Melting Pot

I spent about 9 days pretty much off the grid a couple weeks ago in Southern Utah as well as Death Valley hiking and exploring some new areas as well as some old familiar areas. This image is actually from Zion. I have never been to Zion or Death Valley in the Spring so I thought I’d give it a shot. Most people think of large scale Grand Landscapes or Fall images from Zion but I spent the majority of my time there (2 days) looking for more abstract, intimate type stuff although I did shoot a couple of larger scale images too. This is a focus stack of 6 images (the bottom right corner is actually about 10 inches above the lower left corner) and blended in PS. I didn’t really do very much to this image so if you see something that can help please let me know. The thing that actually drew me to this image was the crack that I composed from LRC to the ULC. The colors certainly help, hence the melting pot…think people. :slight_smile:

Specific Feedback Requested

Any and all feedback is certainly welcome and appreciated.

Technical Details

Is this a composite: No
6 image photo stack for depth of field
Nikon Z7ii, 24-70 lens @ 48mm, ISO 80, 1/200 @f/8


Oh my. This is right down my alley. I really like it a lot. It’s something I could stare at for a long time and not get bored. There is so much to explore. If it’s not obvious, to me, the part that gets the most attention is the orange/yellow/green area in the upper center left. It may actually draw too much attention for the composition is really the diagonals that cross somewhat. The textures and shapes are just wonderful. Personally, I’ve had difficulty making color corrections in an effective way. Ideally I might adjust those yellow more towards the pinks that the rest of the image has. It will be interesting how others feel about it. This is a highly skilled image and should be given the credit it deserves regardless of suggestions of how to improve it. By that I mean a critique or lack of it doesn’t really mean an image is better or worse. I really like how those black shapes come in from the sides and pepper the image (particularly the upper right corner but really throughout).

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This is certainly a wonderful abstract David. The colors, textures and shapes are amazing. As Igor said, this is something I too could stare at for a long time.

Wonderful abstract, David. Great job on the focus stack too. Well done.

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I really like this, too. Lichen colonization is the basis for just about every ecosystem there is. So overlooked. The crack is the organizing element here and your placement is spot on. On the whole, the image is quite soft in palette, but the dark lichen gives it the contrast our brains so desire. Also the blue lichen is so intriguing. I’m not sure I’ve seen any this color before and I’d love to get right in there with a macro. Really makes me curious and I love that about shots like this. They stir our imaginations in such varied ways.

And it’s funny that you bring up looking for distinctive images in an overly photographed location. I’m wrestling with that myself since I’m heading to the Badlands in South Dakota for a workshop at the end of May. Pretty much all the places they’re including are ones that are well-traveled and so, I know I’ll have the “usual shots” that you can get at these sites, but I’m hoping that I don’t have my usual bouts of dithering and not being able to find anything new or at least under-shot. I suppose being solo and having more time helped you with this, but if you have any other ideas or techniques, I’m all ears!

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I personally love these types of images and enjoy shooting them myself. Like Igor said, there is so much to look at and for the eye to explore and I think you did a fine job this this image.

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Fantastic capture, David, as others have said. Just have one question; you said this is a 6 image stack, and also mentioned you “blended” them in PS. Did you use the photo stacking in PS or did you blend each layer into the other in PS? Just curious. Thanks.

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Absolutely gorgeous and fascinating! Such a variety of shapes and colors! My only suggestion is print HUGE and frame!

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Love this David,

Like Igor, this is kind of mini-landscape is what I’m always on the lookout for. And as others have commented, that crack is strategically placed to anchor the scene and then lets the view meander around to explore all the textures, shapes and colors.

While the colors and details in the UL area draw immediate attention, I think what balances this out is the “elevated” and layered tier in the LR. YOu mention some 10" in height? One would never know that by looking. But the layers then anchor the crack, tying it all together.

Well seen and beautifully captured. No nits or suggestions.


Thanks for the feedback everyone.

