Above and Below

![Above and Below]

Dark Version

Light version

From my recent Fall colors trip 2-3 weeks ago. As I was exploring northern Utah for Fall colors I came across what looked to be a promising grouping of rocks along the side of the road. This was my last day in the area and as luck would have it, it was also a Saturday and this little section of rocks was along a main thoroughfare for seeing fall colors and the road was pure mayhem. Cars were literally not going more than about 5 miles per hour and because of this, many cars would simply pull out where these rocks were and the kids would climb all over them. It made it challenging to capture something without a person in it but I found it pretty fun exploring the area. This is one of a few images taken in that area.

Specific Feedback Requested

I cropped an additional step at the bottom because I felt the composition was just too long so does the chaotic composition work?
I left the stairs fairly bright and darkened down the rest of the rocks. Should I further darken the rocks to the right of the stairs?
Any and all comments and suggestions are very welcome.

Technical Details

Z7ii, 24-70mm lens @ 29mm, ISO 125, f/16, 2 seconds, manual exposure


David, well seen. This is really striking. The colors are spectacular. I think I like the darker version. You mentioned cropping out a step. If you cropped an additional step at the bottom you’d end up with three steps which is one of those magical compositional elements. This is a wonderful intimate landscape scene, David. Well done.

I like this composition a lot. I like the darker version the best. It feels mysterious and makes you wonder were those stair steps go. The blue color in the stone and the rusty, red colors that blend in so well really make this a unique image. I don’t think it’s too busy at all. Great way to spend time during a traffic jam. Nicely seen!

Excellent image in my opinion, but I’m pretty biased towards such compositions. It sounds like your roadside experience was pretty similar to mine in Alaska, but with more traffic. The light here is so good that you got all these rich tones without any of it looking overly contrasty. I also think that the blue and rust is a great color combination that also makes this image. For that reason a b&w version of this would probably look much weaker. I even like the white frame around it. I think it adds a lot to the presentation in this case. Which one do I like more? Probably the lighter version. I would do a 13x19 print of each one, paste it to the wall, and then take a gander every day until my feelings became evident. That’s what I do. To make things fair, however, I would darken the light warm area in the top frame of the lighter version as it draws attention. The reason I like the lighter version is that the colors in the lighted area are now richer and that adds to the image. However, it makes the composition more complex and less dramatic. For that reason I feel there is no ‘better’ image. It’s now a question of preference. The darker version would make a better b&w print. I feel confident about that. It may actually be a stronger composition as well. Yeah, I’m starting to drift towards the darker version as well.

Darker one for me. Love the colour and light. Something primordial and the steps harken to ancient temples and time lost. The fact that the actual context was kids running all around in the midst of a traffic jam makes it all the more enjoyable.

The geometry of this image is compelling to me, as are the colors. I’m drawn more to the darker version as it puts more emphasis on the stairs.

Hi David,
this the type of image I like to see big on paper so I can wander around for a while…
you could look at this image for a long time.

I believe color plays a major role in this one.
I do like the lighter version better, but could use the darken version for vignetting on top and the right hand side.

Very nice.

A really great image that you could get lost in for a while. I agree with Joao´s idea to blend the two images. There are a few really dark shadows, have you tried to brigthen them a tad?


Didn’t you mean to title this, “Stairway to Heaven?” Ha Ha! Well, at least that’s what came to mind for me.

And heavenly this image is! Great comp, rich colors and the geology - and geometry (always got those confused in school…) are wonderful.

for me, cycling between the two, I prefer the darker upper area for the simple reason giving more emphasis and slight separation with the steps.

Not nits or suggestions. Excellent!


thank you @David_Bostock, @Donna_Callais, @Igor_Doncov, @CharlesV, @DeanRoyer, @joaoquintela, @Ola_Jovall, @Lon_Overacker for your Terrific comments and suggested edits. Yep, I should rename this one “Stairway to Heaven”, Lon.
I’ll try bring the blacks up just a smidge as well, @Ola_Jovall.
I love the idea of printing both versions out and just letting them play with my brain for a few days to see which one I like @Igor_Doncov. I’ve never done that.
I agree that color plays a vital role in this image and darkening the right side in the darker version kills some of the color in that area. Maybe I’ll try to didge just the color areas to bring the color back on the dark side. You’ve given a lot to think about and I’ll try and put it all together in another version. Thanks again, everyone!

This is really intriguing @David_Haynes. First, am curious if these steps are man-made or natural. Second, I wonder if these are leading me up, or taking me down (I think the former!)

I like the darker version. The colors just seem so rich and the darkness goes with the mystery for me.

Beautiful small scene!

David, this is an amazing composition for me. The darker version definitely works better for me, it helps me to focus on the steps. I follow them downwards and then upwards again, thereby always keeping my attention within the frame. The colour contrast is striking to me.

My only suggestion might be to desaturate the greens in the lower left corner in order to simplify the colour palette. But this is only a minor matter, I enjoy your image a lot as it is.

I’ll throw my vote in for the darker version, but generally just wanted to concur with the others that this is a really compelling composition. I love both your use of form and color.

This is an interesting find. I like the stairstep formation in the rocks. My preference is for the lighter version because it makes the formations stand out a little bit more. The color, patterns and textures in the rocks keep my eyes engaged in the scene.

This is a wonderful image David. I agree with Igor that the color in the lighter version is richer which leads me to prefer it as well. Your composition works well as is.

Thanks very much @Eva_McDermott, @Brian_Schrayer, @jefflafrenierre, @Peter_Richter, @Mark_Muller for your very kind thoughts and suggestions.
Mark, these are most likely just fractures in the rocks as they would no purpose if they were man made. They don’t lead anywhere except out of the frame. LOL Thanks for your comment, Mark.
Thanks very much Brian and Jeff. This image seems to have everyone split between darker and lighter. Perhaps I should try something in between? Thanks Again!
Thank you, Eva. I appreciate it very much.

I agree with everyone else that this is a very compelling photo! I have a slight preference for the lighter version but think both work well. The bottom stair does catch my eye since I might want it totally in or totally out. Having the corner right on the edge, especially with the brighter spots, makes that part of the composition attract more attention than it might deserve. You could consider cloning out or darkening the little bright spots on the edge. Otherwise, a great photo!

1 Like

Wonderful image David; congrats on the EP!

For a second I thought this was the same set of rocks everyone shoots in Death Valley, and you had flipped it 90 degrees counter clockwise, until I read your description. That being said, I do think this works nice horizontally, flipped 90 degrees clockwise, and doesn’t “feel” like it’s on its side. To me right now it strangely feels like it’s sideways, maybe because of the way the other subject matter is that I referred to. Very cool image though and I love the colors and moody shadows.

I’ll have to try flipping this one Eric. I shoot Death Valley a lot but have not heard of the rocks you’re referring to. Now you’ve got me interested! :slight_smile: I can totally understand how you feel this looks like it’s sideways. That’s pretty funny. Thanks for chiming in Eric.