IMAGE TALK with Noella Ballenger: What makes that photo work…

Categories: Photo Critiques, Photo Composition, Action Photography, Photography Light, Color Contrast

Sometimes photographers just get lucky! They’re traveling in a location where Mother Nature provides them with the perfect photo opportunity to catch her in action. With photo equipment always close at hand, chances are something exciting will occur and you’ll be able to make a strikingly beautiful image to add to your portfolio.

Duke Miller was one of those lucky photographers! While on a journey within one of our nation’s wonderful national parks, he had the good fortune of encountering an action filled show of weather and light. By having his camera on-hand and knowing his equipment, he was able make this image, along with documenting an incredible moment in time.

by Duke Miller

Photo of storm and double rainbow at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon by Duke Miller
© 2012 Duke Miller. All rights reserved.

Subject: Storm & Double Rainbow at Crater Lake National Park

Conditions: “A thunder storm was swirling across the water at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon and the setting sun created a rare double rainbow. The photograph was taken from Rim Village, approximately 1,000 feet above the lake’s surface, providing a straight-on vantage point of the storm.”


1. Unusual action and strong color contrasts grabs your attention first.

2. Late afternoon light makes the colors come alive.

3. Implied diagonal lines take you from the storm to the first rainbow, to the next rainbow and back again.

4. Circle forms are bold here – the lake, the trees and arc of rainbows.

5. A variety of elements keep you confined in the image – circles, action and mist.

Noella’s comments:

This image not only grabs your attention because it is an exciting moment in nature that isn’t often seen, but because it is so well done. Duke was observant, prepared and knew how to capture the excitement of the moment. Storms like this come up suddenly and almost as quickly pass on and one needs to be alert and prepared.

The strong color contrast between the intense blue of the lake, the dark clouds in the background and the vibrant white of the wind whipped rain are stunning. Add the intensity of a sunset and the perfect atmospheric conditions and you’ll get that splash of eye-catching rainbows. The intensity of the color and light in the first rainbow as it arcs down can’t help but make you imagine that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is sitting within the golden light at the top of that tree!

In composing this image, Duke’s location assisted him in seizing the moment when the storm and rainbows appeared diagonally across the lake. Incorporating a diagonal gives a sense of motion and a more dynamic feeling to a photograph.

There are several other elements that keep you focused on the impact of lake, storm and rainbows.
* The implied circles of the lake and trees create a bowl shape that keeps the eye contained within not only the frame of the photo, but within the circles themselves.
* The eye takes a journey around the image, but the action keeps you coming back to the double rainbow and storm.
* The white mists of the storm also block out the background and thus your eye is locked into the image’s focal range.

Duke, this is a terrific image and, even though we weren’t there, this photograph gave all of us a wonderful chance to enjoy the moment with you! Congratulations on a job well done!

If you would like one of your images to be considered for IMAGE TALK…, please send Noella an e-mail with a low resolution copy of the image. Put the words “IMAGE TALK” in the subject line and send it to

Come back and join us for another IMAGE TALK in the near future.
To see all the IMAGE TALK… critiques, just click here.

Acknowledgments: I would like to thank Marla Meier for her editing assistance in order to present the images for this series. And, our thanks to the photographer/artists who allow us the use of their wonderful photos in these columns.
You inspire all of us!


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All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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