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Canyonlands Sunset

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 17 May 2009 in Landscape & Rural.

I have finally started back with my editing in earnest after almost a month of traveling. I came across this image from a memorable sunset shoot at Canyonland's Green River Overlook. I remember this day particularly well as the afternoon brought fierce wind gusts near 50 mph! A tip from another photographer directed me to this western-most outlook of this incredibly beautiful National Park.

When shooting canyons of this scale, it is very important for me to include some foreground elements to reveal a sense of scale. I also like including any living plants or trees as they stand in stark contrast to this rugged terrain.

In order to frame this image, I had to hop a rail and perch myself precariously along the edge of a steep cliff. Because this was slickrock and due to the fact that I was the only one there that day, I trespassed a bit. If you know me at all, you know that I am a real stickler for obeying rules to protect the environment, but in this case, I was in no way harming a plant or soil. I unfortunately have no fear of heights (something I wish I had at least an inkling of respect) so it does not bother me to wiggle into these locations.

As an aside, during last week's Yosemite workshop, our group arrived early one morning at Cook's Meadow to photograph Yosemite Falls in a reflection pool. A large portion of the Meadow is "environmentally protected," yet there was a photographer 40 yards in front of us firmly entrenched in the meadow. A couple of the members of our group called out that he was not supposed to be there and he simply waved us off until he captured his shot. This unfortunately reflects badly on all photographers and just give the powers that be more reason to close off once accessible terrain.

As for capturing this image, I used a Singh-Ray 5-stop soft edge split neutral density filter to hold back exposure on the sky while allowing the deep canyon more exposure. I also held my 2-stop Singh Ray soft edge split grad diagonally over the 5-stop to further tone down the top one-third of the sky. The sun was darting frantically in and out of the clouds as it neared the horizon and I simply reacted to the light. Nik Viveza helped me easily balance all the tones and colors you see in this image - it is an unbelievable piece of software! Please use my code (listed below) if you would like to order any of the Nik products and you'll receive a 15% discount.

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 2/5 seconds F/16.0 ISO 200 16 mm

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