Tunnel Vision

First of all, thank you to Alex for offering to give critiques. I have followed your work from the days that you were a regular contributor here on NPN. I especially like your aerial abstracts of the desert southwest.

This is an image that I took at a small cascade near a larger waterfall in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The title has a bit of a double meaning. I like how the foreground rocks form somewhat of a tunnel leading to the waterfall. But it’s also a reference to the fact that I can get tunnel vision when photographing a particular scene. In this case I was at a beautiful waterfall and in the past I might have overlooked a scene such as this because my focus would have been on the main subject.

Specific Feedback Requested

All comments and critiques are welcome from composition to processing.

Technical Details

This is a blend of two different exposures - one shot at base ISO and one shot with a faster shutter speed for texture in the water.

Capture Info:
38 mm
f/11 @ 1.0 sec (and 1/6 sec)
ISO 100

Processing info:

Basic RAW processing (adjustments to exposure, highlights and shadows).
Manual blend of the two exposures to bring in the water texture from the second exposure.
Luminosity masks to increase mid-tones contrast and to brighten the darks.
Cropped from full frame

Hey Brian, I’m happy to hear you’ve followed my work for so long!

My suggestions on this one are all minor (and some pretty subjective), because I feel the composition is quite sound. I like to hear that you were focusing on overlooked details instead of the obvious “big” falls here!

My very first thought was that the forms and balance are solid, but it feels a bit flat in terms of color, maybe even slightly warm. I know that the water is probably a very “proper” white, but maybe just to introduce some slight color contrast between the different elements, the water could be ever so slightly cooled, and the saturation of those nice greens and reds in the rocks could be slightly lifted? (This is what I was referring to being subjective).

Then, I was thinking the left wall is kind of flat - not many big features and even luminosity. So perhaps a bigger, softer vignette coming in from the edge could break up the tonal monotony a bit there (along with the saturation increase). I also ended up applying some vignetting to the upper right.

Then, minor nits: You could further darken the very right edge of the frame where the brighter rocks hit it. Also, up above the highest falls, there’s just a little sliver of bright features that could be darkened significantly to “close in” the water there. The reason for that is that my eye naturally follows the path of the bright water, but I don’t want to be led fully out of the frame. There’s also a little brighter speck near the lower left corner that caught my eye (as well as others throughout the image, but I wouldn’t want to over-sanitize it by removing all those details).

Otherwise I think this works quite well! Suggestions attached:

@Alex_Noriega Thank you for taking the time to give a thoughtful critique of my photo. I like the processing edits that you made and I appreciate hearing your thought process behind making the edits. That is very helpful and gives me some direction for thinking through creative editing.