Badlands of Utah

Here is a photograph I took before sunrise in Utah a couple weeks ago. This is 72mm looking down below a very high overlook to the east. It had rained overnight and there was water collected in the small chasms of the badlands. There was a lot of tan and blue in the shale which I tried to accentuate and separate as much as possible.

What technical feedback would you like if any?


What artistic feedback would you like if any?

Processing. Is it pleasing? Over the top? Too little?

Pertinent technical details or techniques:

Single exposure. 72mm. 13s, ISO 50, f/8. 6 AM. =) My processing technique is all over the map, but basically, basic adjustments in LR to get the historgram centered, then pulled into PS… I used Lum Masks to add curves to mid-tones, levels on shadows, etc. I also painted in some color to the tan using color selection and burning in lum masks.

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IG: @mattpaynephoto

You may only download this image to demonstrate post-processing techniques.

This looks like the scale at the back of a giant lizard to me, Matt. It’s very appealing. The composition works very well with the two darker hills on the left and right pushing the image in the direction of the center ridge. I don’t think the processing is over the top especially with abstract interpretation of a scene like this.

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This has an Alex Noriega look to it somehow. I don’t know what those qualities are but I sense them here. I like how you brought out the warm tones slightly to not make this all cool. The composition is solid. This also looks as though it might have been taken by moonlight. In fact this looks more like a night photograph than many that are shot at night. Beautiful work. I like this very much.

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Excellent image, Matt! I love the light, texture, color, and overall mood. I also like how, upon closer examination, you can subtly see topographic lines, like a map come to life. This really looks like it could be a distant aerial shot. To me, although the camera may have been perfectly level, my eye wants to rotate it a bit counter clockwise. Otherwise, fantastic. Well done.

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Matt, really a beautiful abstract! I agree with Igor and this looks like a night scene. Like many well crafted abstracts the scale is difficult to figure out and that creates interest. I also like the colors as presented.

Very Nice work!

Thanks Cameron! I didn’t see that before… I was trying to make it so the lines of the drainages led you through and out the corners… but I see what you mean as well!

Great image Matt! I really like the processing and I don’t think it’s over the top at all. My only suggestion would be to even out the light a little bit. It feels brighter on the bottom and darker on top. I like the balance in the composition and wouldn’t change anything there!

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Smart image Matt. I love the patterns and textures in the image. To me it is almost otherworldly. The geology here makes me think of the inner workings of the human body. Rivers running like veins, carving through the earth. This is how our world is brought to life and sculpted to what we see when we go searching for images.

I sort of see what @Cameron_Miller is on about with the rotation but I feel it negatively affects the composition. The ‘peak’ at the top of the center line loses it’s breathing space at the top of the image and the river that starts in the top left no longer does. The same can be said fo the riverin the lower left. The original comp feels more balanced to me, with lines eminating from the corners.

I think the editing is really ace in terms of textures and tones, although the blues may be a touch to heavy. It may be my eye, but they have a touch of violet to them. When viewing this on a white background (normal for me) the brightest parts of the image look spot on. When viewing on a dark one, they appear too bright.

Overall its a great shot Matt! I just want to go there and see it for myself one day :grin:

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Great take from a spot I know well. Going back and forth between the original and Cameron’s rotation, I prefer it as posted. It gives the image a nice tension and flow that works for me. Dark and moody, good stuff!

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Matt, your image works as an impressive abstract to me. Your treatment of colors is consistent with the overall feel to this scene to my eye.

I am thinking about the lines leading to the corners. Maybe a slight crop at the top and bottom would help to avoid this an thereby make for an appealing kind of tension. Just my personal opinion of course. And I appreciate the imagea lot as presented.


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Matt, I really love this image, it has a very organic feeling. It sort of reminds me of the HR Giger designed spaceship interior in the movie Alien. And it also looks a bit like lava flows. So I love it when an image gets me thinking like this. I think the processing looks great, and I do not think the blue looks over the top, instead I think it creates a wonderful mood.

In terms of composition, my only nit is that the very strong line in the top center and the minor line in the URC, lead my eye out of the image. I would prefer to see a crop from the top to minimize that effect.

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Thank you kindly Ed. Appreciate the feedback a lot!


Gorgeous! Fantastic job with the colors. I think you were successful in separating the blues and tans - although quite subtlety. What stands out to me is the scale - or lack there of. Simply a fascinating scene of nature and an excellent job seeing, capturing and presenting this one. No nits at all.


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Thanks Lon! Yeah, scale is hard to insert in a scene like this, for sure. It could be a macro shot or a telephoto, or wide angle… who knows =) I think sometimes that’s a good thing.

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Hey Matt, Just another take adding some warmth in the highlights.

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Thanks Ken, appreciate your thoughts on it. I kind of think the water looks like urine in that rendition and it certainly does not remind me of the experience. I almost want it to be more “silvery” because that was what I remember it looking like, but I also appreciate adding that touch of warmth too!

Ummm…urine. A precise observation that typically hasn’t been used to describe color in photos :laughing:
Maybe this silvery rendition is what you seek? Or not.