Robert Atkins  

Three Stones by Robert Atkins

January 2021 - Three Stones

About the Image(s)

This image was taken several years ago in Zion Valley, where the valley’s sandstone walls, lit by the early morning sun, reflected a warm glow in the flow of the Virgin River. The image was captured in 4x5 on Fuji Velvia film, and digitized with a drum scanner.

I’ve tried several times in the past to process the image, but all attempts resulted in something too chaotic, and without the right sense of balance. I tried again this past month with what I believe is a little more success. I’ve shaped the light, color, and contrast to try to bring a little more center of focus to the three stones. I’ve also added motion blur at low opacity to the regions outside the center to add to the feel of the river’s flow, as well as to further pull the eye to the sharper center.

For me, the image is about the connectivity between the three rocks. They remain tied together by the riverbed, sharing the experience of the water's flow, and shaped slowly by time's flow, but with that basic connection between them left unbroken.

I’d be interested in other opinions on whether the image has sufficient focus in the three stones or whether it is still too chaotic. I’d also be interested in thoughts on whether it provides enough visual interest to be effective. Finally, I'm debating whether I need to crop in tighter from the left and bottom, and I'd be interested in thoughts on how that helps or hurts these other issues.

3 comments posted

Gerard Blair   Gerard Blair
Robert, my view is that this is beautiful. I'm not sure about the specifics of the narrative - and whether it is flow or just light - but that does not matter: the story can be open even for a single observer and sometimes, I think, ambiguity elevates the viewing experience.
If you want to make the rocks the "subject" then yes you might undertake the crop you suggest, but in my viewing I see the rocks operating as a discontinuity to the flow of color, it emphasizes the harmony by breaking it. I would not want them as the subject - I like their current role as I see it in punctuation of the rest.
I think that this image would be better understood as an "abstract" than as a "scape".
  Posted: 01/09/2021 16:03:23

Cheryl LaLonde   Cheryl LaLonde
Hi Robert
Like Gerard this image seems more like an abstract image to me. I love the flow the image suggests and the different shapes and colors created by the water. I don't see a connectivity between the rocks, rather I see them as individuals standing unchanged by the forces against them. It can be interpreted in many ways which makes it an effective image. It pulls thoughts out of the viewer and in doing so can create emotion. I would crop it to make the rocks form a more symmetrical diagonal in the image to improve the sense of flow from the bottom left to the top right. As well I would accent the lights and darks a bit more to give even more dimension in the water.   Posted: 01/09/2021 21:38:01
Comment Image

Dan Mottaz   Dan Mottaz
I think I might have finally found the secret to making successful waterflow images: Learn from Robert. I truly admire how you were able to make such a visually pleasing photograph of a subject that has always eluded me.
For one thing, Robert has shown us here that the real story behind this capture is the rocks - not the water. To me, the flowing water - though visually very powerful - is not the main subject. It's the rocks that the water takes its shape, light, shadow and reflective color from. So the rocks become the driving force from which everything else happens. I have never looked at a scene like this before.
Some of the more obvious attributes that should never be overlooked are the complementary colors of blue and gold; the three groups of rocks; the diagonal direction of the composition; and finally, the feathery flow of the water through a long exposure.
I like Cheryl's crop but not so much the added contrast. Perhaps just a smidge more contrast might help but my particular taste prefers the softer look which you achieved that works so well for the photo. There seems to be some kind of texture in the water that doesn't match the scene for me, especially considering that motion blur was added. As I've said in past comments, this might be the website or downsizing rendering and not the fault of the image.
Nicely seen and captured, Robert.
  Posted: 01/11/2021 16:03:13


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