White Whale

Critique Style Requested: Initial Reaction

Please share your immediate response to the image before reading the photographer’s intent (obscured text below) or other comments. The photographer seeks a genuinely unbiased first impression.

Questions to guide your feedback

Feel free to make any technical suggestions, but I’d love your overall impression as well.

Other Information

Please leave your feedback before viewing the blurred information below, once you have replied, click to reveal the text and see if your assessment aligns with the photographer. Remember, this if for their benefit to learn what your unbiased reaction is.

Image Description

A friend and I were able to make it up to Rainier for a couple of nights last weekend. A knee issue kept me from getting out last winter, so it was a welcome relief to be back at it. I’m no bold adventurer, but it is such a different world in the Cascades in winter that it draws even a couch captain like me to sloth my way up there.

This was the view from about a stone’s throw from where we camped, taken a little after we arrived. It took way longer than it should have to get the camp set up, because much like my dog when he sees a squirrel I kept dropping everything and running over to take a picture as the conditions changed.

This was cropped from a horizontal format. The edges didn’t add much and I thought they detracted by minimizing that stream bed, thus the square crop. The only real color in the image was a dash of blue sky (the darker area in the upper right), so I elected to go with black and white. I felt the lack of color let me push the contrast a bit more, hoping to add to the depth of the image.

Technical Details

NIKKOR Z 24-200 f/4-6.3 VR at 24.0 mm
1/100 sec. at f/10.0 and ISO 64

Specific Feedback

My hope was to give an impression of grandeur. Mt. Rainier is such a huge mountain, and I find it hard to capture that. If you shoot a wide angle, the mountain shrinks and doesn’t dominate like it does when you are there. If you zoom in, you miss the lower elevation that gives perspective. I find it an impossible task to capture just how massive it is, but nevertheless it is the white whale that I continue to seek.

Here’s a cell phone image of our camp, looking in the opposite direction from the mountain.


My first impression is that of a mountain disappering in a see of cloud, the foreground being somewhat cloud-like. I like the crop, the way it allows the stream to draw the eye up to the mountain.

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It feels like the images we get from the Antarctic: everything is cold - both the land and the sky. Just a mass of white with specks of dark trees here and there. The image conveys brrrrr cold.

That’s the problem I have with Mt Hood at Trillium Lake. I remember you coming up with a processing solution to this.

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First impression is to be awed / engaged / relaxed by the symphony of many elements of this scene. My eye traveled along lines of the foreground knolls and then got entertained by the clouds. I was struck by the many shades of white that defined the forms in the photograph.

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Excellent. The FG really draws you into the scene and once again the B&W tonalities are beautiful. I might darken the sky just a tad but that’s just my personal preference. Might be counter to the vision you had in mind.

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I like that tweak Michael; thank you.

My initial reaction is “what wizardry is at work here?”!! I love this image with the details in the foreground and that magic mountain rising behind it. Its so difficult to critique an image I love so much, and maybe my personal preference is guiding my thoughts, but it seems just a little bright, not just in the sky, but on the mountain itself.

Thanks Paul! That echoes Michael, so once I get a chance to finalize this for my website I’ll head in that direction.