Robert Atkins  

Mount St. Helens Ridge Overlook by Robert Atkins

May 2023 - Mount St. Helens Ridge Overlook

About the Image(s)

This image is another from my day excursion from Mt. Rainier to Mount St. Helens, and is taken from the same ridge road that approaches Mount St. Helens from the northeast. The day was punctuated by bursts of showers, and while dodging them, I was fascinated by Mt. Adams in the distance, as well as the visible effect in the sky of the storms brushing across the landscape. There was a lot of atmospherics which gave the interesting layering of the ridges which I show in this image, as well as the blue tones.

I set up my 4x5 pretty quickly because the rain was threatening. I composed wider than I ended up using, so I had to crop in some here to get the distant look. I only exposed a single sheet of film, and then the rain started, and I quickly packed up and dashed for the car.

I imagine I will get comments about a couple of things starting with the bright exposed rock in the lower right corner. I’ve darkened it. I also considered cropping it out from the bottom, but I like the fact that Mt. Adams sits high in the frame and enjoys a bit of airiness from that. I did not consider cloning until I write this now, but perhaps that is the correct thing to do if people confirm that it is too distracting.

I also have done a bit of work to pull out the dark down bursts of the storm in the sky which were there but a bit more subtle. The result is that I’ve left the sky a bit grainy. I am not sure whether I see that as a problem or in fact like it. Opinions from others would be useful on this one.

Finally, there is the question of whether to make Mt. Adams “pop” more than it does here. I’ve tried versions with a bit more contrast or dehaze on the peak, but they look less natural, and I think some of the atmospherics are lost. Again, encourage opinions.

Tachihara 4x5, Schneider 150mm 5.6 Symmar-S, Fuji Provia, Exposure not recorded

10 comments posted

Gloria Grandolini   Gloria Grandolini
Hi Robert, this is a beautiful image and I especially like the blues and the depth of the shot. On your questions, I personally do find the exposed rock a bit distracting and I think that cloning it out or decreasing the foreground would not impact the depth and beauty of the image. Would be interesting to see the original sky - the dark grey now looks a bit superimposed. Mt. Adams looks good to me - it pops out to my eyes quite well now.   Posted: 05/08/2023 11:50:06
Robert Atkins   Robert Atkins
Thanks Gloria, that is helpful. You are not along in thinking the stormy sky is overdone. I took a second pass in my response to Dan below and tried to dial back the storm (in addition to a very different crop). Does that look more realistic now, or still too superimposed looking?   Posted: 05/14/2023 14:43:11

Haru Nagasaki   Haru Nagasaki
Hi Robert, you have a lot of beautiful images from that trip.
Since I am on the road, I am not able to attempt this image. I might come back with my attempt later, but in the meantime, let me start with my comments by answering your questions.
First of all, I would not clone the rock out in the lower right corner. For me it is not distracting. And if you crone out, there is little to see in that area and it becomes empty space for me.
Regarding the rainstorm in the sky, honestly, I do not like it personally. It looks unbalanced and it disconnects with the mood/emotions presented in Mt. Adams in my view. It is too strong for me.
Lastly, the pop of Mt. Adams is good enough. It delivers "the mood".
But overall, I like the image very much. A great capture.   Posted: 05/09/2023 23:07:37
Robert Atkins   Robert Atkins
Thanks Haru. Great comments and suggestions. I posted another version in my response to Dan below. In addition to the crop to solve the issues with the "big dark region", I've tried to dial back the storm in the sky. What do you think - have I gone far enough?   Posted: 05/14/2023 14:40:27
Haru Nagasaki   Haru Nagasaki
Hi Robert,
I looked at the re-edited image. I prefer the storm texture better.
As for crop of the bottom, I think it cropped too far for me. It now became easier for my eye to arrive at the center of attention, but at the same time, it lost the dynamic of the image. For me foreground dark mountain helps me to feel the vast of the scene.   Posted: 05/17/2023 00:09:52

Cheryl LaLonde   Cheryl LaLonde
Hi Robert
There are some really beautiful layers in this image. To answer your questions. I don't mind the grain in the sky because it contributes to the atmosphere but I am distracted by the dark vertical rainy bursts that I think you have brought out. To me they distract from the mountain and the flow of the beautiful layers. I would not make the mountain "pop" any more that it is already because again that would be counter to the atmospheric layers that are so beautiful. I see what you mean by having the mountain sitting high but the balance of the image is off(in my opinion). To me the light needs to balance the dark in the image and the dark is a bit too heavy. When I looked at the crop with a focus on balancing the image it puts the bottom of that rock right on the edge which makes it even more prominent so I think it would benefit from cloning it out. I have attached my crop suggestion. I always enjoy your images Robert and this is another great one.   Posted: 05/10/2023 13:51:47
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Robert Atkins   Robert Atkins
Cheryl, thanks for the comments and suggestions. Dan suggested a much more severe crop from the bottom; it resolves the issue of the distracting area but also eliminates the issue of too great an uninteresting dark area. It is a bit different look, but I like it. I also tried to dial back the rainy vertical bursts which I think were overdone. I'm curious whether the image I posted below goes far enough with that, or whether you think they should be more or less eliminated altogether.   Posted: 05/14/2023 14:37:27

Dan Mottaz   Dan Mottaz
Hello Robert, I wanted to do a suggested crop for you but could not figure out how to get your image on my desktop and convert it to a JPEG. Crazy. (Perhaps someone could send me an email with the steps on how to do this.) Instead, I will describe it:
Try cropping up from the bottom about half way up. I feel everything below that halfway point is a very large dead space and does not help with what I see your image is really about.
To me, your photo is about what Cheryl aptly says as "...the flow of beautiful mountain layers." The lower half, having a dominant tone and covering perhaps more than a third of the frame, takes away from those mountain layers.
The sky needs some work. It lacks color which throws the balance off for me. I would like to see the use of orange brushed in as a complementary color - not a lot - just enough so it doesn't look out of place.
For years I have searched for the perfect set of mountain layers. Maybe someday. Yours is the closest I've seen to perfection. Good luck with whatever direction you take this photo. I'm sure it will be spectacular.
  Posted: 05/12/2023 17:29:55
Robert Atkins   Robert Atkins
Dan, thank you for the suggestions. I don't think I would have considered such a large crop from the bottom without your prompt. But having done it, I am now convinced that is a MUCH stronger composition. I also painted in a little orange through a lights mask. What do you think - is this about right or too heavy handed? Finally, since so many people commented that the darkness in the sky (top edge & streaks) did not look realistic, I've tried to dial that back a bit. Again, there is a "to taste" question. I'd love to know what you think of this second version.   Posted: 05/14/2023 14:32:14
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Bob Wills   Bob Wills
Hi Bob, you beat me to the punch on your crop. As always, your image is sharp and well exposed I kept your original ratio and just cropped up from the lower left. I masked the sky in LR to add a little extra contrast to Mt Adams. I tried to make the ridge angles flow R-L.
When I looked at your image in B&W to assess the tonal values all the light areas are on the top, I might consider dodging the line of rocks and trees to give the lower half some interest. I just increased the shadows.
Great image.   Posted: 05/14/2023 15:47:59
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