Life Roots, Image from Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

This is a small cascade in Ricketts Glen from this Saturday that is otherwise full of massive waterfalls. I really love these small little glens with trees hanging over the water and moss on the rocks. I used a wide angle at 16mm and got extremely close to this cascade, attempting to have it lead to the old gnarled tree, growing on a rock, its roots intertwining and reaching out for the water below. I really loved this scene and I focused stacked three images to try and make sure everything was sharp. I am interested to know whether people think this composition works and if the water leads you to the tree like I attempted. Thanks!!

What technical feedback would you like if any?

Focus stacking, sharpness, etc.

What artistic feedback would you like if any?


Pertinent technical details or techniques:

(If this is a composite, etc. please be honest with your techniques to help others learn)
This is a Focus Stack of three images at 16mm. I was about 9 inches from the rock in the foreground. Dodging and Burning, Tonal Adjustments, and an orton effect in photoshop.

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I like this. The rocks and cascades do lead your eye to the tree. The orton effect is not too strong which is good. IMHO I would clone out the blob of water scum at the base of tree. It grabs the eye which is not good.


Nice and lush, the rocks definitely lead you to the tree, where its roots spread out the view to the forest! In addition you have a nice little cascade, well exposed. The focus stack looks good in my eyes. I agree with Michael about the foam. It draws attention, and is not pretty. If I stumble upon this and can reach it I remove it with some splashesof water and then quickly take images after that. :slight_smile: I think I would try to add a touch of blue to / remove some greens from the shadows in the lower half of the image.


Thanks Michael! Funny thing is that it was very noticeable to me when I was shooting and I had the same thought that I would end up cloning it out, but it didn’t bother me during the editing process until you said something. Now it looks like a glowing ball to me lol. Good point.

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Well said Ron. Thanks for the advice. I agree with both of you guys. That helps a ton!

I also like this a lot, Matt. I would consider working on the triangle of brighter water flow on the lower left corner and also the scum at the base of the tree. It will clean up the image a bit more. When viewing large, I think the detail starts to get a little crunchy to me (especially on the tree trunk) but it hasn’t crossed to the area of being oversharpened.

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Great points Adhika. Thanks for the advice. I actually enhanced details only in that tree trunk, attempting to separate it from the background. After looking at it 100% I tend to agree with you. A little to much sauc.e I would say, especially after some overall web sharpening.

Matt, I like this image a lot, it is very moody and mysterious looking. The focus stack looks great. The processing is dark, but i think your dodging and burning has helped direct the viewers eye effectively. I love the position of the foreground rock, but I might consider a small crop from the bottom to eliminate that dark band at the bottom of the rock (personal taste though).

If your ethics permit this kind of stuff, and you want to get really picky about eliminating hot spots, you may not want to stop cloning at the foam. I’ll admit cloning the log away may be more than some folks would do, but to me it’s an eye magnet because it is so bright, and right at the edge of the frame. I tend to get picky about stuff near frame edges myself. Just my $0.02.

Haha, this is the story of my life at times, @Ed_McGuirk!

Haha, this is the story of my life at times, @Ed_McGuirk!

Mine too Adhika, but it sure beats “gardening” it away in the field, in this case @matt_fischer would have had to get wet feet to remove this stuff.

@Adhika_Lie @Ed_McGuirk Great comments Ed. I agree with the crop. That was a similar thought I had that I think I will employ in the final image. But I have to admit, I was already knee deep in the water when I took this, and removed some of the bigger sticks that had gotten stuck in the central cascade. I love being in the water! Thanks again guys!!


This is a lush and beautiful scene that has an intimate and remote feel to it - like it’s deep in the woods, unseen by few humans. A quiet and peaceful feeling to it.

For me, the composition is a little awkward if I’m to be honest. Yes, the rocks and water lead the eye to the tree and that flow works well. All the interest and beauty in the frame seems pushed against the left. The right half of image isn’t nearly as important or the subject as the left half is with the beautiful and lush greens and tree up top and the wet rocks and flowing cascade at the bottom - all of which are on the left.

This might be a novel and certainly drastic alternative, but thought I would toss this vertical pano crop out there. I kinda like it. I crudely cloned out the foam ball and agree something should definitely be done with that in whatever final image you settle on. Also, I burned down the log on the left.

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Hi Matt, I don’t have much to add that hasn’t already been covered but I do think the color tone of the water needs to be tweaked a bit, either through desaturation or a temp shift (or combination of both). I might also warm up the foliage some to help emphasize the glow of the dappled sunlight but that’s more personal preference.

One interesting idea… I agree with @Lon_Overacker that the composition is very left-heavy in regards to where the eye is drawn. I wonder if it would feel better flipped? For those of us that read left to right… I don’t know. I think, ultimately, I’d like to see more of the water that’s currently on the left, not sure if the scene would have allowed for more of that or if there were other objects preventing you from going a bit wider in that direction.

Overall, though, I love this scene. I’ve been hooking on wooded waterfalls this year so it’s definitely calling to me. :slight_smile:

@Adhika_Lie @Lon_Overacker @Michael_Rung @Ed_McGuirk @Ron_Jansen @Michael_Lowe
Thanks heaps for the suggestions here. I put some final tweaks on the image and came away with what in my opinion is one of my best ‘intimate/small scene’ images I have created to date.

I especially appreciate the awareness to some of the ‘hot spots’ that I have now cloned out/burned down. I had already warmed up some of the BG foliage and cooled off/desaturated some of the foreground water in the original, but I boosted both of those adjustments a bit per some of your suggestions and I quite like the result. As for Lon’s point about the image being heavy on the left side, I tend to agree with you and I struggled with choosing an angle compositionally in the field because of this. I tried to open the left side more originally, but it just felt like the cascade and rocks led your eyes right out of the image in that case. I think the composition would work better if the trunk of the tree was a bit less angled, but I still like it personally. However, I cropped down a bit of the bottom and right side, keeping the same dimensions, and it centers the frame a bit more for me.

Per Michael’s suggestion, inverting the scene is an interesting idea, but I think it is a bit too much distortion for my tastes.

Many thanks again and any feedback on this updated image is appreciated. Sorry for the long winded response.

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