The Moment

This picture was taken 300 miles from nowhere on the Gammon River in Northeastern Manitoba. I woke up before dawn with the intention of photographing this birch forest. I spent 30 or 40 minutes finding the composition. By that time the sun had risen so I had nice diffuse light and took a few pictures. And then, suddenly, all of this golden light penetrated the forest right to where my camera was pointed. It was as though someone had called out, “hit the lights!” I felt as though I was present at the Creation. An absolutely transformative moment. Regardless of the product, it is for those transcendent moments that I do photography in the first place. Where I’d like some feedback in particular is the golden light. I actually created a colour mask in post and backed off the saturation a bit. I want that electric feel but not so much that it becomes psychedelic. Your response to this image would be most appreciated.


I am really enjoying the sweet light on these birches, Kerry. Birches are one of my favorite trees and the light here shows off some lovely details. The processing looks good to me although I could see just a little less cyan in the white trunks of the birch. I think if you cropped a little from the top or cloned in some leaves in those areas where the sky shows through it was elevate this beautiful scene another notch. This is well worth getting up early for. Nicely done.

Hey @Kerry_Gordon.

Really lovely golden light and very interesting image.
I can see why you lowered the saturation, for me its spot on as it is, a bit.
I also like the composition, the framing trees and the “tunnel effect” they make to that “odd” and more sun bathed central tree work very nicely.
If i could chance anything i would try to lower a bit more the saturation of that ULC patch, there is a patch under the lower right quadrant that’s a bit brighter but not a huge deal to me.

Thanks for sharing,

I like the warm light on the center tree trunks Kerry. I agree with Ed on cloning some leaves in the UL and UR corners.

@João_Ferrão, @Ed_Lowe, @Eva_McDermott. Thanks for your feedback. Here is a version where I’ve tried to incorporate it all. I have filled in most of the gaps in the leaves along the upper left and right sides as well as pulling back on the cyan in the birch trunks and reducing the vibrancy in the upper left corner. It feels a little stronger for it.


Yes, the golden light is transformative, and you captured it well. Your narrative introduction is notable to me as it tells the story and the feelings you had about the scene well. Your presentation of the image demonstrates that you have communicated your visualization of the image well. This is what photography is about. Congratulations.

I think you nailed it perfectly with the repost as all of the attention is now focused on the beautiful light in the birch grove. Nicely done!

Thanks, Ed and thanks for your insights.

What a fortunate moment in time to capture, Kerry. I feel your repost pretty much hits the mark. The light on that center small birch is amazing.


Beautiful image and I love the edits you made in the rework. Thanks for taking the time and considering the suggestion.

I’m gonna take a different angle as food for thought. First, it’s clear the light lovely at worst, and transformative at best (in reading this, what a pointless statement…) We all know beautiful light when we see it, and this certainly qualifies.

The light is so good that it’s affecting the entire scene! The luminosity is beautiful and the way you framed the trunks up front are making for a great composition. What I’m getting to is that beautiful, warm light hitting the smaller trunks and in the center of the frame are competing (somehwhat I think) for that "moment.

I wanted to play with it, but there’s no color profile and the color aren’t good opening with any color space (at least for me. could be just me.)

But anyway, I had two thoughts to push the attention back where it should be. One, some subtle, but enough vignetting and second, this what I wanted to try - by selecting the green channel (in either TK4,6 or 7 if you have it) and selectively darken the greens. And I’m talking small scale, nothing drastic.

Clearly and image worth perfecting and I hope you’re able to print.


Kerry, let me start by saying that it can often be hard to capture this type of delicate, filtered light in a forest, but what you have done in this image goes a very long way to capturing the mood and feel of this type of light. And I love birch trees, so this images appeals to me right off the bat. I agree with @Lon_Overacker, there is just something special about the luminosity of this scene.

