Alan Brown's picture

Critique request - Snow Willow

I'd love to hear feedback on this image. I adore the gold tones of the willow trees set against a new snowfall and cloudy sky, but my wife doesn't like it at all.
All sincere comments (good or bad) would be gratefully received;
- what do you like?
- what do you not like
- what would you suggest to improve?

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30 Comments

Radisa Zivkovic's picture

My advice would be for start to focus on only one tree in terms of composition. Light is a little flat and that left tree is cut off which is not good. The atmosphere and location is wonderful.

Alan Brown's picture

Thanks for the feedback Radisa. I do have an individual shot of the one tree but personally prefer the balance of this image. The image has been cropped to an 8-1/2 x 11 print format - the original does include the entire tree but I feel clutter on the edge of the frame throw off the balance.

I agree the lighting could be better - I had to make a decision to shoot with fresh snow on the trees or wait for improved lighting at the risk of losing the effect of the snow. I will likely return to the location but am happy with what I have.

Do others agree?

Francisco B's picture

Its a tricky shot because its harder to see depth on white snow. The trees dont have quite enough gold in them to pull the eye away from the snow. Maybe cropping the bottom snow a bit would help to bring attention to the trees.

I think the trouble with this image - for me - is the background, which appears to be a forest. My advice would be to re-shoot this image when there is mist, which should completely obliterate the background and reduce saturation on the far tree, improving the illusion of depth.

Also, try not to cut your subject, leave a little room between your subject and the frame.

joseph cole's picture

Alan's tree is prettier Radisa hehehehe yes i agree i was looking at a post process that could give him a similar result

Radisa Zivkovic's picture

lol Maybe in post processing, but it would be extremely difficult :)

joseph cole's picture

yes because of trying to separate the trees limbs and leaves from the background it would be a tedious process probably just easier to reshoot

Aye, that is the basic idea.

joseph cole's picture

if you shot this at like F4 with a 3 stop filter it may have worked better you need a little DOF for separation.
not a fan of how the tree on left was cut off ...take 10 steps to the left and you probably would have been able to keep it in the shot.
here is a down and dirty example but it may get across what people are trying to explain

Radisa Zivkovic's picture

Now, although cut, it looks better than my example :)
You're a wizard Joseph.

joseph cole's picture

haha far from it but i do like playing with other people's photos since i don't have time to get out and take my own ..im heading out tomorrow morning though going to be frigid supposed to go down to 19f/ -7c so i will bundle up for sure and hope to not get wet lol

Radisa Zivkovic's picture

I'm in another problem. Tone of images are waiting for me to process in every sense...

Haven't run into that kind of problem yet I have to admit, but I'd prefer it to looking out the window not being able to shoot for what reason ever anytime.

I know the feeling all too well. Good light to you Joseph, may you get some awesome shots!

Nice idea with the ND!

Chris Jablonski's picture

Joseph, I don't understand what you and Thorsten are suggesting with the ND. Do you mean a grad?

And this image is shot at f/5.6, just one stop down from f/4. Do you mean to shoot with the widest practical aperture to keep the trees sharp & soften the background?

I agree with all about the cut-off tree on the left.

joseph cole's picture

yes with the grad filter...5.6 should have been enough to soften the background unless you were using a long lens and were at a distance from the subject to start with but yes something to blur the forrest...

Chris Jablonski's picture

In the case of this image, the grad would darken the tree branches as well as the sky (which Is what I presume you'd wish to darken) which can immediately look wrong. Maybe if it's subtle it'd work, but 3 stops?

joseph cole's picture

i would do it in post using luminosity mask to exclude the tree darkening but just to add some dimension to the sky if it were a high key shot then obviously leave out the gradation in the sky.

Alan Brown's picture

Thanks all. A few responses;
1) The entire tree was captured in the original shot, but distractions on the left side led me to feel the image was better cropped.
2) The image was shot with the widest aperture available in an attempt to isolate as best I could.
3) I actually like the sky (and snow) being bland - it helps produce a more minimal image and retains focus on the trees. That said, my options were limited anyway that day and I was keen to capture snow-laden trees whist available.
I do understand the need fr detail from a purist standpoint, and plan to revisit the site to capture in different lighting conditions.

Per comments I have worked the image in LR & PS a bit to try and clean up/isolate and would be interested to find out whether you feel this is an improvement.

Radisa Zivkovic's picture

If you have two subjects then cut on the other way (like my example - vigorously). If you have three then it's already a repetition and that's good.

joseph cole's picture

i would do this if there were a middle subject like a person/animal

Alan Brown's picture

I respect your artistic interpretation but this now looks out of balance to me.

Chris Jablonski's picture

Hi Alan! Interesting discussion you've opened up!

Personally, your original appeals to me in its softness & subtlety as is, apart from the composition, and your second version improves on this aspect. Tones & colours are beatiful, harmonious to my eye.

However, I still think there is a problem with two similar subjects; even though one is more prominent, they compete for attention. I've heard it said that an even number of objects is hard to arrange in a visually pleasing way, and that seems true remarkably often - try putting 2, 4, or 6 flowers in a vase. Once the number looks like "many", it's a different issue.

What looks best to me - but still not quite right - is the inverse to what Radisa did, to crop the smaller tree.

Maybe chop down the smaller tree...?

Alan Brown's picture

Hi Chris, thanks for the input.
I agree with the 'rule of odds' but unfortunately had to work with what was in front of me.
I think if I were going to crop from the right I'd remove that tree completely (or chop down as per your suggestion....).

I am hoping to get out and reshoot when snow/light/time conditions all line up.

joseph cole's picture

yeah i like this better nice job

Ivan Lantsov's picture

is fine, tree is good, color good, not to change a thing please