Reaching for the clouds

I was really hoping for some snow today, but the temps. were to high and we got rain again for the third day. Feeling like I needed to get out with my camera, I headed out to see if I could find anything. The rain was light and was supposed to stop soon. As I drove down the hills to Ithaca there were a few patches of fog here and there. Usually as you drop in elevation, you lose the fog. One of my favorite trails to walk is located a couple miles from Ithaca. As I got close to this trail entrance, I saw some patches of fog and turned into the entrance. So glad I did. I took this image about 20 ft. from my car. The railroad bridge in the BG goes across a stream and the railroad is still in use. In fact one day, I timed it perfectly to see a train coming down the track. I got a nice photo of the train going through the bridge.

Specific Feedback Requested

Anything you think could use some improvement.

Technical Details

Sony a7r v 70-200mm @79mm
1/320 handheld
ACR - tonal adjustment and linear gradient filter
PS - small crop, D&B
Nik cep5 - contrast


Beautiful work. They do look ghostly, with the emotions that come with it. I like the somber color palette as well. The saturation is nicely restrained.

A great image. Like the atmoshere and how the trees reach into the fog, the structure of the white tree trunks and the colors overall. The bridge adds interest to the image.

A great image and it brings what your title says. The beauty is also that you not really did expect to find a good image. And then this well composed, story telling image. Well done !!

Well done. This is a wonderful, peaceful scene Donna. I think you managed to grab an incredible image even though you were hoping for snow. Sometimes just opening up to the surroundings helps you find a gem. Awesome.

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I think you live in a paradise! I love your glowing trees, and how the main clump fades off on both sides. The bridge is an unexpected surprise that adds to the mystery / story.

Very nice FG. Wondering if you shot some at a slightly wider angle, including a little more of the mist at the top?

Your image is very ethereal Donna. Beautiful and wonderful composition. The trees do look like they are reaching for the clouds.

Donna, well composed. What’s your thought process on shooting what can be a busy forest scene.? I do struggle with such compositions.

@Igor_Doncov @Ola_Jovall @Ben_van_der_Sande @David_Bostock @Diane_Miller Thank you all for your nice comments. They give me confidence and that’s half the battle.

Diane, the Ithaca area is a wonderful place to live. It’s one of those places where you have beauty all around you, but I find it very difficult to photograph. The hills, flat lakes and the steep gorgeous really restrict the type of photography you can do. In the long run, that will probably make me a better photographer. I have to always keep my creativity at it’s highest level to find compositions that I think are different from the many iconic places we have here that are flooded by tourist every summer. I guess it’s that’s way every where you go now. Try to get a shot in Death Valley that’s not similar to many other shots taken there. On the positive side, I just love being out in nature with my camera and I always feel happy when I return home whether I take a keeper photo or not.

The three little patches of mist in the valleys of the hill were the only fog and mist around and that’s why I cropped at the very top of the hill. In fact, I took the image I posted with my 24-70mm lens and decided I needed my 70-200mm to zoom in on the shot I wanted so I didn’t have to crop so much. By the time I walked the short distance back to my car and exchanged the lens, the mist was gone. :crazy_face: I was very happy I took one shot with my wider lens. Makes the saying “take the shot when you can, because the conditions can change quickly” a little more memorable. Sorry for rambling. I will be back again and again to this area, so I’ll get another chance to create something different.

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@Eva_McDermott Thanks so much. I was very lucky to get this shot. The light rain we were having enhanced the colors in the field which helped a lot.

