Sunset At La Sal

I’d like some honest feedback on this one, I’ve looked at it and tweaked it for too long and I can’t tell anymore. This is private land in SW Colorado looking towards the La Sal mountains, and once-in-life opportunity to shoot a sunset here a few years back. I still have several images I haven’t processed from there yet, but this one I’ve been slow-cooking for a while. There were so many layers of Terra Firma I had a hard time placing it correctly. This is several images slammed together with Photomatix, then a lot of local adjustments in ACR. Is the sun distracting? I wasn’t trying to get a star that big, it just happens at f/13 especially when doing HDR then boosting local contrast. I kind of wish the river wasn’t covered by the branches and I may have another version where I moved over.

Equipment information: Canon 5D2 and 16-35/2.8 at the time

Camera settings: f/13, ISO 100, several exposures based on metering one stop apart

What specific feedback would you like? Simply, is the image strong enough to keep in a portfolio? Or is it too busy or messy or boring? if it is, please TELL me! :sunglasses:

Nice control of the overall exposure Paul. The warm foreground light is fantastic. Not sure I have any nits about your image. Being nit picky, maybe more of the tree on the left would be nice.

Hey Paul!

I like the idea of this image a lot, the layers of hills, the sunstar, the orange foliage bathing in the warm, morning light.

For me the main issue is you have your sunstar almost against the right edge, and your tallest tree way over on the left edge, and nothing too strong in the middle, so it feels a little empty. I prefer to keep the viewer’s eyes away from the edges of the image as to not cause too much tension. I think the sunstar is also a bit too red and the sky is a bit too blue, the light just isn’t matching the colors. I would desaturate the cyan/blue in the sky a bit more to fix that and make the sunstar more yellow instead of red. The image also feels a bit too HDR and doesnt look like real light and shadows to me. Maybe you blended some bracketed exposures together? Or you just recovered the shadows too much. The tall tree on the left is two separate exposures, the bottom half is bright, and the top half is dark. That’s distracting for me. Anyways, if you fix it I think it could be a nice image but I still dont think it is gallery worthy since there is nothing you can do to fix the position of your main central focus like I had mentioned before.

Hope this was helpful!

Your friend,


I don’t know how to answer your specific questions. I don’t find it busy or boring and the portfolio thing is a personal choice. So I’m just going to critique it my old way.

I find the backlighting of the foliage the most attractive part of the image. The luminosity it provides and those wonderful rich warm colors. Combined with the cool sky I think it works well.

One of the issues is that the luminosity is not consistent throughout. The bottom of the tree on the left has leaves that are back lit but not the upper leaves. Also the trunk gets darker as we go up. The smaller tree in the center has the same issue. I suspect this is due to selective burning but it could be natural.

Overall the image has a nice sunset feel to it. A sense of peace descending on the valley below. A time to exhale.

I think the question of a portfolio image is a bit tough for me to make a call on as I don’t know where you set the bar for a portfolio image. I studied the larger image and agree with the comments Eric made in a previous reply.

There are some very odd artifacts in the lower 1/4 of the image. They are yellow and have the look of cloning, but I don’t that is what they are. They are lines that are largely vertical with a bit of angle to the upper right. Not very clear in the small frame, but clear in the larger frame.

Hi Paul, Ill jump in here and go with a technical issue that immediately concerns me with adding this one to a portfolio even before Color, and Comp replies. Have a close look at the blend photomatix did for you. Its super off…I noticed it in a 5x7 on my monitor, once clicked for enlargement the issues jump off the screen. There are blurry foreground runs where the Photomatix software couldn’t figure out what to blend so it just presented it to you in Blurs…Similar to the Smudge Tool in PS. I tried to save/copy the bigger image to show you the exact spots, but this site only allowed me to save the smaller above size.b1586a8d357b86db339a1dcbadefc4fb0ce3b298_1_690x431


Paul, the colors are very warm and inviting. The sunstar looks great. I like the “edge balance” of the sun and the tree. Aside from the software combining issues that Kane has highlighted, for me that smaller tree blocking the view up the river and into the distance reduces the sense of depth. It seems like you’re aware of that issue based on your final sentence.


Not withstanding the catch by Kane on the blend (the issue does jump out at the larger view,) for me the sun is NOT distracting, but a very important element (ie. the source of the warm light.) I really like the overall scene especially the glow of the foreground.

The only other thing that might keep this out of a portfolio is the transition of light between the foreground and those elements extending in to the sky. Primarily the tree on the left. I don’t know if you used a grad nd filter or it’s simply the blend, but the light on the tree changes from light to dark. This is also apparent on the smaller brush extending above the foreground. Probably not apparent to the regular viewer, but something I observed and thought should mention.

The light and warmth here still make for a very lovely and enjoyable view.


For the most part this is a compelling image with very warm color and saturation. It feels good to look at it. I did notice some of the issues with the stitching; some small out of focus splotchy areas and grass that does not continue as it would in real life. I might even cut some of the deep red saturation a tiny bit on the center left sloping part of the mountain. But I wasn’t there and it could be my monitor.

See? What other website could ever provide such phenomenal and honest critique and advice? Thank you ALL for piping in. The be honest, this image I admit is actually several years old, as is the processing I did. And while I still get lazy and muck around with HDR wonder apps, I’ve put off the effort to learn hand blending long enough (no excuse, I have Sean Bagshaw;s and Jimmy McIntyre’s courses). I think this image is a great starting point to get into that. I have several images from this location from an hour before and an hour after this scene, not to mention 3 years of landscape shooting in AZ and Utah that I’ve never processed. I appreciate the time everyone took to really examine this image (Kane, thanks for the outlines, I looked right past those artifacts), I needed a good recharge to get back into all this. Very thankful NPN is still alive!

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