Shadow Play

Critique Style Requested: Standard

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


This is actually a relatively small, intimate dunescape. This is probably not more than 8-10 feet long and a foot deep. It was on the shore of Grayling Beach in Washington where there are some very, very small dunes getting maybe a couple of feet high but they are everywhere displaying some pretty neat patterns. I had my wife and the 2 dogs with me on the beach but I managed to fire off about 20 images while my wife agreed to take the dogs back to the campsite . I turned this into a black and white because there was almost no color to begin with and it just seemed appropriate. This was a stack of 7 images for depth of field. Please let me know your thoughts on this image and if there’s anything that catches your eye that can be fixed. Thanks for taking a look.

Technical Details

Z7ii, f/14, 24-70mm lens @ 61mm, ISO 400, 1/200th, hand held, 7 image stack


Very nice, lovely texture and funneled pattern and no, the only thing that catches my eye is the picture itself.

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I’m really liking this, David. Of course, this had to be classic monochrome. I like the grain that seems to imply film, but is just the sand. The “black hole” at the bottom, towards everything in the picture moves, the textures and shades in the sand. This feels like it could be any size so even better you found this small, wonderful spot. Thanks for sharing.

David, there are some great textures and light play in this beautiful image. The choice for B&W was perfect to accentuate those features. The more I look at the image, the more it appears to change its depth and direction. It’s quite beautiful and entrancing.

Thanks very much @Ian_Cameron , @holgermischke and @Egidio . I very much appreciate you taking the time to let me know your thoughts. I’m glad you all enjoyed the depth and textures in this image. Thanks again!

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My initial reaction was that this is the best image you’ve ever posted on NPN, but that was after seeing it on a cellphone. Now I’m on a laptop and still feel the same way although to be honest I can’t remember every image you posted. Dunes have become a cliche subject nowadays. Everybody that goes to DV seems to come back with a dune picture. But they’re all very similar in a way. They’re all about composition. This is a Weston dune (as opposed to an Adams dune). It penetrates you. Excellent job in my opinion.

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I’ve studied this one, looking for something to critique, and I got nada. Absolutely perfect image, David. Composition, processing, subject, b&w conversion…it’s all so fantastic. Bravo!

All said above – absolutely wonderful!! And I love @Igor_Doncov’s distinction that it is a Weston dune!! My only feeble thought is that I might like a little more detail in the dark area – maybe not in all of it but as a subtle gradual “softening” of the edge of the shadow.

David, this is lovely as is! I believe there is a tad more detail in the black area than may be showing up on this jpeg upload. I agree with @Diane_Miller that a tiny bit of lightening so that the edge of the shadow becomes more gradual would be nice, but perhaps it’s already there in your image on your computer. Either way, I like it as is, very much! Well seen.

I think its an exceptional image. It could be because I love dunes as subject. But I think your composition, the subtle sense of depth, the beautiful texture converging into that black shadow at the bottom - all of these make a wonderful image, one that a viewer can enjoy again and again.
I also appreciate your technique. It probably would have been easy to try and shoot it with a single frame. But the nice sharpness you got here was totally worth your time and work.
Really loved your work here.

No nits here, David. This is super. It’s interesting that I see the ripples emanating from the black hole vs. the black hole capturing them. Kudos on the technicals, too - going to the trouble to stack 7 shots is admirable.

@Igor_Doncov , @Bret_Edge , @Diane_Miller , @brenda_tharp , @mist_surfer , @Bonnie_Lampley , thank you for your comments. They are always appreciated very much.

Igor: Wow, that is high praise! I love that you said this is more of a Weston than an Adams dune. Thanks very much for comment. If you are in Alaska, I hope you’re getting some good ones!

Bret: Thanks Bret. Glad you couldn’t find fault with anything in this one.

Diane: I totally understand where you’re coming from on the dark area. I almost called this black hole (as it just reminded me of a black hole sucking everything into it) so I wanted that part of the image dark and in reality it is very dark compared to the surroundings and there is a sharp edge creating the shadow so if I brought out more gradual light on the edge of the hole, it might now be believable but I’m all for trying. I’ll repost if I like it. Thanks for the suggestion, Diane and your thoughts on this one!

Brenda: You are absolutely correct, Brenda. The image in my lightroom catalogue has more nuance to it that this jpeg and there is much more shadow detail. Not sure if it’s the compression when uploading or the jpeg format or what but it’s readily apparent. Great of you recognize this. As I told Diane, I will try to add a gradual dodge to the shadow area and see if I like and if I do, I’ll repost. Thanks very much Brenda.

Tom: Thanks very much for your comment. It was probably overkill to blend 7 images but I wanted edge to edge sharpness so I thought, what the heck. It probably would have been fine with 1 mage and maybe that feeling of the black hole sucking everything into it would be more apparent if this was one image with some distant out of focus sand converging towards the hole. Thanks again, Tom. Much appreciation.

Bonnie: I love that you see the ripples coming out of the black hole rather than the other way around. Instead of a convergence, it’s an expulsion or ejection. I never noticed that until now but it works. Thanks for your comments, Bonnie.

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A bit late in responding, but I just had to comment. Wonderful dune image - quite unique actually.

Love this statement from Igor - well said and I think most can immediately get that comparison.

I’m gonna go in a different direction as to my reaction. No one has ventured here… but to me I see a vortex… there’s a little swirl emphasized the change in light and tone, leading to a black hole… I immediately had thoughts of any number of dune scenes like in the “Return of the Jedi,” “Madmax: Beyond Thunderdome” and of course “Dune.”

I just can’t help but see and feel the sand moving deathly slow and collapsing around the darkness.

My imagination unleased on this one. I wouldn’t change anything.


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