Help me decide which is better – Redwood NP

Photos: Redwood forest, Redwood National Park, Del Norte County, California – Click on the photos to see them larger

Image: Redwood forest, Redwood National Park, Del Norte County, California

Every so often I seek a little help with ‘judging’ the quality of my photos. Sometimes I’m simply unable to decide on the merits which photo is better. Fortunately I have a family to help me decide, none of whom share my passion or knowledge about photography. So I routinely ask my wife, my 12 year old son and my 9 year old daughter, “Which do you like better?” I generally don’t even ask why. I just put on my best optometrist voice and query, “Number One, or Number Two? First, or Second? A or B?

These are two panoramic photos I processed today. I’d simply like to hear if you have a preference. The first one was taken while there was more fog and even light, while the second was made just as sunlight was starting to hit the trees. In acting, they say never work with kids or animals. Photographers say never shoot in a forest with sunlight and dark shadows. Fortunately, I got off this image before the sunlight was able to cast any deep shadows, thanks to the thin layer of fog that was still able to provide some small measure of diffusion.

Image: Redwood forest, Redwood National Park, Del Norte County, California

Thanks in advance for throwing in your opinion. Feel free to say neither if you think they belong in the recycle bin. 🙂

Image ID#: RedwoodPanorama2011 (Top) & RedwoodPanorama2011-02 (Bottom)

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37 Comments on “Help me decide which is better – Redwood NP”

  1. Mike Says:

    I can see why you’d ask others for help! Both are great! It’s completely subjective, but I think I actually prefer the bottom more a bit more just because I like feeling like there’s solid ground beneath me 🙂

  2. neal pritchard Says:

    WHile I like both of the captures I prefer the top one as it brings to scale the trees a little more. The lines are more pronounced whereas the lines get lost a little in the second image for all the foliage in the foreground …. Just my 2 cents hope this helps and keep up the great work …. Neal

  3. Joe Azure Says:

    Hi Gary,

    From the smaller images on this page, I will say the 2nd one is my preference. For me, the foreground makes the difference, as opposed to the slight difference in the warmer light.



  4. Bret Edge Says:

    Dude, you’re making me choose only one? If I have to choose, I’d opt for the bottom one. I like the colorful foliage at the bottom that provides a nice base to the image. Killer stuff, man.

  5. Susan Bovey Says:

    Hi Gary!
    I really like the 2nd one. I’ve seen many like the first one. The second one feels well bottom-weighted by including the base of the tree, and the mass of the truck makes an impact and focal point. I like the gentle diagonal rise to the left side. Nicely balanced. 🙂

  6. Michael Russell Says:

    I personally prefer the 2nd image. The understory adds a lot to it in my opinion.

  7. Jim Goldstein Says:

    With out any hesitation the first image. The fog interspersed between the tightly cropped trees is both graphical and curious to the eye. It has a great atmosphere to it. The second image for me is full of distractions in the foreground with multiple leading lines for my eye to follow. It’s subtle but it’s enough that the image feels a little busy.

    Of course it all depends on what the use will be. I think both could be worthy, but if asked to pick a favorite the 1st is clearly the winner.

  8. Sean McCarty Says:

    I say B my friend. Definitely B.

  9. Richard Wong Says:

    I like the first image best. It’s simpler and more balanced compositionally.

  10. G Dan Mitchell Says:

    They are pretty different images to me, Gary – different enough that it is difficult to compare them directly. At first I was leaning towards the second one, but there is an area at lower left in front of the bushes that seems a bit empty to mr. Sloop, if you really want a preference, I think I come down on the side of the first one.


    who may be biased due to a vague similarity to the photo at the top of my blog. (

  11. Nick Fuller Says:

    The first has great visual tension, kinda it’s not complete, what more is there to see. Great to have that visual tension in certain usage circumstances. It’s more graphic.

    However, for me personally, the second has more grounding and is more whole. Much easier to sit an look at. It’s aspirational in the sense that one would want to go and find such a place, such a view, and envelope one’s self in it.

    Nice work

  12. Steve Gingold Says:

    They are both top notch images, Gary. But, if I have to choose one it would be the first. It allows the viewer to think a bit more about the image and place it in some sort of more personal context rather than already having a solid definition. For the image itself, the fog is more evident and the combination of fog and foliage more striking, IMO. I’d be happy with either though. No recycle bin for these, perish the thought. 🙂

  13. Christie Says:

    Both of these images have merit; however, if I were to choose only one, I would select #2. #1 leaves me wondering what’s below the knees while #2 satisfies that curiosity.

  14. Piper Mackay Says:

    THe are both lovely but the top one has more mystery about it. It draws you in and makes you wonder… Kept my eyes in the photo longer.

  15. Sudheendra Kadri Says:

    I like the overall mood in the first image, where as in the second one the (complete) tree on the right anchors my eyes and allows them to rest before exploring the scene again. Its a hard choice to make, but I think I’ll go with the second.

  16. Russ Bishop Says:

    I’m with Jim and Dan on this one Gary – #1 it is. Both the panorama and the plants in the lower left make for a perfectly balanced composition. The second image has the large tree on the right, but it doesn’t counter the less-interesting growth on the left.

  17. Thomas Rawyler Says:

    Hi Gary

    As many already pointed out, the first is simpler. It is also more abstract than the second.
    Personally I prefer the second one. The image is more complex with its foreground and draws me further into the forest as the first one.


  18. Beate Dalbecd Says:

    I agree with Dan – they are very different images and convey a different mood. Image no 1 is very peaceful and calm to me. I do like no 2 a lot also, but like others mentioned before, there is interest lacking on the left side of the image and since that area is brighter in comparison to the rest it keeps drawing my eye into that direction. I think without the bright, less-interesting bit on the left it would be a much stronger image, but as it is my choice goes with no. 1.

