I made this image on my first evening into Arches National Park Windows area during a incoming storm. It had actually been what I considered a "green light" afternoon for images because of the cloudy skies and I had been shooting at various locations around the park for four hours prior to the light rain settling in. About 45 minutes before posted sunset, the weather seemed to really lock in and I decided to call it a day. As I began exiting the parking lot, I saw this opening in the clouds and felt I had better pull over and see if anything would develop.
About 20 minutes later, the rain had subsided and the hole in the clouds began to brighten as the sun had been lowering towards the horizon. Now the fun began. I grabbed my gear and headed down a trail looking for a suitable foreground element. I found this Juniper bush and liked how it created a diagonal line that led the eye up and to the warm light coming through the opening of the clouds. The warm shafts of sunlight also began backlighting the famed Balanced Rock and I knew I needed to bracket my exposures and deal with combining them later in post.
This final image is a result of combining 5 (1 stop) bracketed frames in Photoshop CS4 with layers and masks. I had a tough time getting the Juniper bush to blend evenly with the surrounding red slickrock, so I hit on the idea of taking my final 5 frame combination and combining it with another properly exposed frame of the Juniper in Photomatix Pro 3.0, and this was the result!
My final touch was to use Nik Viveza to tone down the brightest areas of the sunburst and add a touch of contrast to the sky, and I used Nik DFine to eliminate noise in the sky caused by the bump in contrast. All of these products are available for a discount by using my codes provided below.
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