River Life

Critique Style Requested: Standard

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


First, a big thanks to those who offered help and suggestions in fixing the “grid” issue I was having with this image. For some unknown reason when I used the Heal tool in Capture One it applied a “grid” pattern on the image. After chatting with fellow NPN’ers I went back and found the problem, deleted the heal layer and all was good.

This was taken on the Wakulla River on a heavily over-cast day, and it offers a glimpse into a normal summer day on the river. There’s two gators (one an easy spot, the other more difficult to find) and a Common Moorhen looking for a bite to eat, and I’m sure there’s plenty of critters unseen in the woods. It also offers a glimpse into a Florida that is all to rapidly disappearing under the onslaught of vast overdevelopment, lack of action on pollution, over-pumping the aquifer, and rampant phosphate mining, along with extremely poor political policies and decisions.

Specific Feedback

Nothing specific, just overall critique. Any and all critiques, suggestions, and ideas are always greatly appreciated.

Technical Details

Nikon D810 w/ 24-70 f/2.8 lens
1/125 sec @ f/16, 3200 ISO, no filters
Handheld, in boat.


Hi Bill,

Glad to see you figured out the processing problem.

I like this photo on many different levels. From a composition perspective considering just the landscape, I think you nailed it. The position of the tall trees on the right is perfect as well as the water line. The tree on the left serves as a great border element to keep the eye engaged in the scene.

I also like the contrast between the rich greens and the stark neutral tree trunks, not to mention the hanging moss. Very eye-catching.

The alligator in the center is icing, but the moorhen is in an awkward location and I wish it was facing toward the center rather than outwards, but you get what you get.

Overall I think you have a great photo.

1 Like

I really like this Bill! The heavy overcast skies must have given you rather flat light, but you managed it beautifully in post. As Youssef said, your comp is very well thought out and looks excellent. The colors and contrast look really good too. Overall, great job! My only suggestion is to print it large.

1 Like

Hi Bill,
that is a wonderful scene. I love the composition and the beautiful fresh green tones.
I can spot the easily spottable gator and the moorhen. I can only guess the position of the second gator, but that’s up to the resolution.

If I had to change something in the image, it would be the right edge. I would love to see a little more space to the right of the tree. Probably this was not possible because there were some distractions further to the right.
But that’s not much of a problem. The composition works very well as it is.

I have never been to the United States but Florida must have great nature to offer. And what you are telling here sounds really sad. Do you see any big changes compared to a few years ago?

1 Like

Bill, this is a lovely look at a Florida river environment. The overcast both saturates the colors of the trees and lets their color differences show well. Even with the gators, this view just exudes peace and quiet.

1 Like

Thanks @Youssef_Ismail , @Steve_Kennedy , @Mark_Seaver , & @Jens_Ober!

Youssef - Hi! Long time, no talk to! I hope you’re doing well. Yes, I wish the Moorhen was “posed” a little differently, but they just refuse to take direction! LOL.

Mark - Actually, the reason for the peace & quiet are the gators. They tend to keep swimmers at bay! LOL. Truthfully, gators seldom bother people. They have a natural fear of people. The problem arises when dumb humans try and feed them, thinking that is somehow cute. That’s against the law in Florida, but idiots will be idiots. Once a gator loses it’s natural fear of humans, then it can become dangerous, and we are seeing a definite increase in the number of gator attacks because of that. Unfortunately, the gators don’t attack the people feeding them, they attack the people who are not feeding them. A gator’s brain is only about the size of a walnut, so there’s not a lot of high level thinking going on there. They act out of instinct. They are amazingly smart (in their own way) and fill their role in nature beautifully until humans become involved and screw things up, as usual.

Jens, I agree with your comment about the right side of the frame being too tight. There needs to be more room there, but I was twisting around in the boat and just didn’t twist far enough it seems. Wish I had gone a little further!

Jens - Yes, I have seen a tremendous change (for the worse) in the past 50 years. Florida has the largest concentration of fresh water springs in the world. They are crystal clear and so beautiful, or I should say, They used to be crystal clear and so beautiful. Some of them still are, but SO MANY have suffered great degradation over the years. Our aquifer is being depleted by over pumping for agriculture and bottled water. The use of too much fertilizer over the years has caused a high level of nitrate pollution in the water now and that is causing what used to be beautiful underwater flora to be covered over with dense algae which is covering everything and killing the plants. Water visibility has gone down a great deal over the years, and human usage has risen drastically over the past 50 years. As a teenager I can remember camping on a certain spring fed river for several days at a time and never seeing another person; today that same spot is now a state park and the amount of people is limited to 3000 people A DAY. It’s now people everywhere you look. Without that limit, it would be completely overrun with many more thousands. Many springs have a greatly reduced water flow, and many have stopped flowing completely because of the overpumping, and our greedy, stupid politicians are still not doing ANYTHING to protect them. They boast about saving them, but they are lying through their teeth. The NATURAL part of Florida is dying an increasingly fast death, and our politicians don’t seem to care as they are all bought and paid for by the big corporations (Big Ag, Phosphate Mining, and Water companies like Nestle (Nestle is TERRIBLE). I feel like crying every time I visit the spots of my youth. We have a lot of grassroots conservation groups fighting for my state, but it is almost impossible to beat the big money corporations when the state government is in their pockets. Nevertheless, we will keep fighting!

Gorgeous Florida River Scene, Bill! :slight_smile:

I had a little trouble finding the second gator but I found it eventually there at the back on the right, I would have missed it if you hadn’t mentioned it.
Good thing there’s a bit of distance between that one gator and the Moorhen.
Of course it is the nature of things for birds and other critters to become food for gators. Just glad I’m not at the bottom of the food chain. :roll_eyes:

I have to say that I like the composition as presented.

