Robert Atkins  


 Touched by Heaven  by Robert Atkins

June 2021 - Touched by Heaven

June 2021 - Robert Atkins

Original

June 2021 - Robert Atkins

Original 2

About the Image(s)

This image was captured last month in the Kanarra Creek slot canyon near Zion NP. I hiked up the trail and creek into the slot with the idea of capturing one or more of the typical Kanarra Creek slot scenes - creek and rocks with a well illuminated wall behind, or one of the two falls. But the light was not cooperating with that plan, and it was busy (despite the permitting system), so keeping people out of the usual shots was going to be difficult. Instead, I decided to look up, and spotted this small tree growing out of the wall high up in the canyon. The light for this shot was more cooperative. It is captured on 4x5 Ektar 100 color negative film (which did a decent job with the high dynamic range of the light), and with a Fuji 240mm f9 Fujinon-A lens. Thankfully, my upgraded tripod was able to hold the view camera in the crazy position pointing nearly straight up.

Couple of things I could use advice with regarding this shot. First, I composed with a vertical, and I liked the long extent of rock reaching up to the tree. But with all of the light at the top, I don’t think this ends up working compositionally. Hence, I went with a horizontal crop in the final image, focusing on the top portion of the original frame, and coming in a little to try to get the tree close to the thirds. My best cut at a vertical composition is shown in “Alternate 1”. Maybe others have other crop suggestions, or ways to try to make the vertical crop work from a balance perspective.

Secondly, I ended up getting lens flare near the top edge of the frame - still no hood, and hard when using a view camera to block the bright stuff with my hat when it is so close to the edge of the frame. So, picking up on my theme from a few months ago, I decided to use the flare as an artistic element of the image - embrace it, and in fact enhance it a bit. I like the way the flare gives the top of the image an ethereal feel and suggests “heaven above” reaching down to touch the tree which grips for dear life to the canyon wall. But I’d appreciate opinions on this artistic use of flare - seems like opinions were mixed last time I tried this. Also there is the question of how much to enhance the flare effect. Too little and it is not clear it is deliberate and just looks like poor technique. Too much and it too powerfully draws the eye to the frame edge and away from the focus of the tree. I played around with the brightness of the flare effect a lot, but am still not sure I got it right. For comparison, “Alternate 2” has no flare added (but you can see the actual on film flare at the top edge). Thanks everyone for their thoughts.


7 comments posted




Dan Mottaz   Dan Mottaz
Hey there Robert: I have become a big fan of your photography. I admire that you put a lot of time and thought into both the capture phase and the post processing of your images. Although we don't have the opportunity to see your finished photos after the group's review, I'm always impressed with your starting shot. (I wonder if our group Bulletin Board would be an appropriate place to show our finished images?)
I have to disagree with you, Robert. The vertical composition works better for me. As shown in "Original 2", the long extended rock or shaft leads nicely up to your "Touch of Heaven" light at the top of the frame. It has a slight curve which is pleasing to the eye. The darker surrounding area works well to keep my eyes in the frame and up to the light. You captured the mood nicely with that natural vignetting. Your main image feels a little busy to me, but with the vertical view, the busyness is reduced. I like the idea of your embracing lens flair, but I don't think it works with this image - which is another reason I'm drawn to your "Original 2". There's a subtle element to "Original 2" that I like a lot. It's that orange glow that comes from the far right of the frame. To me, this is where the ethereal feel comes from.
I hope this helps, Robert. Please let us see what you settle on.   Posted: 06/08/2021 10:52:44
Robert Atkins   Robert Atkins
Thanks Dan. My guess was that folks would not like the lens flare (I'm going to keep trying), but I'm a little more surprised about the vertical. I like both, but was worried the tree was lost as too small an element in the vertical. When you point it out though I agree the horizontal is busy. One advantage of the vertical and smaller tree is that it hides better the fact the tree is not perfectly sharp. It was a long exposure and I think there was some wind up where the tree is - just enough to move stuff. I "saved" things with Topaz Sharpen AI's "motion" mode (which is simply amazing), but it is not perfect. So far no one has noticed, but it's probably harder to see on the small jpeg.

Yes, I've been mulling over where to post finished shots, particularly when they don't get finished the same month as the original post. Truth be told I have a big back log of "finishing" images. You are right that I put a lot of time into post - often many hours and multiple prints before posting for the month to the Group. The fact they are ~200MP files from the 4x5 scan and my computer is not the fastest doesn't help. I am saving everyone's comments so I can go back even if I don't get to it right away. But when I do finish there is the question of where to post and whether anyone at that point really wants to continue the discussion. I will take a look at the group Bulletin Board option you suggest. I think the PSA monthly format is not the best match for someone really trying to work on the last few percent of improvements, particularly someone busy with a day job. Those last few percent benefit from a lot of little things, a lot of iteration, a lot of continued feedback, and therefore, a lot of time.   Posted: 06/13/2021 08:33:41



Cheryl LaLonde   Cheryl LaLonde
Hi Robert
You have such a great eye to see this composition. I love the color palette and the tiny tree in the patch of light coming through. I too like the vertical composition better. I would crop a bit but not so much as to lose the leading lines to the tree. I see what you are trying to do with the lens flare but to my eyes it makes it look a little too washed out. I tried to add some sun rays but I am not sure they were successful. I will let you decide. I would also enhance the highlights and shadows of the foreground rock a bit to add interest. I too would love to see your finished images. This is another great image.   Posted: 06/12/2021 15:44:53
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Dan Mottaz   Dan Mottaz
Cheryl did a good job at making this image come alive. Nice work!   Posted: 06/13/2021 08:34:54
Robert Atkins   Robert Atkins
Thanks Cheryl. Like I mentioned in replying to Dan above, I am not surprised that folks are not fond of the flare, but I am going to keep trying. I think it has a place somewhere, so either I have not found it or am not skilled enough in subtly applying it. I can be a bit heavy handed.

I like the enhancements you have made to the foreground rock. You brought a depth to the blues that is beautiful. I have to admit I played briefly with sun rays as well. But I feel that is an area I truly don't know what I am doing in terms of making them look realistic. I am not sure here whether they steal part of the show from the tree or whether they in fact point to it more. Did you add them in Luminar? Do you recall the settings?
  Posted: 06/13/2021 08:47:10
Cheryl LaLonde   Cheryl LaLonde
Hi Robert

Yes I used Luminar 4 but I don't remember the settings. I kind of just play around till I get something I like. I tried to recreate it but was unable to get it exactly. I have attached my efforts from today. Note that I placed the sun above the image itself and moved it around until I got some rays where I thought they should hit if they were actually from the sun. Looking at the two now I think I like this version better.   Posted: 06/13/2021 11:46:03
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Bob Wills   Bob Wills
You and Dan are light years ahead of me in artistic and technical knowledge. Despite that I think in this instance, the lens flare causes your image to look too much like the old, bad HDR. I think a vertical crop suits the subject better. Colors, sharpness and textures are really well done. I cannot imagine humping a large format camera in slot canyons. Good job   Posted: 06/15/2021 11:56:22



 

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