The Thing

I shot a bunch of keepers last winter of this iconic peak in pristine conditions with fresh snow and beautiful lighting. Before that however I did a scouting shoot in blizzard conditions and quite liked some of the images. I’ve struggled a bit with this particular image, must be around the 5th time I have processed it from scratch. I firstly converted this into a black and white, did a bunch of dodging and burning, before adding some colour back. While most people reference Kirkjufell to Game of Thrones, this image reminds me more of the John Carpenter classic, “The Thing”.
Canon 5DMkIV, 11-24mm at 15mm, ISO 100, f14, 2 seconds.


Great shot Kah Kit. I really like how the clouds and stream are pointing to the ice cliffs.

Can’t see any way to improve this. Excellent as is.

Were you standing in the stream when you took this shot?


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Thanks @Jim_Talaric . I was standing on some pretty solid ice. Over the next few days the entire area got covered in a couple more feet of snow.

This is a very powerful image. The mood is really nice. Sounds like it has been tough to process. All kinds of possibilities for options in processing. I looked at the image and tried a couple of things. All depends on where you’d like to take it. One of the things I look at on almost every image is creating a MidTones 1 mask from TK, putting that mask on a Curves (or Levels) adjustment layer, then just changing the blending mode to Soft Light. It creates a really subtle, but effective contrast that adds a tiny punch. The curve is left untouched.
I also played with some dodging in places along the river flow and some places along the snow on the left. Seemed to create a bit more depth.
Just some thoughts on a really nice image that is lovely as is, but maybe has more left in it to play with.

I think you’ve done great with this. It’s such a different take on a familiar scene. I really like it! Here are a couple of thoughts from my own personal aesthetic, if they are helpful that’s great otherwise ignore them. I find the person on the right to be a bit distracting from the main scene. I would clone them out. I might also darken the right side a bit to keep the main focus on the stream area. Lastly, you have a little halo on the top left that I might try and address. These are all really just very minor nitpicks on a gorgeous image.

I really am loving this image! The cool monochromatic look adds to the nature of the conditions. Very well executed!

When I looked at the smaller image, I thought there was a dust spot on the right. When I viewed the larger image I had that aha moment when I see its a person. Lots of images add people for scale, often placing them in the near foreground. What I like about this image is that you placed the person almost in the background, which exaggerates the scale of the frozen waterfall even more.

Kah Kit, I also have to say that I really enjoy the way you process blues and whites in your winter images, they come out very dark and moody, which is a good thing.

Moody and mysterious; I love this Kah Kit. I like the blue and white tones along with the way that section of ice draws me into this scene. This is just a personal preference, but I could see that one dark cloud just a touch lighter. That is being super picky because this is just fantastic as is.

Your persistence has definitely paid off here. This is amazing. I was there in May several years ago. It is so much more dramatic with the winter environment. The leading line of the ice draped cliff and the contrast of the small figure dwarfed by the mountain make this a strong photographic statement. Really well done. I’m ready to return in the winter after seeing this.

I would have to say the 5th time was the charm! Absolutely wonderful image so full of emotion. Love the way you processed and presented this image. I’m sure they were all very nice but this one is great!

To me the is one of those wild scenes we often associate with explorations of Antarctica where those explorers are fighting for their lives. There’s an element of danger about this place. The lack of sharpness gives it a sense of vagueness and mystery as well. The drama is very much in the style you like to shoot.

In terms of suggestions: (1) I would open up the large shadow in the foreground a bit to better show off the texture in the ice. (2) there is a small dark peak just jutting over the top of the white snowy cliff on the left that I would clone out.

I like the man in the image, I’ve decided. His position and his form. The large version shows him nicely.

Powerful and moody. Masterful composition and incredible atmosphere.

I don’t know that I would change a thing here. For me the tiny lone figure in the distant whiteout conditions makes for a moody composition emphasizing the stark solitude. And yeah, that old movie does come to mind, saw it as a teenager.

I like the almost monochromatic treatment here, Kah Kit. I think the composition is challenging because we are hemmed in on the right by that wall of rock and ice (which might be a composition in its own right from another angle).

I agree with others above that the person doesn’t add much (scale is their usual value, but it doesn’t quite work here), and I agree with Igor that working on the stream is key. More mid-tone contrast, more “clarity” or whatever you like to use to highlight texture and contrasting lines. That will pop this one significantly.

Nice work on this, and I admire your commitment to working on these winter scenes. They are a challenge and I have enjoyed this new subject unfolding in your hands.


@Keith_Bauer @Joseph_Rossbach @Ed_McGuirk @Ed_Lowe @David_Schoen @Nick_Bristol @Igor_Doncov @Dave_Dillemuth @Bill_Leggett @Marylynne_Diggs

Thanks so much for your comments everyone. Lots of food for thought. I’ve attached the original image I took from the RAW for comparison. As you can see there’s a been quite a lot of contrast work already done. One of the issues I had with previous iterations which all had more contrast and clarity fell out of my favour after a while.

Igor, that dark area is half frozen ice with water from the frozen waterfall flowing underneath rather than shadow. As Marylynne mentioned also this area I can also work a bit to draw out the leading lines more. I barely noticed that little peak, I’ll have to take that out.

Erik and Keith, you’ve certainly got me thinking that there is a bit more to play with. I’ve recently revamped my whole workflow and ditched the TK masks but maybe worth a tweak as you say.

About the figure. If I shot this 10 years ago, the figure would immediately have been cloned out. Having a person for scale is so in vogue at the moment that I didn’t question whether he should even be cloned out! I think it will depend on how large the image is viewed as to the effectively of the person. When I repost I’ll take time out just for comparison.

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Kah Kit, if you don’t mind me asking, what specific factors led you to ditch TK Masks for your processing?
And what did you gain by using a new approach?

Intense shot KKY. I like what you’ve done with this shot. That figure in the background is a cool touch.

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It is hard to critique an image this amazing. The processing is spot on and works really well with the conditions of the image.

If anything, I feel a little bit of unbalance in the composition, with a lot of detail on the left side and a lot of smoothness on the right. Depending on your taste, I would consider warping the image just a little so the foreground goes toward the very center, rather than to the center left. The foreground leads your eye to the cliff, but I wish it was more about the mountain if that makes sense. I also like cropping just a bit off the bottom to remove some of the white glare amongst the dark portion.

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After using a traditional layered workflow for over a decade I decided to commit to Marc Adamus’ clone painting workflow, a very idiosyncratic and out there technique compared to traditional photoshop. TK masks work well with the usual Photoshop layers and tools but didn’t seem to be necessary with MA’s method. I’m still experimenting with the latter so who knows whether I might find applications for TK again.

It’s amazing how you produced the image you posted from the one you took (also posted), particularly in the sky.