Storm Clouds Over White Pocket

Critique Style Requested: Standard

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


Over spring break my family and I spent a few days in Arizona. We started the trip at White Pocket, where we experienced non-stop winds ranging from “this sucks” to “so, this is how it ends?” On the bright side, we had dramatic skies the entire time. This was one of the first images I made, in early afternoon. I knew as soon as I shot it that I would be converting it to black and white. It almost feels like a crime to create black and white images of such an insanely colorful landscape but…here we are.

Specific Feedback

General critique, not looking for anything specific. I do feel like I could push the blacks (at least some of them) a little darker, including the clouds.

Technical Details

Sony A7IV
Sony 24-105mm lens @ 32mm
ISO 100
1/125s @ f/16
Handheld (gasp!)
Processed in Lightroom Classic and finished in Photoshop

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1 Like

My first reaction was “I’m melllltttiiiinnggg” - ha ha. My second reaction, even before reading your description, was that the darks could be darker. After reading your description, it sounds like quite a dramatic day. In light of that, increasing the contrast would fit the scene, I think. Having had a go at that, I think that the white formation towards the upper left may need to be darkened a tad so your eye doesn’t go right there. It’s a great image no matter what!

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I love the stark black and white of Bonnie Lampley that re-creates the atmosfere of the moment of the shot. I like too the bright with low contrasts original version that seems to me a pictorial image in black of white ( can I say that?!).

White pocket is a wild place. Looks like this was shot from a drone. Last year I saw drone photographers every evening.

One thing that seems odd is that the bright rocks on the left don’t have the same tonality as those on the right. Well, given how the sky is it would not surprise me that sunlight appeared in some areas and not in others.

There’s a lot going on in this image but it works. I think it’s a matter of taste. The composition is right on in my opinion.

Thank you, Bonnie! I like your version with added contrast. I realized after posting this that I’d posted the wrong version. I have another in which I selectively darkened the blacks and mostly left the lighter tones alone. Really appreciate your comments and re-processing of the image!

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@Giuseppe_Guadagno Thank you so much and yes, it’s perfectly okay to say that the image I posted is “pictorial”, which I take to mean it’s more true to the actual scene.

@Igor_Doncov Yes, White Pocket is otherworldly. I did not use a drone to make this image. If I remember, I actually got kind of low to the ground so the two foreground features would protrude more into the sky. Also, you are correct: there was some spotlighting as the sun occasionally peeked out from behind the clouds, which accounts for the tonality differences.

I can see why you headed black and white; there’s great drama here.

I was thinking along the same lines Bret. I also thought it would be cool to accentuate the contrast in the shadows, as opposed to just darkening them. I played with that by using high radius/low amount sharpening on a layer set to darken mode (and masked to just the foreground), and came up with this version.

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Bret, the drama in here reaches out and grabs me. All of that swirling texture from the bottom to the three structures towards the left just pulls my eyes through the view. The stormy sky coordinates well with the ground. I think this view looks very good as presented as it shows off the textures in and leading up to the three closest formations (I’m a big texture and detail fan). While pulling down the darks may add a bit more drama, there’s plenty of drama already.

@John_Williams It’s funny that you thought to accentuate detail in the darkest tones as that’s something I’ve been playing with recently. Learned a couple techniques for it and have been experimenting but it completely slipped my mind with this one. I do like the extra detail your technique added. Great reminder to try this technique on future images!

@Mark_Seaver I appreciate your comment. I also like texture and detail, moreso in mid-tones and shadows. I think John’s edit did a nice job of darkening those tones while also pulling out some detail.

1 Like