Sacred Spaces

This waterfall is one of my favorite spots in the Smokies. The waterfall is just so photogenic and I have often had it to myself for 30 mins or more at a time. The last few times that I have been here I have made it a point to put the camera away once I am happy with my composition and just linger. It’s a great place to lose yourself for a while.

This composition is the result of finding an image within an image from a previous photo that I took from this spot. I noticed this composition when I was zooming in to check sharpness on another photo. I made it a point to experiment with this composition when I was there last fall and revisited it on my recent trip to the Smokies where I took this image. I have learned a lot from this refining process.

What technical feedback would you like if any?

All comments and critiques are welcome. Given that I tend to process photos a bit too darkly I’m curious on your thoughts about whether it is too dark. I left the shadows dark to provide contrast to the bright leaves and waterfall. There is also a bit of clutter under the rhododendron on the right.

What artistic feedback would you like if any?

All comments and critiques are welcome, but I’m curious about your thoughts on the composition.

Pertinent technical details or techniques:

(If this is a composite, etc. please be honest with your techniques to help others learn)

24 mm
f/13 @ 1/13 sec.
ISO 800 (to freeze movement in vegetation and retain texture in the water).

Single image RAW Capture
RAW Processing in Lightroom to balance highlight and shadow detail, light capture sharpening
TK’s luminosity masks to add midtone contrast, reduce the brightest highlights in the water and to lift the shadows. Also used TK’s clarity filter. I think that I experimented with an Orton effect, but preferred it without it.

If you would like your image to be eligible for a feature on the NPN Instagram (@NaturePhotoNet), add the tag ‘ig’ and leave your Instagram username below.
You may only download this image to demonstrate post-processing techniques.
1 Like

I think this looks real nice, Brian. The falling water has nice texture and tonality. I like the light a lot, and you did a good job realizing it. I do think the shadows could be opened up just a bit–not much, though. You might consider burning down the tops of some of the brighter rocks.

Well done.

Great shot, Brian. I can see why you like this place. The shadows probably could be opened up a little more and the brighter spots on the rocks burned a little, but neither is a deal breaker.

Hi Brian! This looks like a really cool spot. So lush and green.

With regards to compostion I think this is heading in the right direction but for me it lacks flow though the scene as well as the foreground being being quite busy. I can see that there is not a huge amount of water in the river at the moment and I think that attibutes to not having the fore and background linked (IMO this is quite imprtant in river scenes. Saying that if there was more water you have arranged the photo well so you would get that flow. I would definately try and visit this location again with this in mind. This may also help the busy foreground.

The other element I would suggest focussing on is to minimise distractions. For me the tree covering part of the waterfall is quite distracting and my eye was immediately drawn to it after seeing the falls (as they are the obvious highlight). I’m not sure if this is possible, but if you had taken a few steps to the right you may have been able to line the waterfall and the river up, also eliminating the tree brances over the falls. I have no idea where the bank ends or how deep the river is :rofl:

Hope that all makes sense and helps!!



I really like the composition here. I like that the falls is off center and I do see an “implied” flow (even though the boulders separate the water/flow) - but the little streams of outlet bring that connection back for me. I suppose you could bring up the shadows a wee bit, but honestly, I think you’re depictlng the location nicely (even though I wasn’t there…) It just seems that this location is deep within the forest/mountains and light is a bit hard to come by.

I was thinking of a crop off the right, but the creek/rock below would be problematic. I think maybe just burning down the rock in the LL would be about all I can suggest. I think you did well in both composition and processing given what looks to be a difficult scene.


This looks so inviting with all of the heat we have had here in MD lately. It does look like a nice spot to linger and lose yourself away from the crowds as you already mentioned. The composition itself works just fine for me. I particularly like the highlights on the rhodie leaves and the surrounding trees. I too would tone down the tops of a rocks just a little just to match the rest of the scene. Did you happen to get any closer to the falls so the tree would not intersect with them, as I think that would also work. Anyway, beautiful image.

Brian, I do not think the processing is too dark, the shadows are nice and rich. The colors of the yellows and greens in the foliage look very natural and appealing as well. I especially like the way you processed the luminosity and color above the falls.

In terms of composition, I do not think the water flow is interesting enough to include this much foreground. I think the most interesting elements of this image are the falls, and the foliage framing the falls. As such, I would suggest cropping away from the bottom to place more emphasis on the falls. I would also suggest burning down the bright rocks in the mid-ground, also placing more emphasis on the falls. Perhaps something like this rework