Scenic Cycle Round 4 Results

Hi everyone! Last week our photographers had to brave some nasty weather to find us beautiful shots of storms . We had some breathtaking shots that traveled around the world, but the winner this week belonged to Aldrid Light for Byakko’s Wrath.

Byakko’s Wrath

Congratulations! The cloud formation in this shot is incredible and helps to balance the image nicely. This was a really challenging round but the judges were wow’d at how epic each of the storm shots felt, and how even when a location was similar, each shot had its own personality all the same.

Please continue reading for critiques from our judges!

Judge Forthyn

The Gathering Storm: A relatively active shot in terms that it has a lot of dynamic shadows playing in the foreground, it gives first impression of a disconnect between it and the background, but the comparative harmony with muted colors and interactive sky breaks this up to be sound. The lightning strike is centered nicely; it creates a noticeable diamond formation with the trees of the foreground. I would like to see another area of rest or be lead along to more of the photo instead of remaining trapped within the aforementioned shape. Cast shadows are lovely to follow, but I get lost in the mesh of green of the lower right. The sky which you captured here is spectacular and the particle effect of the weather is quite fitting.

Grim and Gloomy: This one is quite fascinating: it is a burst of color seeming from all directions, a battle of complements and something that should be looked at more abstractly than seen as an actual space. The gloom is heavy here and almost meshes with the ground, forming an indigo blend. There is an established circular eye movement from right to left then back again, and after a few rounds around, one gets tired. I want to find rest in the corrupted dome, but it isn’t nearly as inviting as the wonderful indigo seen next to it. The foreground is extremely powerful, yet I want to be teased with the possibility of more hidden within that gloom.

Nevermore: A strong depth of field that leads the viewer straight to the background; all three levels are activated and busy with movement. I appreciate that the glow of the flowers compliments the glow of the rock within the background; these flowers also break up any tension that an otherwise independent rock would’ve produced within the foreground. Overall a fulfilled and focused centered panel while still allowing the eyes to travel; the left plane is slightly stronger than the right yet it works for this shot. The creation of an excellent mood with the rippling shadows of the land, water and flash of light speaks there is more than one lightning strike to be weary of.

Azys Lla Light Show: Wonderful forward travel, an arching framework forming a leading line to carry the eyes through space towards the lightning strike beyond. I would say this angle can be even more framed, as to not cut off the floating mechanism on the right and lure the right Allagan column into a more vertical anchor for your already asymmetrical piece. The asymmetry is almost hazardous, as is wont of Allagan fashion, and one should continue to feed off that organized chaos. The color interactions add life and interest; the cadmium haze appears more ominous and potentially deadly, the artificial blues create the appropriate amount of dissonance.

Looming: Interesting play of colors within the gloom that fades wonderfully into the horizon, it provides a textural element to give Midgardsormr’s grave visual interest as to not be weak versus the crystal formation of the foreground. While the Crystal Tower is a curious element, it almost merges with the foreground, due to the near-similar colors seen in the crystal clusters. Having this element visibly rooted to the background would better establish depth and potentially create eye movement within the field. You are taking a “pic” – Perspective, Intention, Composition.

Angered Skies: The interaction within the sky is ominous; the blue of this lightning is one of the purest I’ve seen. While the ocean gives you a commanding horizontal focus, consider your intention when you have a viewer look at your photograph; what is the goal, the overall objective? The image is divided firmly in half and the right is left wanting, though I can construct a drive behind it. To successfully create a workable negative space, other areas within the composition need to be sustainable. Remember rule of thirds, and consider only allowing three panels to be occupied by negative space (any formation of your choosing). Judge Ni’ko expresses a story within his writings: to have a good story, one must need a plot, this is your composition.

The Measure of his Reach: A heavy horizontal foreground sets us up for an imposing visual weight further expressed by dividing the photo in half. This half is valued by an imposed strength; this weight is what balances a work without needing to share objective balance evenly. The lightning generates a powerful focal point while establishing an essential line to produce a curious ninety-degree angle that communicates back with the city silhouette. There are no details within the foreground to distract from the vanishing horizon, and the strike of lightning that connects so boldly into the water: this connection between realms pushes the existence of depth without needing to directly expose that depth. The lopsided color focus of the clouds staggers the visual focus; good use of negative space.

Byakko’s Wrath: Excellent horizontal foundation set, the soft blend here alludes to the vanishing horizon. I enjoy the implied fantasy you’ve woven of the sky being produced from the smoke billowing out of the mountain; the activated sky then grounds the viewer, pulling the eyes to marvel about the glow emanating from the mountain. For a scene such as this, it’s important not to allow such complimentary colors overpower the mood, and you’ve done this successfully. Unlike “The Measure of His Reach,” which visibly grounded the lightning, yours is suspended within the air, fading off, the only plausible place of connection being behind the mountain; this is good, as it pushes that continuous eye movement between planes. A firm hand on use of negative space.

