Burned Forest + Repost & Second Repost

I camped out in the Mojave Preserve on my way home from Utah. I was in a joshua tree forest that had burned during the Cima fire in the Preserve. The burnt trees were hauntingly beautiful. Great black and white trunks, yet extremely sad. I am hoping the image presents a bit of the ying/yang of that feeling.

D850, 24-70mm

Second Repost

First Repost


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I’m really enjoying this one! I had two competing initial thoughts…first one was black and white to further emphasize the ying/yang as much of the dark parts of the main tree could be set agains the lighter parts of the sky, lighter parts of the tree against a darker foreground/midground. My other thought, and I messed with it for a few minutes was to really warm up the brush/grasses in the foreground. Almost to emphasize the fire. Clash that with the cool bare patches and cool barren trees…You could be more careful than I was and probably come out with a more reined result.


I am getting the ying/yang feeling you write about. In this form the trees almost look like a new species. Thank you for sharing.

I like this image much much more than I initially expected. As you say the image is both sad and beautiful. The beauty is undeniable in the shape of the main tree. In fact the tree is sad with it’s drooping limbs and beautiful in the graceful shape. The sadness also comes from the colors being used. I can see how this could be just a portrait of the single tree but personally I like the presence of numerous trees all around. The biggest issue I thought would be the horizon line cutting horizontally across this vertical tree. I usually try to avoid this. However, the tree has such presence that for some reason it’s not that bad. There’s also some very faint sun light that adds to the image. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I really like it. It has plenty of emotion and that’s the main ingredient in my book.

Overall the mood to me is as you describe - a bit sad in many ways - but you have captured this well!
2 thoughts - a black and white conversion, especially if you have one filling the frame.
The other is getting up close with a wide angle and using that sky as the background - this will make the subject stand out better imho ( reducing the impact of that horizon )

Hi Harley,

I would like to see the cyan reduced and warm the image slightly with an adjustment to the white balance. Somewhere between David’s and yours in terms of warmth. Horizon does not bother me…Jim

Thanks @Igor_Doncov , @David_Wallace , @Jim_Zablotny , @DeanRoyer and @Karl_Zuzarte for your comments and suggestion. Jim, interesting thought on the cyan. I backed it off and also did a little warming as suggested by you and Dave and reposted. I find I like the perspective as is, as it gives a feel of the depth and vastness of the desert and surrounding trees. Much appreciated for all the input.

Harley, kinda late to the post here. These old J-trees are excellent subjects under many conditions such as you’ve posted here. When they become scorched or just old and ragged over time they can present a truly eerie feel about them. With that said this one gives that bit of creepy feeling to it… :sunglasses:

I think you captured exactly what you were feeling when you saw these burnt J trees. I am really liking the emotions being given off by this image and the very Dr. Seuss like, whimsical nature
the main tree portrays. What a character. Definitely the star of the show here.
I do like the warmed up version slightly better than the original. Superb image!! Very sad but Superb!

Whoa, I like this a lot. This is a very different take on the Joshua trees. You have captured a very nice light on the white trunks, too. This is more of a comment than a nit but it’s hard for me to overlook the slanting faux horizon. I think this is just me though.

I do appreciate ying/yang of this story. There is something strangely compelling about the starkness of the trees, maybe it’s their Zebra like stripes. I do prefer the warmer foreground.

A very minor nitpick that may only come into play if this was to be printed large. In the background mountains on the right edge, there is a strange edge between blue and gray. I’m not sure if it’s natural, or if it’s a processing artifact, but it looks a bit odd.

Good catch, Ed. There was some weird stuff going on. I fixed it in the master file. Thanks

A very stark image that is rather depressing as well. I really like the contrast between the burnt bark and the whiter areas and I think that there was also a chance to take some interesting high key shots of the top branches. I went ahead and did some editing doing the following:

  1. As Ed mentioned, there is a very strong blue cast in the distant mountains so I made a mask in PS and knocked down the cyan and blue saturation by a considerable amount.
  2. I added some contrast, shadow brightening and structure in Viveza 2 on all areas of the tree. As well as darkened the sky a bit.
  3. In Color Efex Pro I used the polarization tool to darken the lighter areas a bit and add a bit more visual “dynamic range” to the image.
  4. I warmed the image up a bit and also knocked down the saturation by a few points to keep it looking natural.
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Thanks, Dvir. I very much appreciate your efforts and thoughts. I will compare the versions and take a hard look at incorporating your changes. :+1:

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Thanks again, Dvir. I don’t have all your plugins but your post got me going in a slightly different direction and was most useful. I left some of the blue in the back mountains, a very common thing in those deserts. But I did make some other adjustments and really like the end result. Your post was very helpful.

I didn’t find this either in a rebirth state, nor a depressing state but rather a “meh” state. It is a good image but it lacks a stance.
I went with giving it more of a look of renewal, a place coming back from utter devastation by brightening the “flowers”, taking the far background out of the equation to push all the focus forward and then gave the sky a good color boost.
It’s an idea that perhaps you can work with or discard as not your cuppa. It is what I like about this forum; no pressure to do anything, but just good, thoughtful suggestions.

I think your second repost perfectly portrays the conflicted emotions you were feeling at the moment you tripped the shutter. I don’t think I would have recognized these as J trees without your story behind the image. I couldn’t help but think of a zebra and their stripes. For me the darkened sky only adds to the feeling of sadness.