You can't get there from here (reposted 9/21)

Wahclella Falls, Columbia River Gorge, July 2016. I have been quite moved and saddened by the devastation done by the Eagle Creek fire. The images posted on this site and others depicting the Gorge in its former glory are a fitting monument to the past and some of nature’s more amazing places that are no more. Yes, in 50 years or so it might look somewhat like it did before the fire, but I will never have an opportunity to see this place again.

What technical feedback would you like if any?

What artistic feedback would you like if any?

This image was reprocessed today. I did post it previously several years ago but it has always seemed to miss some pop. This is an early morning image before the sun got anywhere near the gorge. I’m open to any ideas on how to improve this. It just seems to be missing something and I would like to honor this wonderful waterfall by improving this image.

Iso-50, 17-35 mm at 17 mm, F8, 1/5 second, D 850, tripod, Adobe camera raw, Topaz adjust, Google filter collection (polarizing filter), TK sharpening action at 40%

Any pertinent technical details:

I like the composition - a nice amount of space around the falls, with a good sense of the surroundings, There are nice leading lines moving my eye into the water portion of the image, and nice color and texture around the water to draw my eye back out. The water has decent texture in it.

The sharpening seems a tad on the “crunchy” side to me though - to my eye it’s overdone. I also wonder how a bit of vignetting (or more vignetting?) might impact the feel of the image…

I love this place, and you have captured it well. I can see the crunchiness that was mentioned above, but it all depends on how you will present it (print, paper type, screen, etc.)

I think the water has a tish of magenta, but I’m not 100% confident about my monitor calibration. I can imagine a tiny bit more off the top to bring the eye to/return the eye to the water and foreground.

The pop you might be wishing for is maybe one of the following (all of which I long for in my own waterfall images):

  1. slightly smoother water?
  2. slightly higher perspective to get more of that great green in the pool
  3. the roar of water and the feathery touches of mist coming out of the screen and bringing a smile to your face.

For me, waterfalls are hard to fully capture. It’s a 3D and auditory experience, so what seems like a slam dunk is actually quite tricky.

I think you did well here. I’m eager for others’ thoughts and to get back to this place myself. I’m 30 minutes away, and it is just not accessible right now.

I’ve been to this magnificent location and have many images as well.

My first reaction to the image is that the sharpening detracts from the image. I’d turn off all sharpening in the workflow for an image like this. The shutter speed seems to have left you in between silky water and static. While I think I get the composition choice to include the rocks and log to create a circular boundary, the colors are overpowering me getting to the star of the show. The greens in the background look pretty natural, the rocks in the foreground feel oversaturated. From the vantage point you took this from centering the waterfall probably made sense, but I’m not overly fond of centered fall images.

Here is a repost that will hopefully be a response to critique. Take from a slightly different camera angle and a little bit closer.

Some of the changes made include much less sharpening, starting with zero and adding a tiny bit. The TK sharpening action is at 5%. Other sharpening algorithms in Adobe camera raw and Topaz adjust are kept at a minimum. I do notice that when this is enlarged significantly, the crunchiness is gone.

Green saturation was decreased by 36% in Adobe camera raw and blue saturation was decreased by 24% in Adobe camera raw. With this camera angle, the red rocks in the foreground are eliminated.

Keith, I find your comment about the red saturation interesting in the original posted image because I had virtually decreased the red saturation to almost 0. I know my monitor was recently calibrated less than a week ago. Yes I know that digital sensors are very sensitive to reds and greens. With this crop, the red rocks are totally eliminated as mentioned previously. And I think there is a difference looking at the tiff image on my monitor as compared to the JPEG on NPN. Despite improvements made to NPN 2.0, and despite the fact that I’m using the sRGB color space, I notice a difference between my final tiff image as opposed to JPEG’s whether viewed on my 27 inch Asus monitor or my iPad air 2.

With respect to the shutter speed which is identical to the original post at 1/5 of a second, I do like to have some texture in the water and waterfalls. I know that some people prefer half a second, and I suppose with digital manipulation I could certainly smooth out the water. As I think back over the criticism I’ve received over the last 10 years of posting on NPN, most people who look at my flowing water images do prefer some texture to the water. Perhaps it is personal taste. My own feeling is that a little more texture adds a little more interest to the water. And I agree that it may be more artistically correct for a landscape photographer to approach moving water in a different manner.