The Dark’s Guardian: A dark, powerful atmosphere softly accentuated by a mist of environmental glow. While the overall scene lacks depth, the castle and lightning give moderate visual attention and weight; it creates a mood. The slow transition of greens through muted blues of the sky is a gentle cycle versus the castle juxtaposed over it, though without the integrating factor of the particles, these two elements would not mesh as well. Consider stressing perspective even more to create depth, build from compositional elements to make your work strong, so when you capture the necessary weather it becomes great.

Aetheric Presence: Lovely color interaction between the landscape and gloom, the warmer tones of the sky are briefly resonated with those of the settlement, just enough give notice and break up the almost-overpowering blue of the foreground; which is almost too busy. An area of rest is settled with Midgardsormr to pull attention to the background after being drawn within by the gloom, but a more stable hierarchy should be considered for the foreground: at the moment, you have three elements directing my eyes towards the ancient dragon (pointed spires). Having a curious element to lure the viewer back to the front, to really appreciate the foreground, would create the perfect movement. You almost had it here, continue striving forward.

Judge Ona

The Gathering Storm:

You crash over the trees
You crack the live branch –
The branch is white,
The green is crushed,
Each leaf is rent like split wood.

Let’s start out by saying you picked the best color sky ever. All jokes aside, I absolutely love how you have so few color variations in this image. It really allows for the focus in the image to go to the lightning bolt in the sky. The trees remaining in focus ground the image and adds a sense of movement to the swirling clouds.

My concern is that the mountain range is swallowed by these large looming trees. If the angle of the image allowed for more of that range to appear, I feel it would have provided a needed layer to the image. Otherwise, I would recommend angling the image in the opposite direction to cover the mountain range altogether.

I love how the lightning is mid-strike, and how it has produced a large white blaze that spiders out into the green sky. Hidden behind the mountain, it begs the viewer to wonder what lies beyond the mountain. I would consider not centering the shot here, and allowing more of the grounding structure of the image to provide setting for the image.

Grim and Gloomy:

When in evening, ye say,
it will be fair weather: For the sky is red.
And in the morning, it will be foul weather today;
 for the sky is red and lowering.

Whoa, there is so much going on in this image. It gives me so much to look at and observe. I enjoy the chaotic nature of the image, the swirling in the sky and the vivid colors are vibrant and beautiful.

I fear that which makes this image vibrant, also takes away from the cohesion of the image. There’s so much going on here that I can’t actually tell what I am looking at. There isn’t one focal point to guide my eye or provide me grounding.

Work on ensuring a specific focus in your images to ensure that the viewer understands and can connect to your image.


“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
   Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
   Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”

The Raven is one of my most beloved poems. I have a tattoo on my thigh of a raven with the quote “let my heart be still a moment…” which is from the poem, and this image belongs right along side of Edgar and his beloved Lenore. The grey hillsides, the use of lighting from the lightning strike and the flowers in the foreground add a heavy feeling of sadness to this image. I am also very glad you made sure it was heavy rain, not just rain.

I do, however, wish you would have made the image a tad darker in general. Though it is bright enough to see all elements, if it were a shade or two darker, the image would brood more and provide more of that macabre feel.

That being said, I love the lighting from the right on the trees and the rocks providing a light source to the image. I also really appreciate the view through these two hillsides, drawn through the water and towards the looming hillside. Excellent shot!

Azys Lla Light Show:

She was
Of us
The storm
To feel safe

That sky is really interesting! Green and orange clouds giving way to this lightning bolt that just begins to emerge from the sky to strike the platform below. It is an interesting shot to take for certain. Using this dead centered approach to the strike works for you in this image.

What I would have liked is for the tower in the foreground to have not been cut off, or to be framed out of the image altogether. I know that you are doing a shot through the structure, however, having this spire cut off causes me to focus on it and not the rest of the image in front of it.

Following down through the structure, I enjoy how the arches curve inward, pointing at the lightning strike, and bring the viewer to the interesting sky in the background. I wonder what this image would have looked like in portrait mode.


There was a storm in her eyes
Rocky seas from a hundred stormy nights
But also, too
There was a light
A warm wind
From a distant shore

What a stunning image. The use of the blues and the pinks is a risk, but it hasn’t hurt this image! I can see the horizon line of the dark blue, against the light blue. The sky changing colors from the blue to purple to that bright pink, is striking and incredible.

Although I love the pinks and blues, I do wish there was a bit more definition in the structure on the right. I love how it stands silhouetted against the pink sky, however you lose it against the blue of the sky and the water. Another specific point, is that I wish that the spire on the left and the piece of the structure were not cut off at the top.