Lon, when I pulled this image up in Photoshop, I saw it had no assigned color profile (Kerry you should figure out how to do that), but Phototshop brought up a dialog box that asked me how I wanted to handle it, and it allowed me to assign an sRGB color space to the image, and the colors looked the same as here on NPN. There must be some Photoshop preference setting which brings up that dialog box on color mis-matches.

With that said, I agree with Lon that some added vignette would slightly de-emphasize the white birches near the frame edges, and draw more attention to the lovely light in the center of the image. I also fooled with slightly darkening the green channel as Lon suggested, but did not like how that looked. Instead I tried the ACR filter in Photoshop, and played with hue under HSL. I pushed yellow towards orange, and green toward more green (but not a lot, otherwise you get the Emerald City look). These shifts help create some color separation and contrast between green and yellow, the leaves here are composed of both of these colors. Lon, this is similar to what you sometimes do with LAB color adjustments. I find these hue shifts can sometimes be effective in forest scenes. Here is my rework.

@Ed_McGuirk, @Lon_Overacker. Gentlemen, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the time and careful thought you have taken for this photograph. So, following your recommendations, Lon, I created a colour mask focusing on the lighter greens (I’m using the TK7 panel, at this point, which makes incredible colour masks.) Then I slightly pushed the hue towards blue, bumped the saturation a touch and lowered the brightness a touch. I also added a bit more vignette. I then made a second colour mask, this time on the golds and gave them a very slight boost. You can see the result here, which, to my eye seems very similar to Ed’s work in Camera Raw (although your version, Ed, seems to retain a bit more of the yellow in the leaves top centre.) I see what you’re encouraging me to do, namely a little more colour separation to get the golden light to pop a bit more. I’m not sure which version I prefer - Ed’s or mine - the distinction becomes pretty fine at this point.
A question about “assigned colour profile.” I find this kind of stuff a bit confusing. In Ps I have my colour settings (i.e., Edit > Color Settings > Working Space > sRGB) so, I’m not sure what’s missing or how I can set that up. Could it be some discrepancy between Lr and Ps that I need to rectify?
Again, thank you both for your interest.

Kerry, yes getting more color separation is the key point. My ACR Hue adjustment take yellow more to orange (and away from green) which is why it retains more of the golden color.

Assigning color profiles depends on your work flow. If you start from Lightroom, you are in ProPhoto RGB. I set my Photoshop color settings at Prophoto RGB and Gray Gamma 1.8, one of the combos suggested by Tony for better compatibility with Luminosity Mask creation. This also retains a larger color space in PS, which helps if you go to print.

So if from PS you use save for web to create a Jpeg for web use, the dialog box allows you to assign an sRGB color profile to the Jpeg. If you bring the PS TIFF file back into Lightroom and export it as a JPEG from LR, the LR export dialog box also allows you to assign an sRGB color space.

Thanks, Ed. I had to wipe my hard drive a couple of months ago and forgot to reset my colour spaces in both Lr and Ps. So, I’ve got that all squared away now. Now I know what my struggles with photography are - it was the colour space all along :laughing:

Kerry, first, I think your repost is looking great. It’s subtle, but I can see how the golden trunks and golden light central to your image are more emphasized now the the surrounding trunks are less of a competition. Great job on the rework.

To your question above, I’m pretty sure most folks have a working color space in PS as either Adobe 1998 or ProPhoto. I think the idea is to work and process your images in the highest possible color space, so, for example when editing you have less artifacts, banding or other issues while processing. 16bit, work on the highest quality image… Then start pairing down for printing or the web. And since you have TK’s v7 panel… when you do the sharpening action and then the “Save” button - that should automatically save it as sRGB, embed the color profile, etc. Then you just keep your master psd file in the highest color space. Hope that makes sense.

Thanks for taking the time to rework and post!


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Thanks Lon, and to Ed for the heads up. I went back and made sure my colour space was properly set up in both Lr and Ps. And, yes, I do use the TK7 panel for sharpening so that pretty much takes care of the transition as well.