Shallow Roots

An interesting tree from a canyon in Utah.

D850, 70-200mm


So amazing the niches life can carve out for itself. Great find. Some scroll cropping shows if you lose the top 1/3 of the image it focuses attention on the tree and the contrast between the rocks. And it might be a bit cool/magenta in cast. That often happens in shade. Give it a try and see what you think. It’s an arresting image.

The image and title make me wonder if the very thick, old roots are shallow or whether they run all the way to the bottom of the canyon. If you have another chance at this scene, maybe move to the right a bit and put that gloriously smooth rosy wall behind the tree. I know you will probably say the next step to the right is a very long one …


What a cooI tree, it looks like Dali painted it! I do like this as presented, but I also feel it would be even stronger with a crop off the top. I like the colors as presented.

I agree with this. A less busy background would make the branches more prominent. I suspect you already know that and have a reason for the way it is. I do think the contrast of white against that background works well.

Thanks for the comments and feedback, @Kris_Smith and @Alan_Kreyger. @Igor_Doncov and @Dick_Knudson , as the bounce light deep in this canyon was steady, I had a lot of time to compose this. The best view was from a small ledge and a step to the right would not have ended well. :grinning: This image does not seem to be resonating with others, but I actually quite like it. I find that happens a fair amount with my work.

If you love it, that’s all that matters. I’m in a fever of writing and thinking out loud about this subject while looking at the prints of my work on my walls. Some only sing to me.

Oh and glad you didn’t take a header!!

I agree with this to a degree. But why ask for critiques if you’re going to ignore them?

I think it comes down to understanding the critiquer’s point of view and why he/she thinks that way and then deciding if this still applies to your intentions. Rejecting is still a dangerous thing to do. They may be right or they may be wrong. Art is so much tied to gut feeling that making the right choice is not often clear. But I think if you’re consistently getting the same objection to a number of images then it’s really time to reasses your values.

Perhaps the biggest impediment to accepting a critique is becoming emotionally invested in an image that you worked so hard to create. It affects your perception. This happens to everyone I think.

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Yes, to some degree and it’s taken me years to mature to the point where I can accept criticism with any degree of grace. But what I was getting at is this - aside from looking for input for growth and improvement, sometimes an image only resonates with the person who made it. And that’s ok in and of itself. Vision is a very singular thing and I don’t value of my images only when others do. Oh sure if others connect to them and help me improve them, that’s also valuable, but I don’t need the validation of other people to like my work. It’s my love of the thing that makes me want to share it in the first place. Know what I mean?

I’m not devaluing critique…I wouldn’t be here if I did, but the work has to mean something to me first.

Great conversation…maybe we shouldn’t hog up Harley’s post with it. Sorry Harley!

Beautiful capture, Harley. I do agree with @Dick_Knudson & @Igor_Doncov on putting the smooth wall in back of the tree, but that may not have possible. Actually, if you could do that, I would also try to fully fill the frame with just the tree, roots, and FG rocks as they are marvelous subjects just by themselves, and a smooth rosy wall behind them would just be a great plus.

I don’t believe it is necessary to embrace and incorporate every suggestion, as your “why ask for critiques if you are going to ignore them?” seems to suggest. I don’t ignore any of them but I don’t necessarily agree with all of them, which is fine. I still appreciate getting them and do consider every one. I don’t feel rejecting them is remotely dangerous and it doesn’t make sense to me for you to even say that. Even if 20 people tell me they think I should do something in my image, if that is not the way I want it, why incorporate it? Does that make it dangerous? I considered and decided it is not for me. Why is that dangerous? Because I did not listen to your opinion after taking it into consideration?

You have stated in the past there are rights and wrongs in composition and processing, and for beginners, perhaps. But at a certain level, it becomes taste and preference and there is no right or wrong. It is what works for the viewer and separately, what works for the artist. There is no need for the two to coincide, in my opinion. I love the critiques and frequently incorporate suggestions, but it is still my art and I do it the way it pleases me. If you feel that is a grave error on my part, I am okay with that, but I would definitely not share that opinion.