Having the crystals on the left side in focus adds a needed point of focus in the image. It brings another natural element to this image that looks so very unnatural. I really enjoyed this image.

Angered Skies:

No one heard
The cries of the men and screech of rope in the rigging
Suddenly, when the stormcloud whipped away
Clear sky and daylight from the Teucrian’s eyes,
And gloom of night leaned on the open sea.

 This is a simple image. I love how you have captured that lightning strike exactly as you did. It is fierce and menacing. The sky is most definitely angry, and the lightning is striking as it pierces the sky.

The image, however, is lacking in another element, the something more.  I know that this may sound a little backwards, however if the image was cut down, to have the lightning strike on the far right of the image, instead of in the middle, and the empty sea was significantly cut down as well, the image would provide more to look at, not less.

Consider dead space in all of your images, as dead space draws the viewer to it, not away.

The Measure of his Reach:

When the wind works against us in the dark, 
And pelts with rain 
The lowest chamber window on the east, 
And whispers with a sort of stifled bark, 
The beast, 
‘Come out! Come out!

I would not have thought to use the sepia toned filter for a storm image, but I am so glad that you did. This was one of my top three. I am in love with that silhouette of the city skyline, the darkness of the cloud above, the falling rain and who can ignore that crack of a lightning strike. The storm feels like it is building to thunder down on the town below. I can see the clean lines of the town, and the crisp clouds draw the viewer away from the empty space in the upper right. Just be careful of the empty space, especially when you are doing a silhouette, as the technique of silhouettes creates a purposeful empty space, to which you do not want to add any more. Beautiful image this week

Byakko’s Wrath:

Thundering back
At the shrieking wind
They flash like fire
Among the peaks

Another silhouette! This one was also my top three. The blue is broken up by the ominous burning red from inside the mountain spires. It draws the viewer’s eye to it, to its core, to the heated internal burn that teases its eruption. The smoke from the mountain reach to the swirling clouds in the sky and are broken by the lightning striking back down to the mountain below. I utterly enjoy the water blurring into the mountain while the purple hues rise from behind the horizon line and fade into the sky above. Another epic lightning strike to remind the viewer of the wrath of nature. Excellent image this week!

The Darks Guardian:

The thunder
Roars the storm
Intensifies but
Still I drink it in

Another silhouette (and another green sky!!)! I really appreciate the three artists who utilized this strong silhouette style to highlight the angry and powerful skies and the ferocity of the storms of Eorzea. The strong contrast in this image from the darkness of the statuette mirrored by the lightning bolt piercing the sky, allows the viewer to bounce back and forth between the manmade and the natural. I love how the bolt touches the tower connecting the two focal points of the image together and providing the viewer a line to follow to the guardian of the night.

I would recommend, however, making sure to really make sure that when you are doing a silhouette, you ensure the item to be silhouetted is a solid black image, and removes all items that provide definition to it.

This image was also in my top three this week, and I appreciate you sharing it with us.

Aetheric Presence:

Unwelcoming arms to stormy whistles
Lips that curse the veil-like drizzles
Eyes unenchanted by dancing ripples
They are not a home, for me.

Another pink sky image only this one allows me to see this interesting hamlet of structures falling and tents against the cold. The looming “presence” in the background, slightly hidden by the swirling in the sky, is enough to remind the viewer of that which should be feared, but far enough away to provide a false sense of calm.

The town is in full focus, which takes a bit away from the sky and the storm. Since the image is as pulled out as it is, it also doesn’t allow the viewer to see the small details or to feel engaged with those in that town. I would have liked to be a bit closer, or turning the image the background was made the focus point, instead of the leaning tower.

I appreciate you ensuring the farthest point on the right is not cut off in the image, as well as the upper most points. I also love how you have made sure to layer your image through the horizon being darker than the snow-covered foreground. By providing a depth of field in the image to be the sharpest at the town, the image is grounded and the viewer has a place from which to begin their view.

Judge Ni’ko

The Gathering Storm
This is very much a standout shot that it takes an otherwise monochrome color scheme and turns it on its ear. I love the spark of lightning taking hold of the eye, forcing everything else to feel encircled around it. The trees, a smattering of green and blue hues, almost seem to bend into the lightning here. The angle also helps the trees really blot out some of the otherwise boring, muddy mountains in the background, turning what could have been a plain backdrop into something mysterious. The starry sky peeks out beyond the seemingly warped cloudy sky, giving so much depth to the shot. You gave us verdant, and I went ver-damn. Well done.

Grim and Gloomy
Clearly you have done your homework on me. Kidding aside, let’s be honest, I have seen this effect plenty of times. I’ve done it a few myself. However, your shot takes what’s already been done, and redefines it. This is an incredibly unique location of Mor Dhona, and a unique way of demonstrating that weather effect. You gave me the illusion of an eye peering into my soul, crying out amidst a crystalline wasteland. The arcs of ‘gloom’ here give some nice framing, and create an interesting spot of dead space that is filled with this vibrant, red grape coloring. You came, you saw, you concord. Splendid.

