by Melanie Jones
I enjoy landscape pictures and constantly trying to figure out how to improve my own. If I had captured this image, there are a couple of things that I would have noticed once I sat down for an evaluation. Landscape photography critiques are not my forte, but I do have some small suggestions.
The first thing I see is that the horizon line appears to dip to the left in the background near the mountains. This can be adjusted in post with the “transform” tool. Under this heading, “warp” is a tool that can be used to selectively adjust portions of a photograph while leaving other elements untouched.
Ansel Adams was a landscape photographer who changed the way the world saw landscape photography. He pioneered a system for achieving dynamic range, called the “zone system”. This system advocated a wide tonal range of grays ranging from pure black to pure white. Besides this tonal range that he encouraged, he had a personal artistic vision of how Yosemite looked to him. This wasn’t always how Yosemite actually looked in reality. Here is an image that shows the original capture of “Moonrise” next to the final image after it was manipulated in the darkroom. Notice that the original capture looks quite normal and nothing we would recognize as a work by Adams. The final image has more contrast with punchier blacks and brighter whites. It also appears to have more depth. The final image is what Adams saw in his head and he used the darkroom to realize his vision.
I would encourage you to push the boundaries of the file a little more. Try and see if you can get more tonal range in the shadows on the right side. Your edit looks far superior to the more dull, original capture but I think you can go further in your interpretation of the scene. Because landscape images are considered fine art, there is no limit to your artistic limits and vision.
The way you accentuated the different hues in the mountains on the left was an excellent choice. You did this as well in the green foliage on the right and it really worked to bring out texture. In fact, it worked on the stones as well. This is an excellent choice and looks like it’s heading toward an artistic vision that you can surely call your own.
Some of the things I tell my students about landscape photography are: watch your horizon line (don’t be boring with your placement of it by placing it dead center). I tell them sometimes it’s nice to direct the viewer to the most important element of the scene – either the foreground or the sky by including more of one or the other. I think you did a great job with that! Another tip I tell my students has to do with time of day. You chose to photograph during a time of day that allowed you to capture detail in the sky and in the land. This is essential when trying to replicate what the eye saw.
Your composition is extremely strong. This is another hallmark of great landscape photography. You have a great diagonal line coming out of the bottom left of the image. I also enjoy how the image is divided into an area of blue hues on the left and an area of green hues on the right. This division of color also adds a sense of depth, which I think is extremely important in landscape photography. You have a beautiful image here and I think with just a few tweaks it could be something spectacular.
We live in a beautiful world, and there are many photographs documenting its majesty. As a photographer of these landscapes it is your job to show the viewer which aspects to focus their attention on. In this image I get lost as to what is most important. By visual weight I see the land, the trees and brush as the focus. The heavy side of the image is duller in color and busy. On the other side of the image I see the water and sky, with a very monochromatic palate and it seems more intriguing and interesting yet it feels cut off and hidden by the other half. It is so crucial to have a decision of what you want to capture before you even add the camera into the equation. Once you know, then play and adjust your framing.
The other tension in this image for me is the horizon line. It appears to be unintentionally leaning downward to the left, which is problematic for me, as this looks to be a straightforward landscape. Very rarely are landscapes going to have a tilt in the horizon line. Make sure if you are going to have it tilting in a specific direction it is intentional and serves a purpose to evoking an emotion or telling a story.
The edit of the image is an improvement, but not significant enough. The post work should be bringing this landscape back to what time human eye saw (which I imagine was more vivid than what is pictured here) on the moment of capture, or an edit that sets a mood or tone. It still has a snap shot feeling for me. Making several selections across areas of this image will elevate the look and feel of this landscape.
The first thing that catches my eye is the titled horizon. You generally want a straight horizon when it is visible in the frame, unless it’s your intention to create a sense of uneasiness about the scene. The titled horizon makes it feel as if the water is shifting off the frame. Your mind is wanting to correct it and I cannot see a good reason as for the horizon to be awry.
But it was that shift that kept pulling my eye back to the distant mountains and I really liked the layering effect that they had. Each mountain edge was fainter than the next showing it’s distance from each other. There was something interesting in just that section and I would have really liked that given more focus. The repetition is appealing and the subtle color changes are calming. Even if there wasn’t a zoom lens available, a tighter crop on that area would have strengthened the composition (see example). Leaving the right tree structure would still provide some scalable elements, foreground features, and contextual vegetation of the environment.
It would have also been nice to have a subject in the landscape. An animal or person could provide that subject, even a closer view of an interesting rock or tree trunk. Something that was intending the viewer to see could add new concepts to the location. Otherwise it’s a conventional landscape.
I do like the feeling of isolation in the scene. Not only to the location, but the trees in the from being stripped of their foliage. There is something unique about the way they look. I’m just not sure they were photographed in the best way to explore that concept.
There are a lot of interesting elements in the photograph and as I stared longer I began to like it even more. It’s quite a beautiful location and such an banal, yet curious perspective of the scene. I would have loved to have seen this location photographed with film on a large format camera. The detail in the scene would have been one to get lost in.