Swan Lake in Fog

Critique Style Requested: In-depth

The photographer has shared comprehensive information about their intent and creative vision for this image. Please examine the details and offer feedback on how they can most effectively realize their vision.

Self Critique

The interaction between the two swans, and the detail in the birds’ wings are most appealing me. The contrast between the birds and the water along with the softening effect of the fog makes this one of my favorites.

Creative direction

I’m hoping to enter this image into competition however, I feel I may need to refine it more to ensure others see it as I do.

Specific Feedback

I would appreciate feedback on all the qualities listed: aesthetic, conceptual, emotional, and technical

Technical Details


A local pond is the setting for these young Trumpeter swans, one that’s on their migration route from Alaska. This particular evening, they were interacting with each other and bobbing in a display of mating behavior that was a delight to experience. My goal was to capture the playful youthfulness between them, as well as their elegance. Due to the location and the proximity of other shooters, I was not able to set up a tripod, and therefore, my need to use a high ISO.


Great interaction, Peggy, and I love the poses of the swans. To my eye, the swans look like they could be a bit brighter and the whole image could use just a bit of brightness boost. Also the out of focus water drops seemed to detract from the image to me, though I know they should be there.

I took the liberty of downloading your image and messing with it a bit in PS. I first got rid of the water drops then used the TK9 panel to create a lights 1 minus lights 6 mask and brought the brightness up through it. While I had it in PS, I also noticed that you must have leveled the image and had the default fill selected instead of content aware because you have some long, skinny wedges of black along the edges hat you’ll probably want to fix (I left them). Anyhow, here’s my interpretation of your image for what it’s worth.

P.S. If you wanted to accent the fog a bit, it might add something-not sure. It would be easy to do by selecting your subjects in LR, inverting the selection, and moving the dehaze slider to the left a bit.

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Great feedback, Dennis, and thanks so much! I leveled the photo initially in LR bit then did a slight adjustment in PS and of course your right, I didn’t use content aware fill. Will remedy that as well as taking your other suggestions. On a road trip now tho so will have to wait until I return. Will get back to ASAP tho and thanks again!


I like the interaction between the swans and the foggy background. I like the brighter version Dennis created, but not so sure about the water droplets. I’d be tempted to keep the droplets between the swans, it seems to add to the action of the scene. It’s an engaging photo and I could see it doing well in competition.

Thank you, Allen, more great feedback! Lighter it will be, but I tend to side with you on the water drops. Will see when I get back to the computer and can see both full screen.


I like that you are getting a side view and a front view on the same image. However, I wish their wings didn’t cross. Not a deal breaker though. I also agree with what @Dennis_Plank did to bring the whites up a bit. It felt a little bit dingy to me and that totally rectified that. I might dehaze the fog in the background just a bit to make it pop but only selectively on the fog. Good luck in your competition.

A very nice image and good suggestions! I’ll only add that there is a dark border that looks like the image was straightened just slightly. A very small crop will fix it. Good luck with the competition!

Thanks much for your feedback and kind comment, David. I’ll try selectively dehazing the fog to see if I can give it more depth, and go with the consensus of bringing up the exposure. I’m sure your input will help in the upcoming competition!


Thanks Diane, it’s much appreciated! Yes, others noticed the border as well and of course, I didn’t when I made the minor adjustment but that’s the first thing to go. Regardless, I appreciate your feedback.


A beautiful moment you’ve captured here Peg and certainly like a ballet frozen in time. The mist makes for a nice background and you’ve left enough space on each side to give them room to play. Would like to see them brightened up a bit without losing detail in the feathers.

Thank you, Jim! I’m working on brightening the background now as well as de-hazing the fog a bit, so hopefully that will help. What about the water drops, do you think they should go away, or not?

Posting my latest edits. I removed the drops after all, dehazed the fog, and lightened the background. More feedback, please, and as always, thanks for your time and expertise.

I can’t say I see much difference in the fog, but for me that’s okay, I think it adds to the photo providing some mood. I think the water droplets add a sense of action. This is all very subjective; who knows what the judges like.

Thanks, I took a very light touch on the fog but may address it again. I too like the drops and I’m still going back and forth on the decision to remove them…but none of them were in focus and I think it would have helped had they been. Yes, this is all subjective, so I’ll just shoot from the hip at this point. :grin:

Nice job, Peg. The whites look much better. Personally, I like the fog and wouldn’t reduce it. If anything, I’d increase it a touch, but itlooks quite good as is.

I think water drops always add interest to any action involving birds.

Thanks Dennis, I’m glad we’re in agreement. I like the fog too and that’s why I didn’t dehaze it much. Increasing it just may happen!

Agree, then they don’t look so static.