I can’t count how many times I came close to tossing this image into the trash can. It sat on my desk for months, never looking quite right to my eye. Several times I picked it up with the intention of discarding it, but something always held me back. There always was a nagging little voice telling me that there was something solid here, something worth keeping, even if I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at any given time.
Then one day, I discovered what my hangup was. I really liked looking at the image from a distance, but not so much up close. I realized that what I liked about the image was the forms and the lines of the trees and the distant mountains, but not the texture of the grasses and the bark. When viewed from a distance, the forms and lines dominated the composition, which was why I liked it. When viewed close up, the grass and bark textures were really noticeable, which is why I didn’t like it.
So, I used various tools in Photoshop (the dodge and burn tools, several curves layers with the effects selectively painted in on layer masks) to reduce the contrast in the grass and bark, mostly by burning down the highlights and midtones so that the overall tones mellowed out into a shadowy evenness. Then, I slightly upped the global contrast in the image, which further emphasized the lines and forms of the trees and mountains as compared to the background sky.
You can see the prior version – the one that sat on my desk for months – below. The differences are small, but to me are what made this image a keeper versus one that ended up in the trash.