@gDan52 Oh my, Gary. I think forest photography is the hardest when it comes to finding good compositions. I live in an area where there is nothing but forested hills surrounding me and most parts of central and western NY are the same. I know that tree and trunk separation is important, but finding that in busy forests is difficult to do. I’m constantly looking for something in the forest that stands out a little, like a bent arm of a tree or a trunk that has an unusual shape. I visit the trail often where I took the photo I posted. It’s one of the best places to take photos of these wonderful Sycamore trees in the winter. The Sycamore on the left side has low arms that reach out. I have taken several photos of this tree because if you look at the tall straight trees in the BG, their trunks are tall and their limbs are much higher up which is more typical for this tree. I was lucky that the BG Sycamores had some separation. I’m fairly new at this too. I think that practice and lots of failures has helped me. I still struggle with finding shots, but I’ve gotten better at finding compositions that work and less throw aways. One thing that really helped me was watching a lot of Adam Gibbs YouTube videos. He’s a photographer that lives in Vancouver Canada and is well know for his forestry images. He’s an excellent teacher and photographer. Listening to him explain why he’s taking the shot he has chosen will help you find compositions that work. I find that spring, fall and winter are the best times for forest photography. If you live in a place that has fall colors, back lit colorful leaves are a great catch. Remember you can take small scenes too. Like a small branch of leaves that are back lit by the sun can be beautiful. Look for sunlight coming through the forest that is only lighting up a section of the forest bottom and focus on that. I had fun when I found out how to make a sunray with my camera taking photos of sunrays coming through the forest. If you don’t know how to make a sunray, all you have to do is run your f-stop up to about 18 or 20 (try both) and hide part of the sun behind a tree trunk or limb or not. You’ll see the sunray in your camera’s viewfinder. I find that early sunlight, especially in spring or winter when the sun is low, can make some nice lighting through the forest. Hope some of this helps. Keep trying and you will get better.

All good advice, thank you Donna. I’ve familar with Adam Gibbs, I’ll have to go back to him with your words in mind. Looking at your image the second time, I do see the pockets of white in the trees and the browns in other areas. Like anything else, if you haven’t mastered it, you need to keep working it. Cheers.

Isn’t he great? I enjoy watching him go about his business even when I learn nothing. I just like his demeanor.

Fantastic scene. Beyond what others have said already a nice combination of warm colors in the foreground with the cool fog in the background.

@Donna_Callais , Donna, My dream was always to live in a mountain area with great forests. Trough your story I see how maybe lucky I am making images overhere where the country is very flat with not to much forest (more parks) and where the light conditions changing rather slow.

Adam Gibbs is also one of my favorites.
I also learned a lot by studying image of trees by Charles Cramer,

@DeanRoyer Thank you. Glad you like this one.

@Ben_van_der_Sande The area I live in is very beautiful. You would probably be better than I at finding compositions. We have state parks all around us, but I don’t go in them during summer because of tourists. Early spring and winter I sometimes have them all to myself. We don’t general get a lot of fog here and if we do, it’s either morning or night fog. I was surprised to find the fog in this area in early afternoon. I think our warmer than usual winter is creating more fog, which I love.

I don’t know Charles Cramer, but I’ll check him out.

Donna, Pardon my being a late-comer to this wonderful image. It certainly demonstrates your strong ability to see photographically. I ditto @Igor_Doncov on the trees being ghostly. The soft light speaks to this image, too. One of the issues I often have in composing images like this is dealing with an element such an almost distracting tree - the one leaning in on the left - in the composition. Do you have any advice on how to deal with such a situation? I do not think cropping is the answer. I enjoyed reading your introductory description.

Thanks @Larry_Greenbaum , for viewing my image. I think what makes this tree on the L work is that the limbs are reaching for the top of the BG trees. That brings the eye in toward the other trees. It’s like fingers reaching out toward the others to reach for the sky too. I left the trunk of the tree on the L out on purpose. It changed the story. The tree became a tree and not fingers, if that makes sense. When I crop forest images, those edge trees can make or break an image. I first look to see if any are leading my eye out of the photo then I have to decide if they contribute to the story or not. Sometimes I try several crops to see how the image changes. As I mentioned above, I think tree photography is difficult. When I’m walking in a forest, I stop now and then to look around in every direction, including up. I’m far from being a pro, but a lot of practice has given me a better insight on what might work and what doesn’t work. I hope this helps a little.

Thanks, Donna. Your explanation makes perfect sense to me. I hope others read your comment because your practice of critical seeing and examination is so to the success in making or ruining images. I appreciate the approach you articulately explained.

@Donna_Callais very nicely seen and photographed. The balance and the light are both perfect. I’m envious of your “ghost” Sycamores, always a treat to photograph. And, a BIG YES, to the branches reaching in from the left. Thank you for this gem.