I love the colors and the illumination of the tree where the moorhen is foraging, it has a nice subtle glowing affect that I like.
I’ve always been a big fan of Spanish moss and Cypress trees.
I also love the reflections on the water! The whole scene is exquisite in my view!
And I like the black frame with the thin white accents inside and outside, it’s a refreshing look for me and I like it because it doesn’t glare the way some large white borders do, at the same time it helps to hold my attention within the frame, guess that’s why they call it a border (or frame).

With the exception of the processing challenge you had where the unwanted lines were showing up, the final processing results are a wonderful success!
Glad you managed to figure it out, BTW!!
I saw this in the other thread where you were asking for help, I didn’t respond because I had no clue about what might have caused it and I didn’t want to just pile on more of what was already being offered.

Just a lovely and intriguing Florida River Image full of life and life stories, Bill!! :slight_smile:

1 Like

Just gorgeous Bill! Aside from the aforementioned extra space on the right, I’m not finding anything to suggest or be critical of. What is impressive aside from the general feeling of peace and quiet, are the variation of green and green/yellow hues. They range from the limey, amost yellow to a much deeper forest green - and everything in between.

The processing of color/hue/sat is quite beautiful. And yay! glad you got the processing issue resolved. That was a weird one.

Just love this image. Congrats!


1 Like

@Merv, @Lon_Overacker - Thank you both for your comments.

Merv, good eye to find the second gator! There may be additional ones in there, but I haven’t looked. It wouldn’t be surprising.

Lon, I agree with the right side comment. I was in a boat and just didn’t twist around quite far enough. I wish I had. I’ve considered trying to add a little canvas, but I’m hesitant. Adding the upper greenery and water would be easy, but I’m not confident I could be successful finishing the tree trunk. If I can find a little free time, I may decide to play with it just to see.

I’ll jump in to add how much I like this – gorgeous light and peaceful setting. I literally jumped when I spotted the gator! (Haven’t found the second one.) What a sad narrative of human greed, carelessness and destruction.

You might have success with a tiny canvas expansion and content aware fill, then try a second round with a bit more canvas.

Much as I love the reflection of the cypress, I had an urge to try pulling down the LL corner with Distort – FWIW:

@Diane_Miller - Thanks so much, especially for the suggestion of trying the additional canvas in two different steps; I haven’t done that before. Honestly, I 've only tried adding canvas only maybe twice before.

I was confused by your Distort suggestion. I opened up your revision and compared it to my original and noticed the difference it made. Can I conclude that you are wanting to additional space at the bottom, or were you desiring another effect? (I’ve also never used the distort feature except in doing work with text in a poster). If you were wanting to add additional space at the bottom, that’s not a problem because I cropped the original from the top, bottom, and left side to come up with the finished image. I can add additional image from any of those sides without issue. The only side that’s too tight is the right side. You may not have read my comment above; I twisted around in the boat to get this shot, but didn’t twist far enough (twisted as far as I could, but it wasn’t far enough as it turned out).

I was not wanting additional space, but rather removing some space in the LL corner. The original felt a little uneven, possibly with the camera simply not being level as you reached back. Instead of rotating, to level a “horizon”, I just pulled down the LL corner. That made things feel more natural, to me. If you had enough canvas on the original, a rotation would also work, but that would cut more off the right edge.

I selected the area inside your frame and did the distortion to it, then inversed the selection and put the frame back over the distorted layer.

1 Like

Thanks for the detailed explanation Diane! I like what you did. I’ll have to look on YouTube for a tutorial on Distort and learn more about it. Many thanks!

Here’s all the tutorial you should need, using PS:

At the first stage, with your initial BG layer, make a copy layer.
If you already have layers built and don’t want o go back, make a “stamped layer”: Ctrl-Alt-Shift-E for PC, or Cmd-Opt-Shift-E for Mac.
Go to Edit > Transform > Distort
Hold Shift to keep your move vertical (if desired) and not also to the right or left, and grab the LL corner and pull down.

It’s that simple.

Excellent, will try it shortly!

I forgot to say, if you do a stamped layer, click on the topmost layer first so it goes above all of them.

Hi Bill,

Truly a pleasure to discover your beautifully image. The composition is fantastic,. I am immersed in your image as in a painting in a museum. So much beautiful and interesting detail to look at - and the surprise of the alligator on the little island is an added bonus! Colours and light are excellent, nothing to add on my part.

@Diane_Miller’s suggestion and technique are thoroughly excellent. Comparing the two images, it looks like yours was not entirely level, and Diane’s Distort technique worked a treat, possibly better than the straighten tool. It would be interesting to compare.

Now will you tell us where the second gator is? :laughing:

1 Like

Ah found it… sneaky flat thing! You wouldn’t find me taking pictures in the water there + plus the snakes! :scream: :laughing:

1 Like

@LauraEmerson - Thanks so much for your comment! Actually, I love the gators and snakes. I’ve been around them my entire life and I trust them more than 95% of the humans I know. They are beautiful creatures and, as long as you understand them, they are quite easy to live with. They mean us no harm at all and if you respect them and their right to live they will do the same. The number of gator attacks have risen quite a bit over the past few years, but the cause of that is almost entirely due to human interference (feeding them) , over development pushing them out of their natural environment, and stupidity (drunk rednecks, etc.). Come to Florida for a visit and I will happily take you out to shoot them in some of the most beautiful swamp/marsh there is, and bring you back very safely. Been doing it for 60+ years and never had an issue.

Loved reading that, so very true! I will gladly take up your offer should I ever find myself in your neck of the woods. It would be amazing to be shown around by someone like you, thank you :pray:

1 Like