The atmosphere here is thick, straight out of some early era horror film. I can see an epic chase occurring here, lightning flashing, heart racing, maniacal villain breathing down our neck. This shot is so dreary, but it relishes it. There is exquisite framing at play here, drawing my eyes down the middle in between the two hills. The spark of lightning is a great element here, and gives great natural lighting amidst the storm. The little dots of lighting from the foreground fauna helps to give depth. My only concern with this shot is that had it not been for the weather effect this would have been a bland shot. But excellent usage of using the weather to set up a story for us. This was a shot in the dark that really gave me a shock. Well done.

Azys Lla Light Show
The coloring here is so interesting, the spark of lightning draws the eye, and the area feels like a futuristic arena of sorts. It is a solid take on the typical rule of thirds as there is some clear boundaries between the green clouds, the orange clouds, and the “land.” That aside, I’ve some issues with this shot. This shot genuinely does not feel unique to me; I can see this and more upon teleporting into the zone. The weather effect is typical of the region, so I’m not getting much of a wow factor here. There is also little to no story that I’m able to grasp. This is a delightful picture, but it’s just missing some soul to draw the interest. You took me to Azys Lla, but I got Azys Blah.

I love this weather effect; I’ve seen some great shots that utilize this, and this shot is no different. There is a great flanking element between the cluster to the left, and Midgardsormr to the right. The eyes get draw right through the middle, wondering what is deep in the distance near that lit area. There is this beautiful blend of colors from bold pomegranates to turquoise to dark purple. Spectacular coloring. Beyond that, though, I am lost. There is nothing particular to keep the eye; most of this shot is shadow and background. Because the scope of the shot is so narrow I’m just not feeling a story here beyond an invitation to learn more about the region. You were giving me Mor Dhona, but I was getting more dunno.

Angered Skies
The shock of lightning here is just gorgeous; it lights up the sky well in the area, and is a nice contrast against the darkened atmosphere of the shot. That aside this shot disappoints me. I’m not seeing a story here, and the locale is so plain and dark there’s very little that holds interest. Some measure of texture here could have helped, but as the shot is I am just not excited. You lit the sky, but fizzled out otherwise.

The Measure of His Reach
I must immediately compliment you on your choice filter here. This shot is brilliant in sepia; the lightning is severe, and lights up the surrounding clouds brilliantly. The city in the background is such a splendid silhouette; had you chosen any other filter this could have come off as bland, so I am glad you utilized an oft overlooked filter for this shot. Where this misses for me lies in story, and overuse of the sky. We know the locale due to in-game events, but an outsider looking in is just going to see a city in the distance without knowing what makes that location so special. And the sky and clouds take up so much of this shot; it would have been nice to see more of the landscape (though it would have sacrificed this splendid arc of lightning). It’s a lovely shot, but it just feels like it’s missing something. Your cityscape reigned, but felt overshadowed by itself.

Byakko’s Wrath
I got chills when I saw this shot. The swirling clouds, the shock of lightning, the cerulean ocean before us, that volcano at just the right angle to enstill terror. The backdrop is just enshrouded enough to create mystery, but forefront enough to be part of the shot. Some excellent framing techniques here as the eyes are immediately drawn to the locale dead center while the rest of the shot lends support. The shading is just beautiful; the filter is just dark enough to create drama, but light enough to distinguish all elements. Your shot is simply erupting with electricity. Well done.

The Dark’s Guardian
The atmosphere is thick, and otherworldly. What post-apocalyptic locale have you taken us to? This arc of lightning is incredible to behold, perhaps the most pronounced of the entire week. This green, misty weather just reeks of mystique, and really holds my interest. The pillar topped off by a gargoyle of sorts only adds to this. My only concern here is that there is so much focus on this particular shadowy structure that there is little room for anything else here. Once you have seen the two main attractions here there’s nothing else keeping your attention. It definitely needed some more depth to really help your shot tell a story, and stand out. This struck me at first, but quickly cast a shadow of doubt.

Aetheric Presence
I greatly appreciate this weather effect, as some of the best shots just naturally come with it. The crystals glow, the sky is alit with a rainbow of colours, and the atmosphere of the area is just a sight to behold. This particular locale is interesting in that it showcases some measure of ruins surrounded by crystal. In the distance we see Midgardsormr, and the atmosphere seems to almost bend with his wings. That aside, I am not getting story here as this is such a mishmosh of atmospheres. It doesn’t feel like a natural transition between the purple sky, and the crystalline land, so it comes off as abrupt. Another angle could have shown this in a more natural sense. You gave us a lot to take in this week, but remember: less is more. Dhona.

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