And despite all that I’ve done, the new reposted image still looks a little flat to me.

But I really appreciate the feedback everyone has provided. I would like to really make this image as striking as it can be.

Hey David,

You actually might be surprised. This shot could very well still be possible despite the fire. Especially with as much mist as Wahclella throws, I would say that this area was pretty well protected from the flames, at least this close to the falls.

I think you did well from this spot that you were standing. That log on the right is such a pain and I know that if you would have moved over it would have encroached into your frame more than it is, but I feel a slight disjointedness in the composition because the rocks in the bottom are angled, centered, and gesturing towards the middle which would create a nice line to the main subject of the falls. So in the field I would have experimented with taking a couple of steps to the right to make that happen and try to find a way to lessen the impact of the log. It could very well be impossible to do that without an advanced technique to make that log ‘disappear’, if you’re into that sort of thing. And that way is to take a photo of what’s BEHIND the log and then align, and blend that in using layer masking in Photoshop.

I do like the processing much more on your second photo with the greens being more towards the blue side of the spectrum than they yellow side. I can see what you mean regarding the ‘flat’ feeling. I think darkening your midtones (while paying mind to saturation control) could help this image a lot. Also… using a polarizer would have really simplified the scene by removing the glare from the rocks and water surface.

I agree with the others on the sharpening. I would say give darkening the midtones a whirl, shift your greens a little more towards blue, and also get some burning into the rocks on the FG to lessen their draw so that the eye doesn’t get caught up. The dark to light transition from front to back would really help the flow of the image.

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I think your composition works quite well David. The bottom has a good amount of room to work with and show those great rocks, and the right side has a nice diagonal coming from the upper corner. I do wish there was either more or less of the left side. The moss covered rocks right on the edge are stealing some attention away from the waterfall. I like the idea of a slight vignette to place more emphasis on the central part of the photo, and in a perfect world I would have loved to see a bit of a longer exposure for the waterfall. Though it is nice to have some water texture, if you get too much it can end up being a bit of a distraction. I do think you have recovered the highlights and shadows too much, which gives the photo a bit of a flat look. The rocks in the foreground start looking a bit more 2D because they don’t have the light and dark tones to give them a sense of depth. I think you have all the info you need in the original file, and it’s just a matter of tweaking a few things. Thanks for sharing David!


I prefer the composition of the first image, but the processing of the second.

The bottom edge of the second image feels like it’s just a little too cut off, I wish there was a bit more framing of the water pool, like the first image has. The log of the first image helps direct your eye right toward the good stuff.

Both of the images feel a little “flat” to me, as in there are not a lot of dynamic light and shadow going on. A bit of vignette to direct the eye could help, but ultimately I feel like coming back to this (if it’s even possible) with different lighting would be the best bet.

I like the cooler colors of the second image, and the removal of the crunch sharpening.

I definitively prefer the repost. There is more emphasis on the falls, still portraying them in their environment. I like the amount of structure in the water. There are nice natural bounds on all sides. Maybe a tiny bit more contrast in the midtones. Real nice and intimate falls image.


A beautiful scene. I’m really enjoying the balanced composition here and there’s just enough texture in the falls to add to the beauty and dynamics.

The colors look good, especially nice job with the yellow/greens in the upper half.

I did notice the crunchiness right away and my thoughts were validated with the other comments. Maybe crunchy is not the right words, but almost feel like it’s over-processed. I think the color/sat is pretty good in the rocks at the bottom, but at least for me feels a little hdr’ish - for lack of a better description.

Clearly a beautiful and deserving scene. Hope you’re able to print big (If you wanted.)


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A beautiful scene indeed. Hope I get to see it one day. I really like your first pictures composition. The tree and the rocks sort of “hugs” the waterfall and it just complements the entire scene. However the processing is off. I like your processing of your second image much better. Maybe try that processing style on your first composition. And not sure if there is a way to do this, but maybe remove a little of the glare from the rocks.