Spotlight Ridge

This was a shot taken while waiting for sunset in Great Smoky Mountain National Park in May. It was a quick handheld snap to capture the ray of sun that landed on this ridge of trees, and because I didn’t have time to get my camera on my tripod (and didn’t use a fast enough shutter speed), the image isn’t as sharp as it could be and likely won’t ever be printed. I frankly don’t see this as a portfolio image, but I liked the shape of the ridge and lighting enough to see what I could make of it. Feel free to tear this one to shreds :slight_smile: Any and all feedback welcome for this shot.

Technical details:
Single exposure. Nikon D750 and Nikkor 70-300mm. 300mm @f/7.1 for 1/200 of a second and ISO 800. I cloned out a gap in the trees in the top right to keep the uniform background of hazy trees.

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What artistic feedback would you like if any?

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I like the diagonal formed by the foreground ridge and the way that it creates a yin-yang effect with the composition. The spotlighting adds interest along the edges. I could see increasing contrast and saturation a bit in the background mountains and in the foreground shadows.

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No need to tear it apart as you say> I think it’s a fine image. I really like these “edge of light” images as I call them.

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I really like the composition and it’s plenty sharp at this web size. I think the light is super pretty, Kevin.

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Kevin, this an outstanding image, and to me it’s all about the light, which is simply gorgeous. I like your processing of the shadow areas. you made them dark enough so that they set off the highlights nicely, but if you give your eye a moment to adjust, there is still plenty of detail in the shadows. While this is great as presented, I do agree with @Brian_Schrayer that a little more mid-tone contrast and a slight boost in saturation would make the background ridge even better. some dodging of the highlight areas of the back ridge would also enhance that hazy Smokies look too.

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Most all our photography is about light - and it most certainly is here. You’ve captured the moment beautifully.

Sharpness? I’d say the critical point in the image - that spiralized tree in the center, looks sufficiently sharp - at least in the web view. Sure, it looks like things get a little softer around the edges - but that also works like a vignette - keeping the eye in the frame, enjoying the light.

I certainly wouldn’t put this in the shredder! Thanks for posting. No nits or other suggestions.


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Thanks very much for taking the time to reply, everyone! Sounds like I was being a bit too harsh on this. I think I had stared at it for long enough that I needed some outside opinions.

@Brian_Schrayer and @Ed_McGuirk, good notes on the background trees and ridge. I think I had been so focused on trying to get the contrast right in the shadow areas and on the foreground ridge I forgot all about the background ridge. I’ll take a look tonight and play around with that a bit. And @Lon_Overacker, I actually hadn’t really noticed the spiral grown pattern of that tree, but I’m loving it now that you pointed it out! :smiley:

Strangely enough, the slight lack of sharpness works for the mood of this image. I like the current presentation. I would not add contrast to it because it could destroy that mood. You might experiment with that and see.

Very much like the unique light here and the yin-yang composition. Overall, it maybe feels a bit cramped at the top. A little more space above the hill on the left seems like I might be helpful, though I have a feeling this crop might have been the only alternative.

I too like the ridge of light Kevin. I would bring up the contrast in the background and bring up the contrast in the foreground. It may work well on canvas.

I like the graphic curve bisecting the diagonal across the frame and of course the slice of light on the edge. It’s pretty and yes I think it would make a pleasing canvas print.

No points of critique on this one from me. Just thought I’d tell you that I really love it. Great light and truly an example of a photo that places me in the moment.

Thanks again, everyone. I very much appreciate the helpful comments and support for giving this one more consideration than I think I originally did. I didn’t get a chance to sit back down to tweak this until today.

Although not unanimous, it sounds like the consensus was to add a bit of contrast to the background ridge. I decided to do that with the addition of a little dehaze and clarity via an adjustment brush in a Camera Raw filter in Photoshop, while still making sure to maintain the hazy look in the background the keep the ridge the obvious focal point. And @Tony_Kuyper, right you are about the composition. I feel that the top is a bit cramped as well, but this was such a quick setup that I unfortunately didn’t leave myself enough room above the ridge to crop differently.

This version has the slight changes I mentioned: