Everglades Mangrove Tunnels

I think I need some help here. Last weekend I spent a few days exploring some mangrove tunnels and creeks by kayak. I setup here for almost an hour waiting for passing clouds to soften the light a bit. Even with diffused light, it was a challenging scene to shoot and especially to process. I processed a few different versions now and just can’t get to a place that I’m happy with it. Any thoughts or ideas would be appreciated. Thanks all!

What technical feedback would you like if any?

Is the composition compelling enough? What else could be done in post to simplify the chaos of the scene?

What artistic feedback would you like?

All welcome

Pertinent technical details or techniques:

(If this is a composite, etc. please be honest with your techniques to help others learn)
Single exposure, Canon 5dsr at 20mm, iso 100, tripod, 2.5 seconds @ f/16

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Revision 2:

Gorgeous, Art. Love the color contrast and the inviting tunnel. If I were to suggest anything, it would be to consider a slight crop off the left side.

Art, these mangroves take the meaning of chaotic to a whole other level :grinning:

I like the tunnel effect, leading to the bright green area in the background. And I like how you used the tree bent at a 90 degree angle as a framing element. Yes these trees are chaotic, but overall I think you have done a good job of handling that here. in terms of simplification of this scene, I think the most you could do is crop a bit from both the left and the right.

This is subjective, but I think the image is slightly too dark. I would lift the shadows a bit, and dodge the highlights in the green sunlit areas. here is that plus a suggested crop.

Art, I like this immediately. The tunnel effect as @Ed_McGuirk puts it is very effective. And the peppered leaves in the water is beautiful. I think his crop centers the gate and that makes the image stronger for me.


I’ve viewed this a number of times and keep coming back. I’m like a fish out of water when it comes to this kind of environment, but much like a rain forest, coming up with compelling comps in such a random, chaotic environment is quite the challenge.

I do think you found a setup that was attractive and worthy of a photograph. Simply because the chaos is a bit more ordered with that “tunnel” effect - very effective and inviting setup. One of the challenges here is the very dark water - and thankfully the rust colored leaves come to the rescue adding some nice color.

I like the crop idea to reduce some of the extra chaos on the side; all that extra is not adding to what we know about the mangrove environment. The only other suggestion I have would be to drop the saturation of the green/yellows at the end of the tunnel - in the back. They’re ust a little towards neon - but not too bad.

Nice job pulling a little order out of the chaos.


Thanks very much all for the feedback. This was a tough one, as it was such an amazing experience being there for the day, and I’ve struggled to get a processed version that gets me close to that experience. With your help, I’ve uploaded a Revision 2 that I am much happier with. In my initial effort, my eye struggled to move past the framing elements of the foreground tunnel structure. The highlight/shadow balance in a few areas also just seemed off to me and I couldn’t rectify it. After a day away from it, and with your collective feedback, I have come to a version with subtle differences that I think improve the viewing experience dramatically.

@Bill_Chambers - thanks Bill. I agree. While a small change, incorporating it with the other changes in my second revision, the slightly tighter crop helps the eye move through the scene with less distraction.

@Ed_McGuirk - Thanks very much Ed. These mangroves are chaotic and wonderful for sure :slight_smile: The slightly tighter crop certainly helps, and I did change the highlight shadow balance a bit in the new revision, which makes the scene overall more balanced and brighter I think. I knocked the highlights down a bit on the foreground mangrove tunnels, and lifted the midtones slightly which reduced the distraction I struggled with on the first one. I did also lightly dodge the greens in the canopy as you noted. I agree that I darkened them too much in the first revision and the lighter version 2 seems more natural.

@Adhika_Lie - Thank you for your thoughts! The slight crop and the highlight/shadow balance change in the revision 2 helps the eye move through the tunnel more effectively I believe. Those leaves in the water which turn orange with sunlight through the tannin stained waters were a highlight of the composition for me too :+1:

@Lon_Overacker - Thanks for spending some time viewing this Lon. I’ve had to keep coming back to it as well to get a better understanding of what it needs . It was certainly a challenging scene to translate to 2D, especially without a heavy layer of clouds to soften the light further. I appreciate your feedback on the greens as well. I went back and forth quite a bit with those levels and ended at a place that looked appropriate on my calibrated desktop and in print, but it does certainly go neon on my other devices. I might drop it back just a touch so that it renders more effectively regardless of the display. Thanks very much for the thoughtful feedback!

For now I am going to live with it and I made a 24" print of the second revision last night. I am going to revisit it in a month or so and see if I want to make further changes after I’ve lived with the image for a while.

Thanks again everyone :+1:

Art, I saw this a few days ago but forgot to comment. This reminds me of a place where I put in my canoe, somewhere near Flamingo several years ago. I like it as it, but I tend to agree that cropping from left is a good option. I have fond memories of several paddling trips there. Thanks for sharing.

Wonderful Art. We have similar mangrove tunnels a short paddle from our Florida home, but I’ve never tried to photograph them. You’ve changed my mind with this. You nailed it!