St. Nicholas Peak and the Edge of the Wapta Ice Field

I spent last week at on a glacier mountaineering course in Banff NP, Alberta, based out of a hut on the edge of the Wapta Ice Field. Unusually deep late season snow (2+ meters) has kept the blue glacial ice still completely buried, but the tarns at the edge of the ice are starting to melt out and a classic Rocky Mountain sunset made for some nice photography one evening.

It’s been a while since I have posted any images, so I’m happy to have some new things to share from this trip and June field work in Ecuador over the next few weeks.

Specific Feedback Requested

I found the ice patch in the lower right foreground to be a compelling mirror for the horn of St. Nicholas Peak, and wonder if I should have done a portrait orientation to isolate that. On the other hand, cropping out the left half of the scene diminishes the sense of the grand alpine landscape I was trying to capture. What would you do?

Otherwise, I’m still learning how to use post-processing to its best advantage, so any comments there are especially welcome.

Technical Details

Sony A7RIII with Tamron 17-28 mm f/2.8: 17 mm at f/13; 1/10th second; ISO 64.

Post processing in LR and PS, using TK8 tools. Tonal adjustments to enhance mid-tone contrasts; some dodging on foreground snow/ice. Color balance adjustments to add red and yellow to sunlit rock, with saturation adjustments in the red tones, as well. Used Eric Bennett’s “Dark Brilliance” tutorial video to apply some new approaches. Minor sharpening with Topaz Sharpening AI.

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Hi Jeff, welcome back! This is a great image, a wonderfully wide vista.

I like how the foreground leads my eye into the scene. The sunset colors are wonderful. I feel it could use a touch more room at the top, more sky to give the peak some more room. I think cropping to a vertical would break the beauty of the scene. It needs that wonderful light on the left to compliment/contrast with the right side. Of course you could always crop to the vertical and switch to B&W, that might be interesting.

The reflections look great too.

I can’t help with the processing, because I use Capture One, but I know others here have plenty of LR, PS, and TK8 experience.

Looking forward to more glacier images and your trip to Ecuador.


Hi Jeff! This sure is a beautiful scene! I can only imagine the excitement when you saw how all the elements were laid out, especially with the wonderful light and those great clouds.

You have a lot of triangular shapes in your composition. The tallest peak on the right, the ice in the lower right, and the peak on the left. They’re all very close to the edge of the frame and point outside the frame, pulling the composition in all sorts of directions. There’s also the rocky mass in the middle foreground that is a wonderful presence, though not as bold as the ice formation just to the right of it. It too attracts attention and is close to the edge.

With a composition like this that’s being pulled in so many different directions, all the elements are competing for attention and are equally weighted. Cropping away the left side to focus more on the main peak and the foreground ice formation does help, but with those triangular elements so close to the edge, they also tug at the composition in opposing directions—some of which is further enhanced by the inherent distortion of a wide angle lens.

I write all of this to say that the photo itself is beautiful, but I do wish there was a way to further simplify it by reducing some of the elements, and that’s something that’s difficult to accomplish after the fact. I’m personally more drawn to the left side of the composition with the pools, the reflection, and the light on the mountain. This is the sort of scene I would walk through and observe from various angles without the distraction of my camera in hand—observing all the elements from different angles to see how I could align them and put just the right amount of emphasis on the right subjects.

I love the sunlit part of this image and all those reflections. In fact, the upper left 2/3rds of this image is where it’s at for me. Some viewers of this image will wonder why the shady snow patch in the bottom right corner is so much brighter than other shadowed snow above. I think that’s an issue. Actually, that snow patch just draws the eye too much in general. An eye for composition comes with time where it becomes almost second nature to see all the elements well balanced.

Thank you very much @David_Bostock, @Igor_Doncov, and @Ben_Horne for your feedback on the image. I think, Ben, that you’ve hit at the essence of what was bothering me, though I couldn’t have put it into words. There are a number of strong elements in the image, but they all lead the eye to the edge of the frame rather than towards the center. I can see that my indecision about whether to emphasize mostly the right side opposing shapes or the left side light and reflections weakens both sets of components. I’ve attached below a different composition that still grabs some of that nice left side light but sets the peak closer to the center and perhaps allows the foreground ice to lead into the photo rather than away. More breathing space above the peak, too, and the orange rock on the right is striking (no added saturation, btw). Still, I don’t know that this is as good of an overall image.

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This alternate view addresses so many of the things I had noticed from the first variation, and the warm light on the peak along with those sunlit clouds that seem to radiate from the peak are a wonderful addition. I still wish there was a hair more breathing room at the bottom of the composition, but you might be able to every so slightly darken the rock ledge down there to reduce the contrast and direct more attention toward the main peak. I would also consider every so slightly darkening the brighter reflection on the left edge along with perhaps the rock in the lower left. It’s fantastic to see you worked that scene for different compositions. Sometimes trying to show all the elements in a scene only serves to complicate the composition.

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A wonderful aline image. I have to agree with the consensus of the comments and I agree this is somewhat busy - said other ways, but a lot of very enjoyable elements, but attempting to include all of them at one. The alternate composition you posted is a much simpler and more pleasing composition. Both are beautiful - just one is a simpler, stronger and more compelling composition

Ben summed it up!

Yes, indeed great to have you posting and we look forward to more images from your journies. thanks for sharing!


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Thank you, @Ben_Horne and @Lon_Overacker for your very generous praise and useful suggestions. As always, this thread has been very helpful.

Here’s one more composition from that evening and general location. This would have been better with just the right morning light, but no such opportunity presented itself. Still, it amazes me just how great the dynamic range of the Sony A7 series is; this is a single exposure that has been adjusted in LrC and PS rather than an exposure blend.