Start over on the processing or work with what I have?

New member here, first posting for critique.
I don’t need any sugarcoating, have a thick skin. Posting this here because I am not really happy with it as is.

Shot this sunrise in the White Mountains of NH, this is not the typical composition from this location but because of a crazy cloud formation, nice pre-sunrise light and snow on top of Mount Lafayette I shot this particular image.

The road bothers me, but couldn’t help that. Tried a long lens and captured just the mountain top as well but that didn’t speak to me as much as this wider view capturing the entire glowing cloud formation which is really what caught my attention at the time.
I do have other panos of the scene as well that include more of the lake on the right ; but those lose the powerful affect of the cloud formation. A pano I took a little later at sunrise time I think I will process and keep as well.

I did do some warping on the left side of the image/road to give the composition a little more symmetry overall as I think the composition is not that strong without that and doing so strengthened it overall. Didn’t want to go too extreme but wanted to make the left side slightly more curved to somewhat match the right side, where the road does curve as shown.
I hope the road looks natural as is though not hiding the fact I warped it.

Was a very high contrast scene.
I processed this last night and somewhat foolishly flattened my layers when I did so.
Looked at it this morning and something about the image just does not look good to me.
Not very natural / overprocessed looking.
I think the sky is too purple so need to adjust that by adding in some blue but the rest of the scene does not look good with blue so need to apply that selectively ; easy enough and I otherwise like the sky.
Is a bit high on the color saturation but did want this to be a colorful sky and foliage so don’t think that is what is bugging me.
The image seems to lack detail though almost like out of focus on the tree tops and looks too painterly to me. I did use a small amount of Orton on the land (larger amount on the sky) ; this was an early step but maybe I did more harm by using that?
Seems flat but just adding global contrast I don’t think is the answer.
The painterly look is primarily on the first 3rd / foreground area of trees ; is there anything that I can do or try doing over to lessen that look?
Maybe the foreground/all of the trees are too bright for the sky for the scene to match up well?
Overall what weaknesses do you see in the image and processing?

Thanks for your time,

You may only download this image to demonstrate post-processing techniques.

I’ll be curious to see what everyone suggests with this. I always begin by stripping back an image first to its base elements of composition and light. In this scene you have a number of gorgeous elements: great autumn colors, dramatic light in the sky, and even the roads could be seen as leading lines. Yet, the one thing I can’t really figure out is what is the primary subject. Is it the mountain behind the hill, the hill, or something else. I think that clarity of focus may be missing. If that was there, then I might make some comments about the actual processing and how that could be tweaked, but I’m not sure if even the best processing will be able to make up for the lack of a really clear subject. That’s my $0.02. Others with more experience might be able to give you better feedback, so don’t take mine too seriously.


Hi Matt, overall I really like it! It definitely catches my eye and I really like the road personally. Helps tell the story. You can drive through that great scene.

In terms of dislikes the sky does bother me a bit. It is just a little to blown in the reds and yellows for me. If you can work on those areas (take whites down a little maybe) I think it will make the image look much more natural.

The next thing is the rock on the lower left. It is pretty distracting. Could be warped out possibly or just toned down to make it less eye catching. Or, if you have a version where the rock is actually bigger and helps lead the eye in, that could work too. It just needs to either be in or out. If it’s sort of half way like it is it looks like a mistake.

Last and I doubt this is something you had control over, I wish the ridge wasn’t so close the peak behind it up top. Some more seperation would really help. I mention it just because many times you can climb higher and even 30 feet can make a huge difference with something like that. Of course that is also why I use the drone so often.

Again, though, overall I think it’s a great shot.

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I agree @Erik_Stensland. I mentioned needing more space separating that area and I think that would potentially give us a stronger subject or subjects. Both the hill and the peak. That may be what feels off to Matt about the image.

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Thanks Erik, Yeah I think that is probably what is bugging me.
On location I was on a ledge I had hiked to and the lake (far right) was the main thing I was composing for.

But instead the peak to my left was where the dramatic light was and the sky was glowing on that side at the same time it was snowing at the top of the mountain.
Compositionally I did not see an obvious way to photograph it, which I think has let to no defined subject.

Anyway I tried to make the mountain with hill in front the main subject, centered the peak and did some warping as I mentioned to try and draw attention to the upper center of the frame.
In the end though, without a main subject ; I guess it is hard to create one after the fact.

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Thanks Dan!

Glad it is still eye catching! I can see with some more separation ; higher vantage point to capture the hill and mountain how it could have a more defined subject and take the shot to a higher level.

No other overlook I know of from where I was standing other than the top of the mountain which was another 90 minute plus hike up so could not have made it.
Have not gone the drone route yet, always fear by the time I do and learn to fly it they will be illegal everywhere (this was taken in a state park in NH where they are already illegal)

I will work on toning down the blown out portions of the sky. I did add contrast there so can just dial that back to get back the detail.
Also, yes kind of went back and forth on the rock on the bottom left. Have a little more of it so will revisit either including that or see how it looks if removed entirely (test out the new Content Aware Fill menu in PS) Agree as is there is no added benefit to it being there and can distract.

