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Critique appreciated, thanks.
What an impressive scene! Makes me want to investigate the area!
I'll share some ideas with you. They are not meant to say what is right or what you "should" do - instead they represent what I might do if this were my photograph and I was working on it in post.
The most interesting and beautiful elements of the scene for me include the fantastic interior of the canyon, with the river winding through it and the impressive rock faces to the sides and beyond. To my eye, the far left portion of the image either takes my eye away from this canyon or else adds mass to the left side of the frame that doesn't contain anything all that interesting. I would consider a crop from the left side of the frame, probably just eliminating the darker area of rock at the far left. I think this focuses the attention more on the interior of the canyon, and the less wide format increases the sense of the vertical, too.
The color balance (on my laptop - calibrated, but not as good as my main computer) seems off to me. The scene seems unnaturally "warm," and somewhat yellow. Even if the scene was objectively that color, I think that you might consider toning that down a bit. One trick that I use is to create a curves layer, use the gray eyedropper, and click on something that I want to be basically gray. This may get you there by itself... or the result may be garish in a new way! If the latter, set the opacity of the layer to zero and gradually and perhaps slightly increase it to subtly move the color back in that direction just a bit.
I wonder what adjustments you might have made with both curves (or levels?) and saturation or similar? The effect, from my perspective, is that of there being a bit too much of both. If you did boost saturation, I feel like you perhaps went a bit too far. In that regard, a couple of thoughts, both philosophical and practical. A friend of mine who worked with him, paraphrases AA as saying something like "It is harder to give up contrast than to add it." The same holds true for saturation, I think. Once you start "pouring it on," it can be very hard to back off and use a lighter touch. My friend's recommendation, and I concur, is to add things like saturation gradually - try a little bit, live with it for a while, and only then think about adding more. Second, it may be that some portions of the scene may need different amounts of saturation than others. For example, you might want to use more saturation on the canyon-bottom trees and brush, and use less on the canyon walls and sky and so forth. If you use Photoshop, create a saturation (or vibrance) layer and use a "hide all" mask. Then use a white paint brush with a soft edge at perhaps 20%-30% to subtly paint in the additional color intensity in those areas where you might want it.
There is a related issue that sometimes comes up with photographs that, like this one, include very bright sunlit areas and other areas that might have been in shadow. Shadows are naturally quite blue, and if you adjust color to reduce the intensity of the blue, you can increase the intensity of the complementary color and make areas of the image that were not in the shade appear too warm - which is the overall color quality that I see here. A solution is to again create a color adjustment layer (you can do this with another curve layer in photoshop), set the mask to hide all, and selectively add the color adjustment only to the areas that need it.
I'd give some thought to the foreground ledge, too. Here is a little experiment. With the image visible on the screen, hold your hands up and position two fingers in front of the image so that they cover each of the two bright clumps of dry grass that stick up from the ledge. Notice how the feeling of the space of the canyon opens up and the eye goes less to that foreground ledge? If this were my photograph, I'd be considering very carefully how to deal with the distraction that the grass creates. There are several things that you might try. It might not be possible here, but with smaller bits of such material, I would consider cloning it out entirely. Some might think that this is dishonest, but the counter argument is that you probably did not find yourself distracted by this stuff at the time you made the photograph, and you may not even have been consciously aware of it - in other words, it was not part of your actual experience of the scene. You'll have to decide. As an alternative, you could try to de-emphasize this stuff and even the whole foreground ledge. I might use one of several possible techniques to reduce the overall luminosity of that ledge and especially to tone down the brightest elements like the dry grass. You could also consider cropping just a bit of the bottom of this area - though you won't be able to get away with cropping enough to eliminate it entirely without losing some of the wonderful canyon.
I like this scene a great deal, and you have a wonderful capture to work with here - certainly worth investing the additional time to make it express what you felt when you saw it and made the exposure.
Edited on May 14, 2012 at 02:16 AM · View previous versions