The Golden Hair of a Glacial Stream

There’s a small pond at the tongue of a modest Norwegian glacier. The rocks impeding the meltwater runoff are covered in a rich, golden-green algae, creating a scene so mesmerizing that I had to stop mid-stream ford to make this image. No mind the cold wet feet this required! Given the rate of glacier retreat and the proximity of these rocks to the ice front, its surprising to see this algae so full formed - the pond can’t be more than a few years old. Obviously, it seems to be doing well here.

Specific Feedback Requested

Any feedback on anything (composition, post-processing, etc.). Thanks for sharing your expertise!

Technical Details

Sony AR7III, Tamron 70-180 mm; I05 mm at 1/60th sec; f/11 at ISO 400.

Post processing in LR and PS (tonal adjustments using curves and levels adjustments; contrast painting and “Make-It-Glow” adjustment in PS using TK8 tools. Final image run through Topaz De Noise AI (“standard” setting).


Hi Jeff – Thank you for sharing this interesting subject and the story behind it. I like the mix of colors with the golden algae and the water surrounding the algae bundles. I think these are the two most interesting elements of this scene.

With abstracts, I generally try to remove context and I think the ripples at the bottom give too much context. Also, since they are so bright and differently textured, I think they pull interest away from the algae. If they also appeared somewhere else in the frame, I think they might work a bit better but right now, I think they lead to an imbalance in the composition.

Since we are talking about abstracts for this critique, I am suggesting a crop that eliminates this competition for attention. I also think a flip might be in order since I like the flow a bit more when the dominant subject is oriented on the left side of the frame. With this crop, I think the photo is more about the shapes and texture in the algae even though I think the subject is much more unclear now (is it some sort of undersea creature—I really have no idea now!). I’m interested to hear what you think of a tighter presentation. Oh, and I also slightly desaturated the yellows.

Amazing water world. Nice hair details and color composition. The left edge of the piece is little messy, so I trimmed it a bit and also removed slightly disturbing pieces from elsewhere. I liked that wave pattern on the bottom edge and it worked really well. I slightly darkened the wave in the lower left corner. These were done quickly, so there would be room for improvement

Sarah, thank you so much for this feedback. I really struggle with the ripples at the bottom of the composition. I certainly see where you would find them distracting, but I actually like the context they provide. Perhaps this wasn’t the best image to submit to your abstracts critique in that sense. I’m honestly not sure what I will choose as far as these option, but the fact that you’ve given this ideas to me to ponder is really valuable. And thanks for suggesting a bit of desaturation on the yellows. I sometimes struggle to find the sweep spot between “power” and “subtlety” in many areas of my post-processing.

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Thanks very much, Jorma. The crop on the left edge that you and Sarah both propose makes good sense to me. I think that does result in a stronger image if the left side ripple is also to be eliminated. Thanks for giving me another idea to consider.

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@jefflafrenierre My comments about the crop were in the context of the theme of “abstracts in nature” so if you like the ripples and the context they add, I say you should stick with them! I certainly do not want my comments to change how you feel about your photo overall.