Back Modifications (9)
Views 117 Unique 54 Award Shortlist   


By pottie  
This photo was taken in Nieuwoudtville, in the Northern Cape South Africa. We were staying on a farm close to one of the few Quiver tree forest, which is a very ideal for photography. On the the way I saw this tree and thought it would be a good subject.
Long story, I entered it into our club night, and one of the comments where that the tree was in competition with the milky way...
Please I need advice about the composition... and "sommer" everything else!

Tags: Night photography Landscape photography Stars Night sky Dead tree Nightscape Landscape and travel Milkyway Night and low light pin stars

Amazon Kindle Unlimited Offer: 1-Month For FREE!


mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.9k 2457 United Kingdom
25 Nov 2020 9:11AM
Issi, what a fascinating question! Thanks for giving us something to think about here.

First, I am inclined to agree with the judge, but the balance is complicated. With sky shots - cloud formations, sunsets etc - we so often advise the inclusion of a baseline, trees or rooftops for example, to 'ground' the composition, hold it down, fix its location. A classic example would be a silhouetted fence running along the skyline, with maybe a skeleton tree - all in black silhouette, no detail. That's the frame that holds the subject.

The problem occurs, as the judge indicated, when the foreground and background compete for attention. Either the sky is the subject, in which case it just needs that simple, discreet dish below to hold it, or it is background to the real subject. And a background needs to be just that, to sit back discreetly and not demand attention.

That's a wonderful tree. I'd love to see an image of it in all its glory against a plain sky. And despite the glories of the Milky Way (I've see it once in all its splendour, like this, in the desert), I do think that the tree needs to dominate here because it is so dramatic and most importantly it's smack in front of our noses.

I've uploaded a modification. First of all I rotated slightly to level the skyline, then I cropped to get rid of the distracting light bottom left. I toned down the bright green grass at the bottom of the frame - these are all distractions. Then I flipped horizontally, so that the tree is reaching out towards the sky - that maybe creates a better relationship.

I lightened overall by 1/4 stop and boosted whites. Also +9% on the texture, clarity and dehaze sliders. Then I made a Levels adjustment and used the dodge and burn tools very lightly, trying to give prominence to the tree. I added a very discreet dark vignette, for the same purpose.

It works slightly better for me, see what you think. But it's still a problem picture. I do think that what that sky needs is a lower, simpler, darker skyline, to support it but not to compete with it. Then the sky could be the real subject.

Thanks for making me think on a drab morning!
dudler Plus
18 1.7k 1877 England
25 Nov 2020 10:15AM
Welcome back, Issi!

I live in an area where being able to see a star is quite an achievement, and so I'm envious!

The tree does compete a bit, and it's made into much more of a problem by the grass across the bottom, and the relative brightness of the image. Your image, exposed as it was, is about a tree and grass, with the Milky Way as a background, I think.

So I've cropped the grass verge off, so it's only the tree, and I've darkened everything. Part of the charm of night skyscapes is the inky black throwing up the brilliance of the stars and the Milky Way, so I used the Levels adjustment in Photoshop pretty liberally.

If you have the chance to reshoot, I suggest reducing the illumination on the foreground quite a bit - switching off house lights or headlamps, and then just introducing a very low level of light on the tree, and only on the tree.

I hope that makes sense.
chase Plus
16 2.2k 578 England
25 Nov 2020 10:55AM
That is a rather beautiful tree but competes with the pretty sky so much.
Moiras idea of flipping this frame is a good one for the reasons she has mentioned, her mod takes the viewer into the image rather than out of it.
I also like Johns crop and darkening, much more emphasis on the sky and less on the tree which is a little too bright.
banehawi Plus
17 2.5k 4263 Canada
25 Nov 2020 12:34PM
I agree, more sky, less tree. Its very hard to compete with the Milky Way!
dark_lord Plus
17 2.8k 784 England
25 Nov 2020 12:47PM
The judge has a point.
The tree is good for foreground interest but the image would benefit if the tree was smaller in the frame. Many pictures of the Milky Way that have ground objects in ram those objects tend to be just a small part.

The other issue is that the tree and sky are of a similar tone and contrast so with little differentiation the viewer has difficulyt in deciding what is the subject.

For my mods I duplicated the image and changed the Blending Mode to Colour Dodge at reduced opacity to boost brightness and contrast. In my second mod I used a Layer Mask to hide the adjustment on the tree but maintain it on the sky, just ot make the stars more prominent.
mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.9k 2457 United Kingdom
25 Nov 2020 1:51PM
I've uploaded another mod based on my first, darker and a much tighter crop.
pottie 8 2 South Africa
25 Nov 2020 3:00PM
Thank you all for taking the time to comment on my photo and for the good advice, and the mods... I have learned so much from this site.... its amazing!

Moira, thanks your explanation helped a lot en your mod is even more explanatory... THANKS YOU you are a STAR!

Dudler, thanks for the welcome... its like coming home... You should come visit South Africa... with Eskom we have lots of dark sky's. covid was a %#$&$%@ we had a total lockdown for sooo long... thanks for the comments.. unfortunately I don't think Ill go back soon... bur I did take so many that I do have photos where the tree is less dominant... Ill try to upload one. Thanks for taking the time to comment...

Thanks Chase for the comments.. Ill take another look.

Thanks Willie, that is why I like the milky way...

Dark Lord, I loved what you did and I can see where i made my mistakes.. your are spot-on as usual!

Here is the other photo i took,

pamelajean Plus
15 1.6k 2238 United Kingdom
25 Nov 2020 3:53PM
Hello, Issie. I have an advantage coming here late because I can see your alternative image.
What a difference it makes when you don't have light on the tree.
That one works extremely well.

dark_lord Plus
17 2.8k 784 England
25 Nov 2020 4:59PM
Thank you for that other version.
The tree makes a good silhouette and doesn't fight for attention, it plays more of a supporting role.
There;s nothing wrong with lighting the tree as an alternative. It's good to see you tried variations at the time. Indeed I have light painted a foreground with the Milky Way as a backdrop albeit as a small part of the frame.
chase Plus
16 2.2k 578 England
25 Nov 2020 7:56PM
Yep, your second one works much better for me too it's not in competition with the sky, all I would have done here would be to flip horizontally and remove the little light creeping in on the left of the frame.

That's all I did in my mod with the addition of a slightly darker fg too.
dudler Plus
18 1.7k 1877 England
25 Nov 2020 8:21PM
Agreed - the second version is much better for the lack of light on the foreground. Thank you for posting it.

Sign In

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join For Free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.