Landscape Lessons

Critique Style Requested: In-depth

The photographer has shared comprehensive information about their intent and creative vision for this image. Please examine the details and offer feedback on how they can most effectively realize their vision.

Self Critique

This location is a little tricky because the town of Jackson adds light to the mountains but the foreground is pretty dang dark. I used a single Lumicube 2.0 on level 3 to try to add some light to the foreground. I’ve read that lighting is not allowed in the Tetons, but an interpretive ranger and a law enforcement ranger both told me that they were not aware of any such rule. Thankfully, Topaz Sharpen has really helped with sharpening and noise reduction for the foreground. I love the composition, but I sometimes worry about night images being to bright.

Creative direction

When I pulled into this parking lot, I was immediately drawn to the tall stand of trees. I could see with my eyes that the Grand Teton was trying to hide behind the trees, but I thought right away that they seemed to be mimicking the shape of the Grand. I couldn’t move any farther to the right because of other trees, but thought this composition might work. Everything seemed to be reaching for the stars and I knew it would make a compelling image.

Specific Feedback

Is the foreground to bright? Ive done my best to remove noise in the foreground, but there are still some artifacts.

Technical Details

Nikon D850
Sigma Art 20mm 1.4
ISO 6400, f/2.0, 10 seconds
10 light and 27 dark images stacked in Starry Landscape Stacker Processed in Lightroom Classic CC and Topaz Sharpen AI. I used Photoshop to warp the trees back to vertical and used the Ministars action to reduce the appearance of the stars. Special thanks to @Mervin Rosenquist for showing me, on a previous post, how to straighten the trees!


Landscape Lessons

Stars decorate the night sky and compel us to gaze intently upon the tapestry their luminescence creates. They carry hope and dreams through the dark spaces and into the reality of the next day.

Mountains lie beneath the ever-shifting stars. At first glance, they appear rugged and immovable, stalwart champions of patient strength. Mountains have a secret though. They allow time and circumstances to whittle away their excesses. As they are broken down into tiny pieces, their inner beauty is revealed. What they once held firmly too, is released into the valleys, building areas where living things may thrive.

On the ledges, lower hillsides, and right down to the valley floor, trees and other plant life take up residence. Generations of their kind have continued to break down the particles of mountains. Untold life cycles of Fir Trees, Sagebrush and wildflowers have fallen to the soil and mixed with it their nutrient-rich organic matter. This enhanced soil is the fuel that keeps this place alive.

Each of the participants of this moment in time, are stunningly beautiful of their own accord. I could stare at the stars all night long. I marvel at the jagged peaks and let my mind wander through the deep valleys and lofty crags. I let my soul breathe deeply of the Sage-scented meadows lined with stately Fir Trees. I stop to absorb the stunning beauty of a single flower and smile at the tiny speck of beauty that could pull my gaze down to its level.

The thing about a scene like this is that each component works together to create a community. Each member contributes by giving a piece of themselves that allows other members to thrive. Mountain ecology is not always pleasant or comfortable, but unspeakable beauty is created when you enter into a place where each member has a purpose and is permitted to carry it out. Community is important, whether you are a tree, or a human being.

So, go be a star in someone’s night sky. Help carry their hope when they cannot. Be a mountain they can lean on and don’t be too proud to lean on someone else’s mountain. Be a tree providing shelter for other beings. Be a flower, creating a moment of beauty in another person’s day. Be someone who notices flowers and make sure that little speck of beauty knows you see it. Develop and sustain community wherever you find yourself.

Paul, it’s such a treat to read your descriptions. Poetic, transformative — a joy to read! I see a book in your future. :slightly_smiling_face:

This image is a keeper! I love the foreground — the grasses that lead into the trees supporting the night sky — a nice composition that immediately whisks me away to the Tetons!

Two suggestions: 1) Have you tried Topaz DeNoise Ai — I’m seeing what looks like a lot of noise. Or it may be the stars (we’re not used to such clear skies here!). 2) Darken the sky and perhaps remove some of the yellow using Photoshop’s Hue / Saturation slider to make the sky bluer rather than green (that’s what I’m seeing on my monitor).

I look forward to seeing more of your images!

Another wonderful capture and presentation! I love the setting and the MW is dramatic without bring overdone. The silhouetted FG is also dramatic and I think you could go even darker with the FG in the processed version – not better, just different.

I think you did a very good job bringing up detail in the FG, but of course that brings up noise. Maybe the lighting could have been stronger? (Easier to ask forgiveness than permission.) At this size I don’t see noise but I would expect it to be an issue. I second @Susanna_Euston’s recommendation for Topaz Denoise – a PS plug-in/filter. It is amazing. Try the different modes with the switch set for recommended slider positions for each. The first two are older models and not as sophisticated, but sometimes work well. Low Light and Severe Noise are usually best – the names are a little arbitrary. I actually have no idea what RAW is for.

But maybe what Susanna is referring to as noise is in the sky, and that is probably a billion stars that the camera picks up that we can’t see. The greenish look toward the horizon is airglow, thanks to the excitation of molecules in the atmosphere by the cosmic rays from the very active sun.