New to photography.. consider this my baseline from which to improve


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Oct 11, 2021
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I have no experience with photography other than point and shoot cameras; nor any experience with photo editing. I had a SLR 15 years ago or so, but it was always set to auto. I purchased a new camera and lens for a trip to Alaska, from which I’ve just returned. Now I feel hooked and want to go back ASAP. I’m fully open any and all suggestions and criticism. Though the photos did turn out better then expected, I do know they are “off”. I’d like to revisit this post in a year to gauge any improvement.
Photos taken with an R5 and Sigma 14mm lens. Location: Bettles and Fairbanks, Alaska. October 2021. I can provide links to full size images if needed. I fog rolled in over the lake which you can see in a few photos. Thanks in advance for any constructive criticism. I know my work in Lightroom must be way off, zero experience with it.
A bit too many here to comment individually. With landscapes, particularly with water, it's very important to get the horizon level. Some of these are out and well out at that on a few.

There's a set of rules somewhere for what's to be included for the C+C section. I'll see if I can find it.
.................................and hello!!😉
A bit too many here to comment individually. With landscapes, particularly with water, it's very important to get the horizon level. Some of these are out and well out at that on a few.

There's a set of rules somewhere for what's to be included for the C+C section. I'll see if I can find it.
Something along these line:

I'd like to start as an example of what I thing a post should have in order to to make it easier obtain a critique that targets an issue someone may be having. Obviously not all of this is required but as much info as can be posted will help.

First off. I'm quite happy with this image but there's always room for improvement.

-Tech Specs
Canon 7DmkII/w Canon 500mm F4L
1/800, F4, ISO 125

Golden hour sunlight at about 6:20am

-Why did I take the shot?
This is my primary form of photography and I love shooting wildlife.
Obviously not a long planned out shoot but I do keep in the back of my head the types of images I want so when the occasion arises I can take advantage of them.

- What was the goal?
My goal was to get an environmental shot in the morning light.
I normally just make backgrounds disappear into a buttery smooth array of colour.
With this shot I wanted the background so that the Rails environment was recognizable.

- Did I achieve my goal?
Nearly, But not quite.

- If I could, what would I change?
I normally shoot a pretty thin DOF in order to crush distracting backgrounds but here I think I should have got down to about f8-10 range to get more of the Virginia Rail in focus. I had plenty of room to lower my shutter speed to compensate. Since this is it's natural environment and it is so close I'm not really blurring it as much as I normally would.

-What critique am I looking for?
Other than opening up the aperture or backing up to get more of the scene (I like the close and personal look of this shot) is there another way I could have made the reeds more prominent.

Also open to anything else that you may notice.
How beautiful and what a great opportunity! I have never shot the northern lights so consider that when reading my advice. I do a lot of night sky photography though and I know how difficult it can be to get the white balance and the exposure to work with both foreground and sky. Lots of the photos you see online are composites.

while the lake reflections are beautiful and desired, they can sometimes make for a confusing composition, especially if the horizon is centered. My eye has no where to land. I really like the ones where you can see the trees to the side which give this a sense of scale and link to reality vs unknown.

As for LR, do a Google search on editing northern lights and go from there. Personal preference for me I like night sky photos to be a bit darker than these.
As has been pointed out earlier, many images takes a long time to provide decent feedback. One or two should be the maximum unless there is a specific problem that is being demonstrated.

When posting try to fill as many fields as you can below, but remember that the feedback you receive is directly proportional to the information you provide.

-Tech Specs
Make model of Camera/lens
Shutter speed, aperture, iso
Aperture priority/Shutter priority/Manual etc.

Strobes, speed lights and at what power.
Natural light time of day.

-Why did I take the shot?
Just playing around is not sufficient or people will just play around with the feedback. Was it a great sunset? Trying a new technique? There's always a reason to hit that shutter button.

- What was the goal?
What image did you have in mind when you took the image?
Was there a specific learning goal?

- Did I achieve my goal?
This is where you honestly look at your own image. Do you see anything that looks off, takes your attention away from the subject, etc.

- If I could, what would I change?
Everyone should be able to answer this one. There's always that one or two things that you could have done different/better.

-What critique am I looking for?
General critique will get you general feedback. Try and find what you think you need help with and lay it out for us to provide assistance. This will not limit the feedback you get but will ensure that you do get feedback on this topic.

P.S. Welcome to TPF.
Thanks for the responses and the “welcomes”. Apologies on the format I used for this section, I did read the requirements prior to posting and included what I thought was relevant. I see how posting as many as I did can cause an issue, especially in listing camera settings for each photo. The primary reason for posting was looking for any glaring issues. As stated in my 1st post, this was my 1st time moving any camera off of Automatic. I had no goals other than capturing the lights for my dad on our trip; having never photographed in low light or dusk, I’m excited they turned out at all. I’ve never used a tripod before and don’t know camera functionality (iso, aperture, etc).. just what I learned watching YouTube.
Thank you for the suggestions regarding having something for the eye to focus on, I see what you mean. I honestly wasn’t sure what I was capturing until halfway through the night.. I just looked for some green and shot.
I can go back and add the camera settings if needed, or if this belongs in a different section feel free to move it. Thanks again for the suggestions

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