Proof of Life

Critique Style Requested: Standard

The photographer is looking for generalized feedback about the aesthetic and technical qualities of their image.


While everyone else was staring at the rocks and sands of Death Valley, I was drawn to the gnarled shrubbery and bright spots of color on the flower-dotted sides of some of the higher alluvial fans. I saw this as a black and white/color composite when I took out the camera, and this is what I managed to create when my processing efforts were finished.

Specific Feedback

I’m just looking for general feedback. This image is represents a much higher level of processing than I typically pursue in my photography, but it was fun to be more of artist than a landscape documentarian for a moment. I see some technical issues that are pretty hard for me to resolve, and I’m not sure the high contrast approach to the majority of the scene is the right path here, but this one still makes me stop and think.

Technical Details

So, the base settings were 100 mm at f/11, ISO 400 for 1/160th second. The sky was overcast and it was fairly windy. I used focus bracket to capture a total of 50 images with very slight shifts in the focal distance. After some general touchups in LrC, I used Helicon Focus to blend the images into a single frame, then used Nik Silver Efex Pro to convert the frame to black and white. Back to PS for a fair bit of dodging and burning, especially to darken the non-woody areas of the ground, then finally brought in on e of the original frames with the yellow flower in best focus, and manually masked the yellow areas into the black and white. A quick run through Topaz De-Noise got me close, but then I found several areas where very small twigs were not in focus (especially a couple that must have been closest to the camera). So, I used the spot healing brush in PS to try and clone these areas out. This is where I can still see some less than perfect technical work; hopefully it is not as noticeable to you, but pixel peepers will probably be disappointed.

Great Lines very Cool !!!

1 Like

First, I really like the title you chose.

Second is that it feels like a composite because the flower is so yellow, the branches so monochrome and that the former doesn’t seem to belong to the latter. Now I read your notes, it is a composite and so that’s interesting, but I wouldn’t say a failure. What I would do is tone down the flower’s saturation. Then it might be more on message so to speak.

Viewed large it holds up, but magnified the flaws come through. Who cares though. It’s an artistic image that took forethought and follow through to come together. The stack looks relatively good throughout and the flower is an interesting touch that I don’t think I’d ever have thought to combine. So for that, my hat is off.

Thanks for your feedback, @Kris_Smith. I have played a bit with toning down the saturation of the flower, per your suggestion. I’ll see what, if any, other suggestions appear for deciding to post a v. 2.0. I’m not sure it was clear in my initial description, but the yellow flower is there in real life. The composite is only in adding a bit of the original color back into the scene while leaving everything else monochrome. You’d still call that a composite, wouldn’t you?

Ooops, sorry for getting it wrong. The single color in a monochrome image isn’t a composite technically, but this one came across that way. If you feel like putting the revised image up in the OP for comparison, I’d be interested to see how that one strikes me (and others). It’s a really interesting and different photo.

Wonderful find and idea. Sounds like the flower was moving in the wind to complicate the processing a bit, but looks like you managed a nice save.