Birch Dreaming Herself

VERSION 1a - even more vignette

My wife and I camped at this spot for two or three days and I kept coming back to take pictures of this tree. I couldn’t get close to them – they were across a densely marshy bay – but there was something about how they stood out. I must have taken fifty or sixty frames over the course of two or three days from every conceivable vantage point. But when I saw them in this light with the magical reflections, it felt like I was encountering something sacred. It all seemed so dreamlike that I was pretty sure this was the image I’d been waiting to find or was waiting to be found. What I want to convey to the reader is the sense of a dream-like encounter – am I dreaming the birch or is the birch dreaming me?

I began working on the colour version only to realize that no matter how I finessed it, it never felt quite like what I had envisioned. So, finally I went to monochrome and immediately saw something very close to what I’d experienced when I made the picture. I have posted three versions. The colour, as I said, is nice but doesn’t really capture the feeling I had when I made the picture and I’ve just posted it for your information. The other two are identical except one is sepia toned and the other straight black and white. I’m not sure which works best, and I’d be interested in your read on it. Any other critique or comment would be most appreciated as well.

Is this a composite: No

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For me, the sepia toning offers the image a sort of softness which isn’t obtainable with the straight black and white conversion, least as it currently stands. Switching between the two, the straight conversion feels a bit harsher, though I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps it has to do with the shadows toward the left of the tree, as they don’t feel quite as dense in the sepia toned version?

Out of curiosity, was the blurring vignette done in post? I would love to hear your reasoning behind the choice.

Thanks for your feedback, @Cody_Schultz and I’m pretty sure I agree with your take on it. The blurring was done in post for the purpose of heightening the dreamlike quality that I’m looking for in this picture.

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I actually love all three of the Kerry. This is a great subject that really stands out against the rest of the scene. The trunk is brighter, the reflection is more noticeable and it creates a nice tension that makes what would be a relatively lackluster scene into an eye catcher. The softening around the main tree does provide what I think you want it to provide which is that dream like softness but I think it could be more gradual/feathered. The sepia version has a more dreamlike color tone to it that the black and white does not quite convey. The B&W is a little bit harsher. Not sure why but the Sepia draws me into the center of the image better than the other two (maybe the blacks feel darker compared to colored sepia tones surrounding the blacks). So, if your intent is a dreamlike quality then I agree that the Sepia tone wins this but I really like all three. That tree just screams “take my picture Kerry”

All three are great, Kerry. But the B&W one stands out for me, personally. Well done.

I really like the soft focus vignette. I prefer the colored version the most, and then the sepia.

I like both the B&W and the color but the B&W is the ultimate winner. The graphic nature of the image really jumps for me in the B&W. The blurring effect really isn’t working for me, but I understand where you were going with it. A traditional vignette effect might work better for me, not sure. The “bones” of the image are excellent.

Very beautifully captured and seen! For me, with the whole photo, for the dreamy look, sepia has it. But if you were to just crop out the top part, keep the reflection and flip it right side up, the color all the way!

@David_Haynes - thanks for your input, it is very much appreciated. I am surprised that folks liked the colour version and makes me wonder if there is something I might do to bring it more in line with my vision for the picture. I think in the end, the sepia fulfills my vision best for the reasons that you and others have suggested. If you look at Version 1a up top you might notice that I did graduate the feather a bit more and also added more vignette, which seems to get things even closer to my aim. What do you think?
@David_Bostock - thanks David. Everyone seems to have their preference, which is likely why I felt a bit confused myself. They are all different takes and maybe it is a case of apples and oranges. For me, I think in the end it is the sepia with the reworks I made in Version 1a.
@Igor_Doncov - Ha! I want everyone to pick the same one and make my choice less difficult :wink: But as I said to David B above, there is a way in which there are three different images , each one having its own appeal. I take it as a compliment because what it means to me is that the image itself, no matter how I play with it, is strong enough to stand on its own.
@Harley_Goldman - Clearly no consensus on which is “best” - I really shouldn’t be surprised :upside_down_face: Personally, I really like the blurred vignette but I followed up on your suggestion. While there was already a traditional vignette in play, I decided to give it a serious bump and I quite like the result. What do you think?
@Vanessa_Hill - Thanks for taking the time to look and comment. Believe it or not, Vanessa, I actually did what you suggest when I was working on the image - flip and crop. It was pretty cool but not really aligned with my intention for the image.

The heavier vignette works better for me. A very good improvement to my eye.

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I think all 3 images images work as standalone entities, and any preferences are a matter of personal choice. It’s a good clean, simple composition that had a nice nice tonal contrast range that is effective in either color or B&W I agree with @Harley_Goldman that the stronger vignette on the sepia tone image is a nice improvement, and could also make a case that adding a stronger vignette to the cooler toned B&W would accomplish a similar improvement in that image.

My personal preference is for the cooler toned B&W, for it’s more classic look, for me I think the shapes of the trees stand out slightly more dues to it’s strong contrast. But I think all 3 are pretty good images. Random thought - you also have the ingredients of a potentially interesting triptych here if you presented all 3 versions in one image.