  19. Rich Says:

    Both are excellent, but leave entirely different impressions. To me the top image emphasizes the trees and fog and makes me feel like I’m looking at the forest, while the bottom image with the ground cover plants has more of a feeling of being in the forest.
    For atmosphere keep #1 but for any form of story telling #2 has more potential.

  20. Shelley Says:

    I like the bottom one better as it more emphasizes the angled march of the trees, also like the the trees fading back into the distance. IMHO

  21. Julie Rorden Says:

    My opinion is based solely on emotions and memory, Gary. Born and raised in CA coastal redwood forests, I’ve seen them in nearly every conceivable photographic situation you can think of. Yet, my favorite by far is when the sun breaks through the fog and causes the lingering droplets of water on the leaves to glisten, the forest floor to produce shades of green seldom seen in other places, and the fragrant oils from the fallen needles to envelop all as the ground begins to warm. BTW, and perhaps it’s not desirable from a photographic standpoint, but I really like images of deeply shadowed redwood forests with a single young tree lit by an escaped ray of sun. Anyone who’s been in redwood forests knows that this is a typical scene. It’s almost like California’s version of Utah’s slot canyons 😉

  22. Greg Russell Says:

    Hmmm…this is a tough one, for the reasons Dan points out. But, I think my vote goes to #2. I like being able to see the ground here–there’s a certain ethereal quality to both images, but the inclusion of the ground really brings a sense of place to the scene, and that makes me connect better with the image.


  23. Misty Dawn Says:

    I like the first one best, I think. Although the are both fantastic. The fog/mist in the first one gives it more character in my opinion. It is also more balanced, and the eyes are pulled into the photo.

  24. melissia griffeth Says:

    the bottom photo is better to me. I think you need to see where the tree originates, kind of like a portrait with a hand in it but no arm. lol Which do you like best? Love your work sooo much!

  25. Frank Wingate Says:

    #2…the tree trunk and the ground gives the photo more balance…at least for me.

  26. Carole Wijenberg Says:

    I think number 2 is better it has a eye pleasing s line to it…I think the 1st one would be better if the cropping had of been higher up the tree line & no bush in the corner…love your work !!

  27. Brian Snyder Says:

    Gary, I prefer the first one over the second one. The first one seems more simple and cleaner looking. The second one feels cluttered with all the brush at the bottom. Too bottom heavy, as another person posted.

  28. Brad Mangas Says:

    This is interesting Gary, I have always thought most “photographers” spend way to much time over analyzing an image especially when in this case they are asked to make a choice. I’ve always wondered if after all their analyzing they even remember what the first thing was that caught their attention to begin with.

    I did not spend much time looking at these 2 images. When I seen the title of your post and the images I simply looked at both a few times for maybe a total of 10 seconds and noticed #2 seemed to make me want to look at it more. Maybe because it has a slightly more amount of contrast to it, not sure. But to me this is the way to determine which picture a person likes the most, that “first” impression is key because most of the time that is all a photographer gets to capture someones attention.

  29. Elizabeth Brown Says:

    First, I love that you go through the agonizing process to choose which photo is best just like I do! I just had my husband and father kidnapped on Sunday evening to help me decide on a few photos. Second, I prefer the second photo. While there is some mystery to the first photo thanks to the perspective, I like that the foreground is in the second photo to help frame it.

  30. Michael Gronow Says:

    For me it has to be the second one, I think there is a lot more balance in this one with the ground and bush (on the left) included. The bush in the first one has no anchor point and I find it distracting. How would it look if you cropped out the bush in the first one altogether?

  31. Eric Bier Says:

    I like the 2nd one because I feel like I am standing there in the scene.

  32. Todd Says:

    I guess it’s a matter of where you want to use these or who you might want to market them to.
    The bottom photo has more of a feel of depth because of the foreground, though that is frankly where my excitement for this version ends. There are too many distractions in the bottom photo to make me excited about it.
    I’m drawn to the top photo, the one with more fog in it. I think it’s partially due to the abstractness of it. As for the other photo, I struggle to find a particular point of focus with my eyes. It’s sharp and the exposure is great, but it just doesn’t do as much for me as the top photo. Moreover, there are some distracting textures along the right side of the bottom photo that are bothersome.
    There’s definitely more mood in the foggier photo.
    That said, my vote is definitely with the top photo that has more of the fog in it.

  33. Preeti Says:

    I think I prefer the first one. I really like the effect of the fog in the trees and I like the crop of the trees, showing just part of their trunks.
    It’s funny your anecdote about asking your wife/kids which photo they prefer. I do the same thing to my husband!

  34. Carl Says:

    I always (I know I should never say always or never) look to provide a good foreground, so I like #2 better. Although, I would probably tone down the intensity of the greens just a little and pop out the red knobs on the base of the tree. For a banner background (aka web/blog site), the top image is best because it puts you in the mind of the Redwood NP on a nice cool day. Feeling the twitch for Arcata.

  35. Rickbischoff Says:

    AWESOME work Gary …I just followed @MargieKinney ‘s RT …AND WOWED over your images …just couldn’t say which is better… I am partial to seeing more of the image, I guess the second one …hope that helps …keep living that inspired life man !! ……peace?

  36. Roman Johnston Says:

    I like both. I would not choose between them as both while different crops of the same shot tell completely different stories. The first one focuses on the atmosphere, and the other one allows for a more grounded approach. If forced, I would choose the bottom one as it tells a “fuller story”.


  37. Brad Says:

    I think they both stand on their own right, as completely different images, but if I had to choose I like the second one better because the composition feels more solid with the bottom acting as a foundation for the trees. The first is great, but appears more abstract to me while the second gives me a sense of place.

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