@Igor_Doncov I agree that the colorful section in the upper left corner of the image is an eye grabber. I will see about toning some of those colors down selectively although I’m not sure how successful I’ll be at that. I also appreciate your kind words about this image. Very much appreciated.
@Eva_McDermott I’m glad you find lots in this image to stare at. It is a little like a lichen kaleidoscope.
@David_Bostock Thank you David. I’m glad you like this one.
@Kris_Smith Thanks for the feedback on this Kris. Yeah, there are lichen colors I’ve never seen before as well. I’m glad this one made you curious and stirred your imagination. That’s what I love about abstract as well. The ability to see so many different things in them.
Being solo on almost all of my photography trips gives me the opportunity to go where I want and search out the types of images I am looking for. There is no doubt that solo helps. I’m certainly no expert on this but my best advice is to carry a long zoom lens in addition to your shorter lenses so that you can zoom into a scene after you have taken the “ubiquitous” shot that everyone there wants to get. I find lots of abstracts zooming into grand landscape type scenes that most simply overlook. Almost all of my recent Death Valley images are from 125mm to 400mm with no sky. I will post some of those in the coming days. The badlands are full of colors, textures, weathered and craggy lines, that create unique opportunities to zoom in and get some more intimate grand landscape type images. Lastly, and this too will work well for your upcoming trip, I’m always on the look out for textures, colors and shapes (bends, twists, etc) both large scale and small scale. I also love looking for dead trees or trees that have something unique about them like a curving or twisting trunk, a lone tree in a vast landscape, two or three trees that communicate something, etc. I’ve found that it helps to be open to the unusual but not to get too focused on one thing. For example, don’t just go looking for small intimate scenes, or large grand landscape scenes because you may find yourself missing other opportunities. Most importantly, let the images come to you. Don’t stress about creating something you’ve never seen before from a location or looking for a shot that’s all yours. I assume you are going on this workshop because you’ve seen some really nice images from the group leaders and you would love to capture those types of scenes? If that’s the case then just have fun and anything you capture that’s a little unique and all yours is just icing on the cake. Oh, and here’s one more Big tip…Buy a small 8x10 or 4x6 cardboard frame and slip your hand through it so that it’s always with you when you are walking around so that you can simply pull it off your arm and hold it up to your eye to help you compose for either intimate scenes or grand landscapes and anything in between. This was a game changer for me a few years ago. I saw a 8x10 large format photographer walking around with this same thing on his arm and I asked him about it. It will really help you previsualize if you have a shot or not and it will help you compose it as well without having to get all of your camera gear out. Hope this helps. Good luck Kris. Can’t wait to see what you bring home.
@Tom_Nevesely Thanks Tom. I appreciate your input.
@linda_mellor I used the auto focus stacking feature in PS. This image would have been tough to manually stack because it was a long way from being a flat surface. This was the side of huge rock that was so steep you couldn’t stand on it so there are portions of the image that way below other spots in the image and there are a couple of flat spots as well. PS sometimes does a poor job at this but this scene is so complex that I couldn’t find any mistakes that were obvious. Hope that makes sense.
@Diane_Miller :grinning: :grinning: :grinning:
@Lon_Overacker When I was shooting this, I didn’t know if this would come together because of the steep slope of the rock I was shooting. I actually stacked 8 photos originally but when I saw the mask that PS created I noticed that I could eliminate a couple of the images in the upper portion of the image and only used 6 for the final stack. Looking at the finished image doesn’t show how steep this falls off from top to bottom and mostly from right to left at the bottom. 4 of the 6 images were at the bottom of the frame and I don’t think I got all of it. The LLC is still off a little bit.
For what it’s worth, it has been the incredible work of @Igor_Doncov and @Bonnie_Lampley that drove me to look for this type of scene more often. I find their intimate work to be stellar and I’ve learned a lot from their images. I’d love to see more of yours too, Lon! Thanks for your input on this one.


Any suggestions where an 8 x10 can be purchased? I’ve been using an iPhone for previsualization but it reprocesses the image and it’s screen often has glare so I’m looking for something better.

That’s a good idea about the frame, David! I could just make one out of a bit of an amazon box. Alternately you could go to any hobby store and buy a mat.

Thanks for the advice on slices of landscape as well as the other points. I’m going to make myself a punchlist for quick reference.

I get mine at Michael’s but also you can get them wherever you get matting for picture frames. I just use the cardboard matting and the 4x6 works well for me as it slips over my hand and arm and doesn’t move around much as I’m hiking around. But, you can also just buy construction card board and cut out the size you want so if you shoot 4x5 you can cut out a 4x5 frame.

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That’s funny as I was going to suggest a punch list but I was rambling on for too long. So before each trip, I put together a “reminder” of what to look out for and I keep this on me as I’m hiking around. You can even write notes on your cardboard cutout.
Yes, any cardboard will do and Michael’s sell the small 4x6 matting for pretty cheap. I usually buy 10 at a time in white and I get the 4x6 as it slips over my hand and arm without moving much.

@David_Haynes, thanks for the shout out. :smiling_face: And this is lovely! It really has to be seen large to appreciate all the interesting colors. Did you consider brightening/increasing saturation on the lowermost yellowish spot? That might balance out the saturation/brightness of the upper left area that Igor pointed out. But it’s certainly gorgeous as is, too.

@Kris_Smith, I’m with David on the utility of a 100-400mm-ish zoom lens for picking out slices of the landscape. If I were going to the SD Badlands, I’d be taking that lens for sure.

Thanks Bonnie. The shout out was well deserved. Your creativity has been an inspiration for me for several years now. I’ll try your suggestion on the lower spot to maybe equalize it with the brighter upper spot. If that doesn’t work I may try and reduce/subdue the colors in that upper location as Igor suggested.

Another my kind of image comment. I like the diagonal line, it holds the image together. The darker color a third of the way up balances the bright color in the top third. My only suggestion is to increase the contrast in the areas that lack it.

Thanks for your suggestion @Don_Jacobson . I may post a revision if I can get around to it tonight or tomorrow morning. Thanks again.

Not much more to say except to add to the kudos ! Good to know a focus stack work well for these small scenes.

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It takes some effort to see details like this midst of some otherwise awesome sandstone scenes. The colors and textures here are awesome and I like your delicate touch with the saturation. Comp is excellent too. Makes me want to head back to the Colorado Plateau to look for detail pictures.

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