Photo Review: Erik Anderson

Erik Anderson - Grand Canyon Tree

This edition of our photo review series features a shot from self-proclaimed “government lackey” from DC and amateur photographer, Erik Anderson.

Before we begin, here’s a little context of the shot from Erik:

I’ve only been taking pictures sporadically for a couple of years now as a hobby.  This was taken on a visit to the Grand Canyon as my fiancee and I were driving across the country to Los Angeles.  The weather was very strange that day.  It was mostly cloudy with scattered rain/sleet/snow showers rolling through all day.

The photo was taken with a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT, ISO 100, f/8, shutter speed 1/125, focal length of 32mm, jpeg file format.  I had the camera set on the landscape setting, b/c the primary intent of my shooting that day was to document our visit and I’m not comfortable enough with Manual settings yet.  I’m just starting to scratch the surface of what can be done in post-processing, learning from tips and tutorials from various blogs and the like.  Also, because I’m an amateur, I couldn’t justify the cost of Photoshop CS or Lightroom so I did my noodling in Photoshop Elements.

I always like to start with the positives. One of the first things that strikes me about this shot is how twisted and almost arthritic the branches are. They show the strength and enduring nature of this tree that has been through a great deal to maintain it’s view of the canyon. Being in focus is always a plus too, especially when the subject is something as hard as aged wood and stone.

I like how the lower half of the tree appears to have more sun to highlight it’s lines and separate it from the darker canyon walls behind. At the same time, the more distant parts of the canyon that recede towards the horizon and the bright sky push the upper portions of the tree more to shadow creating a great contrast making those branches reall stand out as well.

I’m always a fan of the combination of warm and cool colors in the same image, and I really enjoy more muted hues as well. This shot does a nice job of moving from warm at the bottom to very cool at the horizon and eventually to neutral at the top with the sky and clouds. It really helps direct the eye from bottom to top and from foreground to background.

There are only a couple of areas for improvement that I see here. First, the horizon is going slightly uphill from left to right. When fixing this in post, you will end up having to crop the image a touch which will make you lose a little bit of room around the tree but it might be worth it so the horizon isn’t distracting.

I think the foreground could use a little bit of sharpening, just to make it stand out even more. Wood and stone – and other hard surfaces, like metal, for that matter – can take a bit more sharpening than, say faces.

I think the tree could afford to be a touch brighter too. Perhaps some dodging and burning and/or a Curves adjustment to lighten the highlights and midtones – while keeping the shadows whre they are – would really make it pop. It would also saturate the ground a tad.

Finally, I’d do some adjustments to the sky. It’s not blown out, but it’s bright enough to draw the eyes away from the tree.

I have to say, though, that I really like this shot and the subject. It has great potential and with a little more processing it could be quite good.

Thanks for sharing it, Erik!

If you would like to submit one of your photos for review, get all the information you need on our photo reviews post today!

  • Thats a nice shot Erik. Like Jason, I think the sky could do with a touch up, but the composition and subject matter is great. Lovely capture.

    March 17, 2009 at 4:14 am
  • Jason: Thanks for for the review, I greatly appreciate it. As I noted I’m just starting to learn the processing bit, and beyond knowing the tools, learning what to do in different circumstances to improve an image is huge. I’ll probably take some of your suggestions and mess with the image some more to see what I come up with.

    Thanks again.

    March 17, 2009 at 10:51 am

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