Photo Review - Lake Hawea by Cynthia S.

"An atypical image from the South Island, Lake Hawea, Wanaka. I wanted to capture the layers, colours and textures in the landform. For me there is something pleasing about the consistent granularity of the shadows, earth, lake, mountains and sky."

Initial Thoughts:

  • The idea behind the picture - I love the way you showed the whole mountain and lake while still being able to capture the mountains reflection in the shot. It gives the picture a whole new dimension.

  • The exposure is good but more importantly the dynamic range is outstanding. Basically, the sky isn’t blown out, it has so many details in it while the other parts of the image are also exposed perfectly. There are no hard shadows, no hard highlights, just pure awesomeness.

  • I like how the colours look natural and they are almost pastel, it gives the image a nice calm feel.


  • I do like the way you captured everything in this photo but I would advise you to move a little bit further out to the lake and capture more of the sky and less of the ground. The ground does have interesting colours and patterns but if you cut down on the amount of it you show, water and the reflections would add more impact to the picture.

  • Another alternative could be lowering your camera to the ground a bit more, capturing the shadows and the bright sky which would be an awesome effect, transitioning from the dark to the bright.

  • I don’t know what was to the left of the frame but it seems like an awesome sight where two mountains meet and close a gap, I’m thinking (if there wasn’t any other distractions in the frame) that you could’ve stood really close to the lake, lowered your camera and shot the gap so it is position in the middle while capturing the reflections in the water.

Contrast and Colour:

  • While looking at the picture there’s no doubt that it shows an awesome dynamic range and a lot of details but it also lacks a bit of punch to it, the wow factor.

  • The photo as you captured it seems a little bit washed out, of course, the pastel colors do compliment it but you could’ve tried adding a bit more contrast to really make them pop, not too much but enough to create more depth.

  • I would suggest adding more vibrance to the photo which will be done with adding contrast but the image could also use some colour correction.

It’s a subtle change but it really gives more life to the picture without it looking fake.

Alternative ways to capture this scene

The one thing I considered when I saw this image was doing a long exposure shot. If you were in a situation where you had a tripod and a ND filter you could’ve done a long exposure shot in the effort to smooth out the water completely and really bring out that reflection.

If you’re not familiar with ND filters or long exposure photography, here’s a quick rundown:

Long exposure photography can be used to get more light to hit your sensor in dark environments, as seen in astro photography, or it can be used to blur/smooth out motion whether that's in clouds, water, or car lights. You could also use long exposure to blur the motion of people walking or to remove them completely from the image if you’re using a long enough shutter speed.

In this case it could’ve been used to smooth out the movement of the water, to completely remove it. But here’s the thing, this is shot in broad daylight and if you would use a 15/30 second exposure time the picture would be way too bright even when using the smallest aperture opening on your lens. That’s where the ND filters come into play. An ND filter (neutral density filter) restricts the amount of light that hits the sensor. It is usually mounted on top of your lens but can be put straight onto the sensor. So, if you shoot a long exposure in strong light conditions you can still control the amount of light that is coming in with the use of the filter.

I've also given an example of two other crops/compositions you could’ve done.

Closing Thoughts

  • All in all, a great photo with a bit of touching up needed to take it to a whole new level.

  • There were many ways to approach this scene and photograph it but you chose your own and that’s what makes it special and gives it your own personal signature.

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