started over in Lightroom, with a slightly different crop (thanks @Dick_Knudson) and I’ll do a bit more in Lightroom before bringing it to PS. I’ll post a new version once I have it figured out.


It’s all of those. I don’t agree that this should be made simpler. Yes, simple compositions are often arresting. Good forest scenes are rarely simple and yet are profound. I have most of Guy’s books. The bigger problem is common and predictable statements. This statement is not common and part of it is due to the composition. Also, Guy shoots desert scenes and minimalism is one of the attractions of that type of landscape. So I agree that simple compositions are great, but so are complex ones.

Personally I no longer enjoy image analysis of the type - this rock balances that branch. I just look at the image as a whole and see how I react to it. I’ve spent many days wading up plunge pools like these searching for trout. Part of my youth. It brings memories of cold water on my legs and the glint of light off its surface. So un that sense it’s a successful image for me. It transports me. I am not indifferent to it.


Well said, @Igor_Doncov. A center of attention is not always needed. Back off a while and come back with a fresh take. Nothing like posting an image to make anyone think twice.

1 Like

Love this one Bill, and I agree with the others that this works as a whole; no need for it to be all about an individual element. My opinion is this image is significantly better than you are giving it credit for.

Given that the image is best appreciated as a whole, my only thought would be to help that effect by slightly reducing the contrast in the foreground so the eye doesn’t snag there. Here’s a crude example:

I find myself falling down the rabbit hole of processing sometimes; spending hours trying to improve only to end up with something no better (or sometimes even worse). I find @Diane_Miller’s suggestion of just shelving for awhile, and then returning with fresh eyes, to be very helpful.

Just posted my recent edits - and I am much happier with these results. I think it looks more natural while still creating focus for the key elements. I learned a lot from this one.

This is stunning Bill; I think you have captured the mood of the scene beautifully. Well done!

Thanks @gregory1

I missed this while I was away. Fantastic fairy tale scene. I love the softness and dappled light.

Thanks Cathy! Hope you had great travels!

1 Like