Fire out of darkness

I went out to my local park yesterday. While wandering around I was struck by this bare tree surrounded by other trees with bright yellow and red foliage. It was the middle of the day so the light was strong and contrasty. I decided to process the image to emphasize the contrast and impart a feeling of the light and energy emerging from darkness and languor.

Specific Feedback Requested

Did I go too far with the tonal contrast (and by extension saturation)? I want this to look realistic but the intent is not to document reality (whatever that means) but to convey my experience/feelings.

Technical Details


The colors and tones look good to me. I might crop to put the bright yellow center more centered in the frame. Is the vignette natural?

Dean, this is a nice find. I like the monochromatic feeling of the tree/branches contrasted with the yellow leaves in the background. Colors and saturation look fine to me. Very fun image.

Looks great to me, and I am NOT a fan of high contrast, FWIW. Interesting find and composition!

Thank you @Ronald_Murphy, @David_Bostock, and @Diane_Miller. To answer @Ronald_Murphy’s question, the yellow leaves near the center of the frame and where the light was hitting the bare tree were the brightest part of the scene. I emphasized the tonal contrast even more by globally reducing the exposure level and then bringing back the highlights (painting through a luminosity mask) but not around the edges–one way that I create vignettes.


I think you succeeded greatly in crafting a great image from what we classically think of “order from chaos.” Of course I wasn’t there, but from what you’ve produced, I would say you did a fabulous job crafting this image from what you saw and experienced in the field - to the final image.
Well done!

Minor thoughts - someone mentioned a small crop. I might agree shaving some off the top and right to make the yellow leaves more centered (and a case study when it’s OK to have your subject centered!)

Thanks for your explanation of “your vignette”. I think you’ve processed and presented this image beautifully. I was even going to suggest a vignette - so perhaps you could even take the edges further? (while leaving the reds and yellows as presented.)

The more I look at this, the more my imagination wants to take over. I can see this almost as a composite - the bare tree with highlights, sandwiched with one of Dan Kearl’s galactic nebulas… And even not a composite, but literally a bare tree with some fireworks, stars, galaxy or even paint splatter… This is just fascinating the more I look at this.


This is very nice Dean, I love what you got here.
Sure love the strong contrast .
I would try to burn those thin white branches.

I like the high contrast processing here to give it a night sky constellation appearance. The sunlit leaves sparkle like the stars in the heavens. My only suggestion is to slightly darken the highlights of the 4 main branches. A really fine image. I like how the tree goes from a strong base to a fine web of branches that sweep around. The sweep on the right also suggests the Milky Way to me.

Thank you @Lon_Overacker . I’ll try out a crop and see what I think. Love your imagination about nebulas, etc! Thank you @joaoquintela and @Igor_Doncov. I’ll try out burning the highlights on the branches as well.

Nice image, it works as both an abstract and capture of the beauty of fall. I agree with @joaoquintela about trying to burn some of the branches for even contrast. Thanks for posting, really great image, keeps the eye exploring and also works at a glance.

Thank you @CharlesV . I did follow through on an alternate crop and burning of the highlights and it is a definite improvement!

Dean, I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance earlier to say how much I am enjoying this picture. It really does have the cosmic feel of a constellation forming. You’ve handled the colour and luminance beautifully, though, as others have pointed out, bringing down the highlights on the main branches, would I think enhance an already excellent image.

No problem, @Kerry_Gordon . I like the cosmic interpretation.

I very much enjoy this picture and I really don’t see anything that jars. I think the title of your picture is very appropriate.

Thank you, Ian.