Sanctuary - Washington, 2016

Pertinent technical details or techniques to help others learn:

Nikon D600
24-120mm f/4 VR
Circular Polarizer, Tripod, Shutter Remote
ISO 100
2 sec

I did some dodging and burning on certain plants to make the circular shape of the composition stand out, but I was mostly emphasizing the existing variance in light due to the fact that the ferns were higher, and thus subtly catching more light, than the carpet below.

About the image:

I captured this image during a backpacking trip deep into the Queets Rainforest of Olympic National Park, Washington back in the spring of 2016. I thought I had only captured one image that I liked on the several-day trip, but as we hiked out, I had my eyes to the ground, watching the verdant foliage pass by along the side of the trail. The symmetry of this arrangement luckily caught my eye, and so I found my second image. I hunched over composing for an hour or so, while my compadres Ted and @TJ_Thorne hiked ahead, unaware of the fact that I had stopped behind them. This has remained one of my very favorite images since I made it, and it was so small and unexpected! You never quite know what you’ll find out there.

Please do not critique this image. Galleries are for sharing and discussion only.


Glad you stopped and can clearly see why this is a favorite. It’s outstanding and beautiful. Your enhanced processing is also outstanding. Kudos.

We thought you had gotten eaten by a bear. Thanks for the extra mileage in my backtracking to make sure you were alive.


I am in awe at how smooth all the green tones are, and don’t get me started on the flower. This is definitely one I would be interested to hear more about setting up the shot (was there lots of cleanup involved??) and postprocessing. I’ve tried to take somewhat similar photos since I first saw it and have never been able to make something satisfactory. It’s so hard to find perfect patches of plants!



What an incredible design! Perfection!

Still one of the best landscape images I’ve seen in the last few years. This one is burned into my brain as the pinnacle of what this sort of image can look like. Awesome stuff Alex! Like @Brent_Clark i’d love to know more about the process behind the image too!

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A wonderful impression of depth.

First time I have seen it. This is absolutely awesome!

The smaller version just doesn’t do this justice. I’m sure even the larger version we get so see doesn’t give this scene the respect it deserves. I think this is just awesome. Love the composition and the symmetry. Thanks for sharing this very cool image.

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Love the processing of the plants here. How they softly fade from light to dark. They glow without appearing artificial.

I love thoughtful images like this Alex. That ring of ferns really gives a sense of protection afforded to that sole blossom.

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Ha! How well I (and my wife!) can relate. We’ve spent many hours in one location when we separate. Not that the location necessarily deserves the extra time, but we individually walk back to the truck, find no one there, and leave again. It’s such an overt pattern that we now carry little handheld radios so we can keep better tabs on our movements and inclinations. But every once in a while the extra time and extra scrutiny of our surroundings produces a prize.

Your attention to detail and willingness not to be rushed by companions amply demonstrate the point. Nicely seen and captured! To me this has a distinct Bill Niel feel to it, and that’s a high compliment.

One of my favorite images of yours @Alex_Noriega! The composition is perfect and the processing done is so impactful! Really interested to hear about the processing as well, as many have noted above.

Lon, Bill, Ronald, Kathy, Keith: Thank you all, and sorry for my delayed reply! Glad you enjoyed the image. I can’t tag more than 10 users in a post, so I hope you see this…

@TJ_Thorne no problem, I know you didn’t feel like 10 miles in a day was enough, so I thought I’d tack a couple more onto your total.

@Brent_Clark thanks Brent! Some more on the setup: the ferns weren’t necessarily symmetrical to the naked eye. That’s mostly what I spent the hour hunched over doing, experimenting with slightly different angles and rotations, because the ferns looked to be unbalanced or in a square-like orientation some ways, and it was only this one rotation that gave the impression of an oval with the symmetry. The flower was also not really centered between the ferns, it was only from a certain angle (not pointing exactly straight down) that it appeared centered. An inch of camera movement changed its position completely relative to the ferns.

@Brent_Clark @Sam_Ison @Martin_Gonzalez thanks guys! Some more on processing: Aside from dodging up the ferns (selecting them via their natural brightness with luminosity masks), I did some darkening of some of the non-clover plants on the floor/carpet, so that the ferns would stand out without distraction. I also did a pretty heavy vignette, which worked easily due to the circular shape of the ferns. The ferns were naturally more warm/yellowish-green due to the subtle light they were catching compared to the shaded floor/carpet, so I used a cooler and more green white balance to homogenize the green color, coupled with lowering the saturation so it wouldn’t go nuclear. There was a lot of cloning of tiny distractions, but I tried to keep the plants intact. To preserve the overall softer feel, I made sure there were no harsh blacks on the low end of the histo.

@Youssef_Ismail I’m glad that came through, that was what I imagined as I shot it - that the flower was protected by the circle of ferns, hence the title. Thanks Youssef!

@Igor_Doncov thanks Igor, that’s what I was going for! The ferns were naturally brighter, and I tried to play up that contrast without going overboard.

@Hank_Pennington thanks for your comment Hank! Not feeling rushed when I’m zoned in on a composition is one of the main reasons I usually like to photograph alone. I also enjoy getting out with my friends, because they usually are happy to go off on their own as well, and we just reconvene afterward - but everyone has to be on the same page as far as the general area/subject matter/time spent. I love William Neil’s work, so that’s a huge compliment!


Thanks for sharing details and background information. These are the things that add to my learning. Exquisite final product.

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