Solar cradle

Proving once again that I do sometimes look up from the ground! With meadows and fields like this, winter keeps me focused on those lovely weeds, but oh when the light changes, I can get into a landscape mood.

Those of us with long and determined winters know that snow is never truly white. The closest it comes is when the sky is dull, blank and colorless. That’s because snow reflects its color and, to some degree, the colors of other things near to it. Sunset and sunrise will turn your snow purple, orange and pink. Bluebird skies will turn it blue, but so will thinning clouds. That’s because clouds reflect sky as well. Bluish clouds that are kind of milky and filmy reflect intense blue on snow, but without the harshness of unfiltered sun. It can look a little purple as well.

When clouds are breaking up you find scenes like this one. A shaft of unfiltered sunlight came up and hit the trees and the small hills in front of them, but missed the immediate foreground. Timing the phenomenon was not as hard as you might think and this is the best of the few that I caught.

Type of Critique Requested

  • Aesthetic: Feedback on the overall visual appeal of the image, including its color, lighting, cropping, and composition.
  • Conceptual: Feedback on the message and story conveyed by the image.

Specific Feedback and Self-Critique

The idea here is to show the mirror effect between snow and sky - it didn’t need much tweaking to get both to be very similar to each other. I wanted it to be noticed, but not overdone.

Technical Details

Tripod and photographer nearly knee deep in snow (with snowshoes! ha!)


Lr for all work to manage white balance correctly, curves to make sure that there was just the right contrast and fall off, texture and sharpness. A bit of a crop and some work with masks to get the sky right and even out some highlights where needed. Also worked colors using Calibration and HSL panels.


Hi Kristen,
I like how the leading lines of the grass lead to that smaller tree at the bottom, I think that idea has promise and its too bad it wasn’t more isolated from the background to take full advantage of that. Aesthetically, I find the image to be successful, although my taste would like to see a bit more mid-tone contrast in the trees to give them more depth. I think the mirror effect you were going for is partially successful - it would probably work better on a cleaner foreground without so much grass, etc.


Thanks @Matt_Payne - We just need another foot of snow and then I’d get a much cleaner foreground! The area was dotted with small trees like that one (Charlie Brown trees) and I may have a shot that works, but it’s a different tree and I’m not sure. I can certainly take a look at the trees and see about giving them a lift. They are in direct sun so shadows are naturally deep, but maybe too much so.

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Your exposure /light on this image is spot on. However, dense forests are such chaos, I’ve seen many photographers take it on, including myself (with no luck to date). They seem to suceed when something(s) become the predominate subject(s) by blurring or decreasing exposure on other things. I think in my mind you have taken on a difficult task with this composition.

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Thanks @gDan52 - I’ve worked hard at snow and winter photography and judging the luminosity value of snow. Still miss it sometimes, but generally get it. I’ll work it a bit more tomorrow when I’m not in a darkish room and see what I can do.

I have some images from a recent trip from Rocky Mountain National Park that I need to work on that have similar issues, compounded by grey skies.

Nice one Kris. This winter scene has a holiday spirit to it rather than that heavy look that is often associated with winter. I like the mixture of evergreen trees with the bare ones. This would have a different feel without the perfect dark cone shapes the evergreens provide. The layering is also very noticeable as a compositional form. The colors aren’t very saturated and they shouldn’t be. I really don’t have any technical suggestions. I think you nailed it. It’s an uplifting image. A winter scene that doesn’t feel cold.

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Thanks @Igor_Doncov - I’m glad you picked up on the lightness and positive energy that I felt here. It was in the 20s (so not very cold) with fresh powder and the sun breaking through - about as nice as it gets in winter and perfect conditions. I didn’t even have to break trail because as soon as I got on it, two I met two snowshoers coming from the other direction!

Agree about the trees - I avoided the back of the meadow out of frame to the right because the trees lacked uniformity since they were all white pines and deciduous trees like oaks and birches. Also glad you like the softer palette, which I think a few years ago I might have amped up too high.

This is a happy scene for me. Many times in my area snow brings in clouds and grey skies. When the sun does shine, it always makes me feel happy. Tightly woven forests are always hard to find composition on. I think this is a very nice image. The trees look like they form a slight triangle. What if you crop some off the rt. side to take out the tall tree and evergreen so the eye doesn’t travel up and take a little off the bottom. I think the colors are soft and look like winter. Nicely seen.

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What a beautiful winter scene - almost Christmas-card like (which is a compliment.) The light is gorgeous.

What struck me right away also was the lines. The sweeping line of the foreground ridge that is just out of the the light, with the opposite angled light of the open area being graced by the sun. And it’s like the foreground and midground slopes all congregate at the little pine tree up front. All of that as just a beautiful anchor to the lovely forest.

I can see the color in the sky echo slightly in the foreground snow - and will concur with your observation of snow in general picking up all the the surrounding colors; reflected and direct light.

I have NO suggestions or nits. Beautiful winter imagery.


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Thanks @Donna_Callais & @Lon_Overacker - I have this collection of photos open now and am working on others. I have come back to this one, but I like it as is. The crop was a tough one in terms of the treeline and the fg and adding or removing any more just puts it off kilter to my eye. Upsets the balance I guess. I did move around a few times before planting the tripod here, but maybe I should have gone in further. Next time!

Kris: Love the scene and the light and how well you captured it. Also confirms my philosophy that sweating is preferred over shivering :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:. Marvelous image. >=))>

Hey @Bill_Fach - thanks for popping in. I actually worked up a sweat that day. Snowshoeing, even with an already broken trail, is work. 20s and sunny at the end, so perfect.