Zen Reflection

I was photographing autumn tree branches along the shore of a small lake when the sparse leaves of this bush caught my eye. I isolated a few branches against the late afternoon sun reflecting off the lake’s surface in an attempt to keep the composition sparse and clean. It was one of those sublime moments when being in the field making an image is its own reward.

Type of Critique Requested

  • Aesthetic: Feedback on the overall visual appeal of the image, including its color, lighting, cropping, and composition.
  • Conceptual: Feedback on the message and story conveyed by the image.
  • Emotional: Feedback on the emotional impact and artistic value of the image.
  • Technical: Feedback on the technical aspects of the image, such as exposure, color, focus and reproduction of colors and details, post-processing, and print quality.

Specific Feedback and Self-Critique

I am enamored of simple, clean compositions and in the subject of this image I saw an opportunity to emulate characteristics of traditional Eastern art. Any feedback is appreciated.

Technical Details

Canon R6, 70-200 at 168 mm, f2.8, 1/640 and ISO 200. Cropped and processed in LR for tone and presence.


Hi Ric,
I like this simple composition, nice eye here.
For me there’s a bit too much “stuff” going on on the left upper third that pulls me up and out away from the nice stuff at center and below. These scenes are so hard to compose, but you could try a crop or gasp a slight warp to pull that stuff out and away. The upper left corner for example - having that single leaf up there really kills this for me… as does the center left section… the rest of this is REALLY nice!

Hi Ric, thanks for sharing this image. I tend to agree with Matt.

  • Aesthetic: Kudos for spotting the potential of this scene. I think the overall composition could be strengthened to help simplify the image and story. I’d like to recommend a square crop of the center section.

  • Conceptual: I think with some tweaking, the image will help express that moment you felt of tranquility while out in the field. Plus it will help express the Eastern art characteristics.

  • Emotional: The center section has the most impact to me. I love the visual design of the long branches and sparse leaves at the end. Then you have the wonderful color contrast of green and orange hues in the leaves.

  • Technical: The background feels a bit grainy to me. It’s hard to describe but there is some digital artifacts in the water. Perhaps it is oversharpened? The overall exposure looks good.

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Hi Ric, you mentioned emulating characteristics of traditional Eastern art. Did you apply some kind of artistic filter to this? It looks a little like pixelation, but not sure. Let us know if that is intentional and we can then evaluate/critique appropriately.



My first impression was exactly that - Eastern Art - and more specifically Japanese art - as in what we see like on Rice paper room divider/panels (whatever they’re called.) But for sure this has that Zen art look and feel. Great job capturing and conveying that look.

Only a couple comments from me. As has been mentioned, the bg water (or whatever the bg is,) seems pixelated - but actually in an effective way. But curious was it a result of intential processing like a artistic filter, or is it a jpg type compression issue?

The biggest thing for me that hasn’t been mentioned, is the yellow at the bottom. This actually detracts more for me that the upper corner. Not so much the patterns at the bottom, but the color. At least for me personally is not a pretty yellow - or realistic if it’s the sun’s reflection. I would greatly tone that down. But that’s just me.

Otherwise, I think you’ve done quite well.


I think this has lots of potential but would agree with simplifying the top left (clone it out) and focussing on the center. I agree w Lon that the grain or noise on the background works here as a paper grain. It glows, very nice light.

Hi Matt,

Thanks for providing feedback. I see what you’re saying about the upper left third, and look forward to working with this image some more & trying out some of your suggestions. I’m a big fan of F-Stop, Collaborate, and Listen, by the way. I really appreciate your excellent work on that podcast over the years. Please keep it up!

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Hi Alfredo,

I really appreciate your comments, and will experiment with the square crop to see how I can emphasize that center section. When my LR adjustments brought out the grainy effect I was actually drawn to it, I think because it reminded me visually of rice paper or some such similar media that would complement the overall style.

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Hello, David. I don’t believe I applied any artistic filter, as I rarely use them. Honestly for this image I just played with the sliders in the LR develop module until I started honing in on a feel that I liked. So, I guess the answer to your question is “yes” - the look is intentional, even though I didn’t know what I was going for until it started to evolve in processing. I’m not sure that helps with your assessment, though.

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Thank you, Lon. I appreciate your comments and it seems there are common themes among the various folks who have offered input. I’ll take another look at the yellow while trying out the various suggestions offered. I may try posting a re-worked version to see what everyone thinks.

Thanks, Charles. I will work on simplifying the top left and focusing on the center, as you and others have suggested. I do appreciate your comment regarding the light, as that’s what really sets off this image to me. I think my frame of mind manifested in my attention to - and processing to emphasize - that warm glow.

Cheers Ric, looking forward to seeing more of your work here!

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There seems to be a consensus that the shrub bits hanging over the water are somewhat ‘busy’. And if we’re trying to mimic eastern art (Japanese specifically), I would tend to agree. Not terribly busy, but the bush could definitely stand a little pruning.

And I’m wondering if the easiest way to accomplish that would be to grab the old clone tool and thin things out…especially towards the upper left corner.

Just food for thought.

Thanks, RJ. It’s nice to have a consistent theme to the comments and feedback, and I appreciate you offering your input. I have a plan for revision!

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