The danger is in self delusion. I would compare it to going to school. You can deny everything the teacher tells you but in the long run you lose out. The school environment is structured so that the role of teacher and student is well defined. Here it is not, so it is easy too discard that which is valuable. The danger is to dismiss as unimportant that which is important. That’s what I meant.

I wouldn’t take it personally. In fact, that too is dangerous and a barrier to learning. Digging your heels in is the best way to stop progressing. I believe I wrote that at NPN somewhere in the past. You’ll probably agree that some people will try virtually every suggested change while others will make very small, virtually inconsequential changes. It’s my belief that the former grow as photographers faster than the latter. That’s the ‘danger’.

How do you know whether I try various suggestions or not? Because I don’t post them like you often do? You don’t know that because I do try the ones I think have merit and the ones that don’t agree with MY vision of MY image I don’t try. I often incorporate suggestions and don’t repost the changed image. We do things differently and that is fine.

I have been doing this a while and I already know how some suggestions will come out. I don’t need to try them all. If you think that is digging in my heels and will limit my growth, you are welcome to that opinion. I don’t agree. I don’t think your school analogy has merit, either. It presupposes the teacher has far greater knowledge and experience than the student in the given subject. What we are discussing is opinion and taste, not factual information. It gets back to your opinion that there are rights and wrongs in art/photography and at the level we are at in our photography, I find those are tastes and preferences, not rights and wrongs. I have seen a lot of art in galleries and museums I think is awful, but critics and curators obviously love it. Am I wrong to dislike it and limiting my personal growth because of it?

We will have to agree to disagree. I suspect we could go on for days and end up about where we are now. It is an interesting exchange and I actually enjoy it, but perhaps it has run its course.

Either in spite of or because of the edgy tone of the conversation, this is an important educational discussion. I think Guy Tal has written essays on various aspects of this discussion.

Harley, you’re out of line here. This is a discussion about photography that you have brought down to a personal level. There is no point that your name is mentioned in any of my comments. I’m talking about critiquing in general and you are talking it personally and aggressively. The type of comments you have made should be passed as messages and not on a public board.

I would again disagree, but I apologize if you are offended. That was not the intention but that is appears to be how you have taken it. I felt I was responding to your points in the thread on my image, so I thought it was safe to assume you were talking about my response or lack thereof to critiques in this thread. My misinterpretation. You are welcome to take it up with David if you feel I was out of line.

Quite the opposite. If you review your comments you will see that it is you who is offended.

Interesting discussion. And your photo is lovely, Harley. The colors of these rocks are so appealing to me, and this composition is almost surreal. The foreground lighter rocks feel like they’re floating in front of the pink wall. I like the sense of space around the little tree, which, along with those interesting roots, gives the sense of how hard it has to work to survive. My one thought was that it would be nice if the background behind the tree was just a touch brighter. I gave it a try, brightening the background behind the tree just a bit, while trying to keep the tree’s darkness. Also added a very light vignette to make the center of the frame more prominent. Hopefully this doesn’t mess too much with your vision for this scene.

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Thanks, Bonnie. I like what you have done here. It does seem to make the tree stand out better. I will pull it into PS and play with that a bit. Much appreciated. Glad you found the discussion interesting. :grinning: I did as well. :+1:

Based on some of the emotions I have felt in the past, both in giving and receiving critique, at times there can be a fine line between disagreeing and negating. In the end, I find I sometimes do well to express “thank you for your thoughts” and move on. (But then I’ve done a bang up job at both offending and being offended on NPN over the years, so I recommend ignoring any advice I come up with.)

Back to photography and the idea to put the tree behind the smooth wall. I think that would make a nice image too, but I take the contrarian view that I like the tree right where it is just as well. For me, this image gives a surreal effect of leaves blowing off the tree; almost like an animated scene. All that background, and the way it lines up with the edge of the tree, makes me think of a wind coming from the bottom right and sending a shower of leaves heading up and right. I like that effect. I also find the colors to be beautiful, and the interesting contrast of the sandstone in the lower right corner is a very nice anchor.

@Bonnie_Lampley’s suggestions look very nice.