Speechless with re-edit

Critique Style Requested: Standard

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


We made a last second decision to make the short drive from Bozeman to Yellowstone to watch the Aurora dance over the Park. It was out-of-this-world incredible! I was wandering around the Fountain Paint Pot area when the aurora began to appear directly overhead. I was close to Silex Spring so I went up there to see if I could capture the scene in one image with my 14-24. It’s a tough spot to shoot this way because you’re on a boardwalk elevated about 6 ft above the pool. Fortunately, the corona was a bit to the south and it allowed me to get it and the pool in one shot. I shot from 9pm to 5 am and was almost too excited to sleep afterwards…almost!

Specific Feedback

I backed up as far as I could without getting the rail in the image. It might be a bit crowded around the pool, but when the lights are moving as quickly as they were, you don’t really have the option of a panorama. I have lightened the steam a bit. I tried not to over saturate the sky. The colors were visible to the naked eye all night long. Its a pretty spectacular scene that I can’t take credit for, but I’m wondering what you think of my above concerns?

Technical Details

Nikon D850
Sigma Art 14-24 2.8
ISO 2000, f/2,8, 3 seconds, 14mm
I’ve used various masks in Lightroom to enhance the sky, lighten the foreground, and increase the luminance of the steam. I used Topaz Sharpen to reduce noise and sharpen the foreground.

Critique Template

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  • Vision and Purpose:
  • Conceptual:
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  • Composition:
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  • Depth and Dimension:
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Wow!! Looks great to me! I wouldn’t have any thoughts about the composition, having heard so much about how it dances around and how much of the sky it can cover. The reflection and the steam are amazing! The top half feels a bit overexposed, although it is probably in balance with the lower part. But I wonder if it’s worth a tweak??

I’d love to see more! What a fantastic experience!

It might be overexposed a bit. I definitely brightened the whole thing a bit. Here’s the unedited file. It’s not very often you can overexpose a night sky with a 3 second exposure!

Outstanding idea here, Paul. A very mystical look at both phenomenons in one scene. I agree with @Diane_Miller about a possible re-tweak here for a better upper and lower balance. Maybe a simple NIK ND or other balance usage would do the trick… :thinking:
Regardless, the post processing is merely a personal preference in the end… :sunglasses:

Paul, you’ve got a fine mix of pool, mist rising and aurora light. There’s definitely a sense of dancing. Comparing your original to you final, the thing I notice most is the contrast and saturation in the pool and its lower edge. I think that somewhere in between the original and the final would let the pool’s color and saturation fit better with the sky’s saturation and color. The look of fireworks going off in the sky is way cool.

@Diane_Miller @Paul_Breitkreuz @Mark_Seaver Thanks all for your thoughts on this image. I added an edit to the top. I denatured the lower portion, tried to lessen the formation at the top but maintained the overall luminance in the sky. I also lighted the shadows in the line of dark trees slightly below mid frame so as to sort of reduce that more contrasty element of the image.

Paul, edit 11 has a much better visual balance between the pool and the sky. The extra detail in the trees fits nicely also. I’m intrigued by the lack of stars, guessing that it means the aurora was bright enough to overwhelm the dimmer stars. If you look at both of my posts, there are tons of stars, showing that the aurora was not so bright. (It’s also possible that my processing brings out the stars…)


What a wonderful composition. I especially like how the rising steam just happened to move left to allow that light green aurora burst at the top to show. I tend to like the original edit better though.

This is so cool. The way the rising steam from the hot pool merges with the aurora almost makes it look like all of that colour sprang from deep in the Earth. Oh, and I like the first image (Edit-7) the most.