Mountain River at Sunset

I’ve visited this location every October for the past several years. I’ve always liked this view with the winding river and the mountains, but overall something about the image doesn’t feel quite right to me and I don’t know what it is. I might be going back in about a month’s time and I’m thinking of re-shooting it.

This image is one I made last October which was the only time I was able to get some decent sunset light. Typically, I’ve always experienced overcast and rainy weather. I’m thinking that maybe some sort of foreground would help this image, but unfortunately this is shot from the side of a steep hill so the only thing I can think of there is to have some spruce tree poking in from the bottom or sides but it’s not something I’m too keen on.

I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions (both compositionaly and also for the post processing).

Thank you!

What technical feedback would you like if any?

Any and all!

What artistic feedback would you like if any?

Any and all!

Any pertinent technical details:!

Shot with a 50mm lens.

Tom, overall I think this is quite beautiful. I do have a couple of possible suggestions. It appears you may have used a GND filter because the very tips of the BG mountains seem pretty dark. I would dodge them to bring them back to match the lower mountain tones. Also, I might open up the shadows in the FG mountains JUST A WEE BIT, not much at all though, like maybe a 1/3 of a stop at most and see what that does. I love images like this but one of the reasons I enjoy them so much is that I like exploring the entire scene, and the FG mountains are a bit dark for that. The river is a GREAT element and the hue and exposure on it is excellent. Like I said at the top, this is quite beautiful and very enjoyable to view.

1 Like

Nice shot Tom, this looks like a wonderful location, certainly worth some return trips.

The overall processing looks to be pretty good. You have a nice level of detail in the shadows of the near mountains. My only suggestion for processing improvement would be to maybe reduce the saturation a little in the warm clouds in the upper left corner.

From a composition perspective, I like the idea of having the river pull your eye thru the valley towards the mountains in the distance. But I think the horizontal stretch of the river feels cramped and too close to the edge of the frame. To me that is a little distracting. It feels like the river needs more breathing room at the bottom. Now you might have been forced into this composition due to the trees you mentioned, and had no other choice. If you can shoot this scene a little wider and create a little more space below the river without adding too many distracting trees, then I think it would help.

Easy for me to say, but if you could somehow gain a little more elevation above where you were standing for this shot, then you might be able to to show more of the river and achieve more space below it as well.

1 Like

Bill, that you so much for taking the time to comment on this! I will definitely try adjusting the processing to see what I can come up with. You are right about me using a ND Grad filter, good eye!

Hi Ed, thank you for critique, I really do appreciate it! Like I said above I will try adjusting the post processing and work on the sky like you suggest. I totally agree the left part of the sky could be better.

With regards to the comp and the river, that is one thing I know I messed up, but I didn’t realize it until I saw it on my computer at home a week later. I actually shot the same scene the day before and in that shot, I included more of the bottom and for sure the river doesn’t look so cramped. Here is the image for comparison:

Tom, this is more what I had in mind for breathing room on the river, but I see what you mean about the yellow tree at the bottom becoming very prominent. However if you are okay with that sort of thing, you clone it away.

I obviously don’t know this location, but if it was possible to get to a higher elevation, I think the view of the river would improve. I assume you can’t, or you probably would have done so.


If I end up going back there this year, I’ll see if I can get higher. This is shot from an old logging road that traverses a very steep hill. I might be able to climb the hill up a little bit but, it’s kind of loose so I don’t know how dangerous it would be. I won’t do anything stupid but, I will see!

Hey Tom,
Thanks for sharing your photograph. I really like the mood, and the overall tone of the composition. Well done! I know the critiques are meant for your photograph (and I don’t want to hijack the conversation), but I’m learning a lot from them too. @Bill_Chambers, your suggestions are great. I especially like the comments about adjusting the tones in the mountains. I don’t own any GNDs, so I guess that’s just something you have to plan for. And @Ed_McGuirk, I like your recommended composition tweaks too. I’m glad @Tom_Nevesely had another shot that included a little more of the river. The “breathing room” around the river seems to help.

I hope you do get to re-visit this location. I’d like to see your results from all this input. Good luck, and thanks again for sharing.

1 Like

Very nice light in this, Tom, especially on the river and the mountains. I do agree about the slight tightness at the bottom, but I like the river coming out of the lower left corner leading my eye.

GND’s can be a little tough to position, especially with a such a complicated background. You did a good job, but a little tweaking of the mountain’s summits would be nice. I love the sky.

Not sure if it’s possible, but you might try opening up the shadows a bit, and perhaps cloning out the yellow tree near the right edge-lower right.

You did well with challenging light.

1 Like


A warm, and lovely mountain landscape. I can understand why this is a favorite viewpoint of yours!

Thanks for posting the additional image (nice one too!) I think that one helps a lot with the space beneath the river, which is my main contention with the original. That lone tip of an aspen can be cloned. The curve in the river and especially the cool reflection really tops this image off, IMHO.

I would say that the genera luminosity could be raised a bit. The composition works, but in this particular image, I think the amount of real estate given to the left hill combined with the darker, fewer details doesn’t help. Raising the levels a bit bringing out some detail could help. But also understand the time of day, so you don’t want too much. This has great potential.


1 Like

Thanks for your comment @Ryan_Stikeleather and don’t worry about hijacking the conversation. The best thing about the critiques on NPN is that everyone can learn something from them!

1 Like

Thanks to everyone who took the time to comment. I truly appreciate it!
Obviously there is nothing I can’t do now about the comp and the position of the river but, if I do go go back, I will try to re-shoot it.

Here is an updated image based on the suggestions I received. I lightened up the forested hills a little bit and dodged the tops of the mountains. I also turned the sky down a little because as @Ed_McGuirk mentioned it was looking a bit crazy.
I have to say, I’m liking it a lot better now! :smile:


Now, that’s the ticket! The tonal balance looks real nice.

Thanks for going to the effort to tweak this one, Tom.

1 Like

The re-post looks great Tom, I like what you did here.

1 Like

Tom, I was a bit late in seeing this one. The repost is excellent IMO and should make an excellent print…:sunglasses:

1 Like

Nice one, Tom. This sure is beautiful. I find the heavy black shadows on the hillsides a bit distracting. Also it might be nice if you gave the river a bit more room to breathe on the bottom. The S-curve is really nice but feels constrained here. Overall a great image regardless.

1 Like

I actually liked the original sky and distant mountains. The wooded areas look better in the repost. A very good image that’s worth the effort of the additional processing. The evening view is breathtaking.

1 Like

Really love this image Tom. Great scene. One additional thought. Even as someone who loves magenta tones and often processes a bit to purple, I think the sky is pushed a bit to far. I would tone it down just a touch (a little less purple).

1 Like

Hi Tom,

My take on this image seems to match up with what the others have said.

I want to see more light in the valley, even more than what you have in your repost. I bet those trees are beautiful!
I agree with the breathing room at the bottom and cloning out the yellow tree. But I don’t like that you’re losing part of the sky to do it.

Knowing that this is a 50mm shot, I would try a slightly wider lens and try an exposure blend to capture the dynamic range of the scene.

Tom H.

1 Like