Old Friend + rework

Since last fall I’ve had an increased interest in woodland/tree photography. I chose to go to this location that morning because it was foggy and would help mute the background. By the time I had chosen and setup on this subject the fog was clearing. I just waited for the sun to come through enough to light it up. I wanted to capture the feeling of the cold and dreary conditions.

What technical feedback would you like if any?

What artistic feedback would you like if any?

Does it give a sense of the cold and ?

Pertinent technical details or techniques:

(If this is a composite, etc. please be honest with your techniques to help others learn)
Just a single shot with some crop, nearly square.

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Charles, I think you captured the feeling of the cold and dreary conditions, so, in that regard your image is successful. That being said, I don’t find the image very interesting and I don’t think it’s because of the content or composition. I think the problem is that there is very little tonal variation, so the image is kind of flat and muddy. I can see that there actually are highlights in there and that with some judicious dodging and burning this could be a much more dynamic image. I mean, the tree and it’s relationship to the stump is wonderful and anything but serene (or boring). I also wonder whether working with this image in black and white might not accent the tone and line of this picture better than colour, which in this case (and strictly in my opinion) doesn’t add much and, I would say, even detracts from this picture’s strengths.

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I’m a bit confused by your images. I’m assuming one is the RAW image and the 2nd one is the processed version? Hope so, anyway. I like the finished product quite a bit, but I do agree with Kerry that a bit of dodging would help. The only real negative for me, however, is the one really tall branch sticking up. I played with the dodging and cloning most of that branch off.

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Hello Kerry, I want to thank you for your help with this image. Your suggestions were very good for this shot, and I appreciate them. I did apply them to the best of my knowledge and abilities with the processing and got an improved image in my opinion. For now I’m going to leave it at that, as it is taking it further from the vision I had for it. I think what I was trying to do with it simply wasn’t in that exposure, I was just seeing something that wasn’t there. Lesson learned. the good thing is this location is nearby and I can go back and shoot it again and again, as long as the tree stands.

Hello Bill, sorry about the poor communication. The first image is my original processed image, the second is a reworked version as best I could do, using Kerry Gorden’s suggestions. While I do like the second one the best it is further from what I was trying to get. I don’t believe what I envisioned was possible with the weather and lighting conditions and the exposure I made. For now I’m going to leave it as is, and that is ok. This location is nearby and as long as the tree stands I will go back and try again for better conditions to fit what I wanted. Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge, it’s greatly appreciated. I like your improvements to the image.

Hi Charles,

The options presented above are very valid but I thought I’d offer a different perspective.

One of the strengths of the image is the fog and the mood it provides when contrasted with the form of the tree. You could emphasize the fog in the background and separate the tree from the background by applying selective contrast.

Below is a quick example.


@Nathan_Klein, I really like your version better than mine {except I like the long branch cloned out). Would you share a little of your process with us?

Hi Bill,

To enhance the fog and reduce the contrast in the background I duplicated the background layer in PS. With the duplicated layer selected I went into camera raw and applied negative texture, negative clarity and negative dehaze. In camera raw the image looks way too blurry and very unnatural. That’s where I clicked save and back in PS I changed the blend mode of the blurry layer to be screen and reduced the opacity to taste. I found a mask that selected mainly the background foliage as well as some of the water using the TK panel and that removed the tree and stump from the blur/haze.

I then selected the tree and stump and applied some mid tone contrast, some clarity and reduced their luminosity slightly.

I hope this helps. I think the key to this working is selective adjustments.


Hi Nathan,
I like your version it’s closer to what I wanted. I have a lot of learning to work on with PS, some of what you said is like a foreign language, zoom … right over my head for now. Thank you for your example and description, much appreciated.

Hi Charles,

I hear you on the learning curve on PS. I believe that it’s worth the effort of learning in the long term though. Below are some screen shots which hopefully show the process better.

Below is the duplicated blurred layer as it came out of camera raw.

Below is the result of the blurred image when it’s blended with your original. Note that the blend mode is screen instead of normal and that the opacity is 60%.

Screen Shot 2020-04-14 at 2.13.59 PM

I build the following mask using the TK panel.

The rest of what was done was brightness and contrast adjustments. Let me know if you have any questions.

I agree with @Kerry_Gordon about the original image needing more tonal variation (contrast). i also like @Nathan_Klein warmer and softer interpretation of this scene as well. Nathans rework has more mood and emotion in it that resulted from his re-processing of the scene.

My only other thoughts on this image are that I’m pondering the use of a horizontal orientation, rather than the vertical you used for this scene. Generally speaking, verticals work well for trees, because they are tall, and well, vertical. But in this scene you have some strong horizontal lines, the shoreline in particular, and even the right leaning branches of the main tree. I think using a horizontal, or square composition here would also create a stronger relationship between the dominant tree and the stump. I did another rework, starting from Nathans rework.

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Excellent. Thanks so much.

You have captured a good image, although more background fog would have enhanced the cold feeling. Alas, I think all landscape photographers have felt mother nature’s lack of cooperation! Nonetheless, it is a striking scene especially since the trees emerge from water. In a forest the feeling would not be the same. Nice work.

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