The Stalwart W/Suggested Edits

John Williams edit to remove green from pine tree

Critique Style Requested: Standard

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


This image was taken in Zion a few weeks ago during a snowstorm that shut most of the park down for several days. Without access to most of the 2 canyons you had to hike in on foot in about 8 inches of snow. Not terrible but plenty slippery.
I was hiking up the road and decided to go off on a trail, not sure which one it is but a trail nonetheless. About a half mile down this trail I notice this gnarled old tree that looked like it couldn’t be knocked down and that it could withstand anything you threw at it including a winter storm. It was so out of place as most of the other trees in the area were rather uniform in their structure and shape. Not this one. It’s the first thing I noticed about it. Branches were going in all different directions and I just thought it deserved to be photographed.

Technical Details

Z9, 100-400mm lens @ 120mm, ISO 500, 1/320th, f/8, manual mode, hand held


This is cool old tree you found, David. I like how you filled the frame with it I also like the softness or haziness of the image looks like it was snowing. Yet, I can faintly see some of the red color in the background canyon walls, which adds a nice touch to the softness I’m glad you didn’t go high contrast.
Congrats on your perseverance through the snow. You found a brilliant scene and did it justice

That’s wonderful David! A “viejo” weathering the storm with such character. The background is a nice image by itself; it sets up a great background for the gnarled tree.

It’s petty, but you could move that fairly green tree closer in color/luminosity to the background trees; it has a slight photobombing effect to my easily distracted eye. Here’s an example of what I mean.

Hi David,
that looks beautiful. I love the painterly look. The tree is awesome, it has so much character. I can understand very well that it caught your attention.

I agree with @John_Williams about the color of the tree in the background.
Beyond that, I wouldn’t change anything about the image. Well done!

I think I remember that tree from years ago, David. Nice capture with the snow frosting it. Well done. The comp is really strong too with the tree reaching into the scene. Awesome image, sir.

That’s a fantastic tree in fantastic lighting and conditions – an old cottonwood? Your adventurousness and perseverance paid off handsomely! The smaller trees/bushes in the FG could easily be distracting in any other light, but there they provide a soft base to the framing. This is worthy of a huge print on a fabulous wall. Guy Tal would be jealous. @John_Williams gave it the perfect finishing touch.

This is the sort of image I like the most. Edward Abbey refers to a juniper next to his station as The Claw. It’s a metaphor for how the tree strikes him. That’s how this image is. I would have posted this as an Initial Reaction type of image and see how people felt about it rather than to dive right in with improvements.

The only thing to mention is the same reservation I had with my image Mariah - the white wedge in the llc. But I think I’ve just got oversensitive on the subject and it really does not apply to this image. It may actually add to it.

I could look at this image for a long time. And have nightmares. The distance between mystery and fright is not that great.

Wow! This is a wall hanger for sure, David. This has an air of mystery to it with the gnarly old tree weathering the snowstorm against the slightly soft BG rock walls. I also like the fact that there is a hint of red warmth to them. I also love all the fine details of the limbs and branches in the larger version.

You may not have come away with the images you were hoping to capture, but you may have missed out on these beautiful images you have posted from your trip. Absolutely no suggestions from me as this is a beauty.

@Mark_Muller , @John_Williams , @Jens_Ober , @David_Bostock , @Diane_Miller , @Igor_Doncov , @Ed_Lowe …Thank you for your construction suggestions and comments.

Mark, You are correct. A high contrast scene would not have worked well at all for this image. In fact, I actually used a fair amount of negative dehaze to reduce contrast and add a bit of atmosphere to this one. Glad you liked this one, Mark. Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate it.
John…I am using your rework as my main post now. I hope you don’t mind. You nailed it. I had not noticed how much that tree stands out when zoomed in large. Thanks for your edit. It make a small but significant difference.

Jens…Thank you for taking the time to take a look, Jens! I agree with you about @John_Williams rework. Brilliant! Thanks again.

David…Thanks for commenting. I’m glad you like this tree and if you were on this trail, you probably did see this tree. It really stands out. Thanks for your comment as always.

Diane…Oh, I’m glad you think this is Guy Tal like. That makes me happy. I agree that John gave it the perfect finishing touch and I included his rework at the top of the post. Thanks, Diane. I always appreciate your comments.

Igor…The lower left corner initially bothered me too Igor but I think I have moved beyond that on this image. In fact, I almost didn’t post this image because of that wedge. I’m glad you like this sort of image. The tree really is a character and I love your comment about having nightmares after looking at this for a while and that the distance between mystery and fright is not that great. I TOTALLY agree! Thanks as always for your constructive comments and suggestions, Igor!

Ed…Thanks for your input, Ed. I’m glad you like this one. I agree with you that had I not been bottle necked this entire trip I likely would not have come away with many of the images that I did come away with. It really just goes to show that you shouldn’t preconceive your shots in advance of a trip. Just let it unfold. For me, it’s really hard to do, but I had no choice with this storm that came through. It was a blessing. Thanks again, Ed and it’s great to have you back.

1 Like

Late to the party once again, David. This is a gem and so typical of your best work. The dehazed feel is perfect and understated as is the colour palette. The star of the show is that grizzled old dude. The composition is so nice in the way you have used the quiet background to frame this tree, which is all restless movement. The highlights of snow give this the most exquisite feel of winter solitude. Beauty.


Ditto to Kerry’s comments - including noting that I took so long to comment!

Downright wonderful image. Terrific character in this old stalwart. The contrast is right on. Love everything about this! No suggestions (kudos to John or anyone eyeballing any color cast!) The LLC isn’t a bother for me.


@Kerry_Gordon , and @Lon_Overacker, Thanks very much for your comments. I’m glad that you both appreciate the subtleties and low contrast of this image. I think that’s what provides a lot of the mood for this image. Thanks again for your thoughts on this one.