It’s an absolutely stunning scene with a lot of beautiful elements, probably making it that much harder to capture. I played around with crops and think a 16x9 could help to simplify it. Also, the brightness between the sky and ground seemed off to me, so I tried bringing them a bit closer with a quick edit. I’m excited to see what the final edit looks like as it definitely has potential!


Thanks so much Zach!!!
I think you are really onto something.

Compositionally by positioning the right edge where the road enters really helps and I find the 16:9 crop draws more attention to the peaks.

Think you may have solved my issue with this by your crop ; will crop similarly and rework it.

Good call Zach. I do hate that you lose so much of that great color though and I feel like it helps balance the upper left… really curious if just removing the rock then maybe a tiny bit of cropping would help with the simplicity yet keep the color and balance?

I hated cropping out all those beautiful trees as well but at the same time the scene’s not lacking color without them. Maybe the combination of a smaller crop and cloning out the remaining rock could be a better middle ground.

Compositionslly I find the lake to be an issue as well. In fact more so than the rock. There’s no way to crop it out though because it affects the skyline arc. It just breaks down the composition. But just having a wedge of the lake doesn’t work well for me personally.

I agree with past comments - but I’ll just throw this out there…

If your comp was stronger with the lake, and if you have few morals, why not blend in the sky from this comp?

Sounds like you’ve warped it, so just a thought! I’ve definitely saved a few photos lowering my bar :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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Woah what a cool spot. Definitely dont mind the road. Could even do a 16:9 crop to put the road in to the bottom right corner (leading line). Processing looks ok to me. Def some blown red (normal for these kinds of skies), but possibly able to recover. Also, never ever flatten edits. Save them as is and then if/when go to print flatten and resize, but you still have the layered image to work on :slight_smile:

Look forward to more.

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Matt, you have already received some good comments from others, but to me the original image as posted just doesn’t feel cohesive, it just seems like there are too many things calling for our attention. The light, the strong fall color, and the concept of using Rt. 93 as a foreground are all strong elements. I also like that you did something different and shot towards the east instead of south like most people do from this location. Zach’s crop helps to tighten this up a bit by removing the rock. But I’m bothered by the sky, it’s blown out and a bit over-saturated, using Orton on the sky may not have helped here. The merger of the mountain tops also doesn’t work for me, but short of climbing Cannon Mountain I’m not sure what else you could have done here. If Mt. Lafayette was not in the background, and all you had around Eagle Cliff was sky, this shot would be much stronger, but the merger of the mountains looks strange.

While there are some issues with processing of the sky, it’s the merger of the mountains that prevents this from working for me. I give you kudos for trying an original take on this location, and not just shooting down Franconia Notch. Next year try it from Cannon Mountain, I think this would work even without a sky as strong as this one.

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I really like this. I think it is unique and has a nice impact. What makes it unique is the inclusion of the road! I know you mentioned you don’t like it, but the way you’ve composed this it’s pretty clear you intended to include it! And there are several aspects that make it work. One is the main highway mimics the curvature of the far ridge. Second the roads, including off to the lower right corner, LRC work to lead the eye around the frame to enjoy all the colors of autumn! And I like Zach’s rendition with the crop and so the curves, lines and framing of it all work well.

I guess the hard part is combining such a beautiful, dynamic and dramatic sky with such a gentle and pastoral autumn landscape. I would agree with others about toning down the red/yellow sat of the sky, but maybe not too much. It’s hard for me to say what is best for the luminosity difference between sky and land. Hard to say since I wasn’t there.

Also agree not much to be done with the lake; agree with Igor, don’t think there’s a crop option there.

Overall, I quite like this and the roadways are a part of that.


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Thank you all for the help.
I found the advice extremely valuable and reprocessed the image based on the comments.

Most notably I tried to process with the subject at top of mind from the beginning and did what I could to make that stand out. Also used the cropping advise, cropping into the frame to get the road on the far right edge and the rock out but still achieving a 2:3 crop which I prefer as the sky become too dominant in the 16:9 crop.

Let me know your thoughts on the edited file. I think I am done working on, with the issues with the lack of separation between the ridge and mountain and the lake cropped as shown I think this is the limit to which I can improve and may still not work.


I like this a lot. I applaud your effort to do something with what is there, namely highways and interchanges, etc. I agree with a others who find the lake/river on the right side distracting. I don’t think that losing that part removes too much of the top ridgeline, which is already curving downward.

If you get rid of the water on the right and the rock bottom left, you get a very cool impression of geological and human engineering. The rock on the bottom left doesn’t distract me as much as the water, but I think getting rid of the water, even cloning in a tish of trees where the water is widest to keep that curve of road, would make for a really compelling image.

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I actually think the processing is quite good, but the composition is not really doing it for me. Similar to what Erik said, my eye is distracted by several things - the lower left corner, the lake on the right and the road in the middle. Overall the image is not bad but I’d imagine you probably have some more solid compositions from this photo shoot.

Just for the sake of trying it, here is a quick patch job to remove the Lake. (actually took longer than I thought it would and not sure is perfect.

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That made a big difference for me. Way to go!

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