Spotlighted Aspen in a valley - Vertical or Horizontal?

I’m currently undecided on a crop of this image. The vertical is 100% of the frame and the horizontal is a 3:2 slice taken of just the light… so I’m losing a decent amount of data. I won’t tell you which one I’m leaning towards.

What technical feedback would you like if any?

None. I’m happy with the technical aspects.

What artistic feedback would you like if any?

I am happy with where the processing is, but I am undecided on a crop. I would be interested in your processing feedback, but I feel like I have everything where I want it and can be stubborn once I feel that way. Here is what I love about each crop:

The Vertical

  • The vastness of the valley and the fact that it focuses more on the light out of the darkness than it does individual detail.
  • The fact that it gives a sense of place and scale

The Horizontal

  • It brings in more details of the trees and is more of a photo of those than it is the light.
  • It feels more cohesive and, I feel, would look better hanging on a wall than the vert.

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Yo son! This is super nice. I am feeling the vertical a lot more. Where the horizontal version feels like a nice image of some aspens with light, the vertical also has this nice, fan like comp to it that disappears in the horizontal crop. I love how you have those lines rotating from the top left to the bottom right. Feels more balanced as well and the extra darkness is giving more emphasis to that spotlight! SO NICE MAN!

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I prefer the vertical vs. the horizontal and for the reasons you mentioned. The vertical emphasizes the valley contour and naturally draws my eye from the spotlight further into the shadows. Both are really nice though!

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I like both very much. The processing is spot on in both images.

It’s a tough call, but I like the vertical version because it has a greater sense of depth.

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TJ, I like them both, but in terms of which would be better as a print, I vote horizontal. The horizontal has a larger percentage of it’s surface area with brighter tones and highlights, and to my taste that translates to a print with more impact. In the horizontal I also like the dark green trees in the lower left corner, I think they help create a nice vignette effect.


@TJ_Thorne I really like the expansive view of the horizontal format. I’d like the vertical more, perhaps, if it had some sort of foreground interest to give it more depth.

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Thanks for the replies everyone!

While I do agree that the horizontal would make better wall art, it feels just like another shot of light on aspens. The vastness of the valley and the feeling of isolated light is what compelled me to take this photo in the first place. It’s also an important day for me today and having this image to show with the accompanying text, the light surrounded by shadows makes it much more profound for me.

Thanks again!

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I like the better sense of scale that the vertical shows, but I have always had a bit of a bias against vertical 2:3 photos. I think it’s because the aspect ratio feels a bit awkward when vertical, and feels like it is stretching the photo apart versus being more unified. Have you tried a 4:5 or other crop of the vertical?

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Hey @Ben_Horne! Yeah I agree with you on the verts and have been feeling more and more the way you feel. I did go through a couple of crops but since I composed this specifically in the 2:3 ratio I lost some things in the composition that I felt strongly about so stuck with the original ratio. It’s hard for me to consider different aspect ratios in the field because I’m such a visual person and tend to fall on the ‘what I see is what I get’ side and work with what I have in the moment. Something to get better at for sure.

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I appreciate this post because it’s giving us reason to pause, think and evaluate this image - so thanks for posing the question and asking for a preference. An excellent exercise!

If I understand correctly, the vertical is the uncropped and final processed image. The horizontal is simply a horizontal crop of the original vertical with NO additional or adjustments in processing, right?

So, for me the vertical while dynamic, I really don’t get a sense of a “valley” since the sides are compressed and you don’t get a good sense of the opposing slopes. But more than that, the light and contrast is emphasized in the vertical making the light on the center grove the primary interest in the image. The upper reaches are so dark that I don’t get a sense of depth really (although the bottom helps.) There’s no detail in the upper left corner - again emphasizing light and dark, contrast, light, etc.

With the horizontal, since it’s cut directly from the original the much darker top and bottom areas are eliminated, making the overall horizontal image more evenly illuminated; although clearly the central grove is beautifully lit. And kinda opposite to other thoughts, I think the horizontal shows the valley contour better because you can clearly see the opposing slopes, including a diagonal that runs down the middle (I’ll bet there’s a small stream cutting through the valley…) I find the intersecting lines of trees top to bottom make for a stronger image. And to Ed’s point, if printing is the goal, then the horizontal wins.

The vertical is a bit more dynamic, different and out of the box a little. But for me, the darker top takes away depth and a sense of place (valley contours.) Horizontal, while standard, classic, even cliche composition is more pleasing to the eye. Light is beautiful in both, but stands out more in the vertical.

Interesting to see all the perspectives. Thanks for posting!


I prefer the vertical one for the dark areas that create a perfect transition to the mid part of the frame that is subject in my opinion.
I really appreciate how you worked on the colors @TJ_Thorne; don’t know, but maybe in the horizontal shot you can try to vignette on the bottom and on the top of the frame.

While I appreciate both images, I think the horizontal view puts me more on a ridge over looking this valley. It makes me feel as if I am part of the landscape. There is more of a focus on the aspen trees.

sweet shot. i’d go with the vertical. the horizontal is just what it is: autumn foliage in a spotlight. the vertical, including more of the valley, does add another aspect which i appreciate.

The horizontal is a stronger composition. The vertical has more to say.

Hey @Lon_Overacker (and @David_Schoen, too!) thanks for the reply! The horizontal is actually just a slice taken out of the exact same file as the vertical… processed and all. I can see what you mean about the top left corner and will probably open it up a bit. But I did decide to go with the vertical as this photo was more about the light for me than the trees, especially considering the title I chose and the text that accompanies the image (I’ll post it on this site some day but if you want to get a sneak peek at the text it’s with the image on my website).

Yeah the horizontal would make a better print and I’d be willing to print it that way, but for me my goal isn’t making a pretty photo as much as it is making a photo that says something more, more often than not something about what I’m feeling or did feel at the time the photo was taken., if any of that makes sense.

@Andrea_Celli, @Joerg_Bonner, @Igor_Doncov… I appreciate the thoughts! Thank you!

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Thanks for the response @TJ_Thorne. Totally get it. All I can say is that as a [EDIT] photographer and as a viewer, we often have different experiences. Clearly, the experience of being there and having the vision of what you want to express as the photographer is the most important thing. A viewer looking at a static image can’t get that experience and will often come away with a different reaction/impressions. It’s all good and expected.

That’s a tough call! The vertical certainly provides more context and depth, and I particularly love the mysterious feel afforded by the dark background area - I’m wondering what’s back there, how far the valley extends beyond the edge of the frame? I like wondering.

I will say that in the vertical I feel the foreground section of darkness could be a bit darker and cooler to match the background.

The horizontal feels like a more balanced composition to me overall, and it does emphasize the light and the central curves of the valley, but you lose some of the depth and context to the scene. It makes the valley look more lush, without that more barren foreground-left brown area. I think if you were to go with the horizontal, you’d maybe want to play up the difference between light and dark areas more, as you don’t have the large swaths of darkness to contrast with the light.

Either way, both are strong images buddy! Love them.

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