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Heavenly Beams, Lake Tahoe

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 27 May 2010 in Landscape & Rural.

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Serendipity is an often-overlooked element of successful landscape photography. How quickly one can react to a given moment is the key. How many times have you been in your car only to come across an incredibly lit scene? More often than not, there is no where to pull over, or worse, our cameras are safely stored in our camera bags at home.

Fortunately for my friend Scott Schilling and myself, our cameras were ready to go when we spotted these beautifully warm crepuscular rays bursting through storm clouds along the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe, Nevada. And better yet, there was a pullout nearby that allowed us to scamper down a rather steep hill to gain access to some amazing boulders that we used as foreground elements.

What was unfortunate was the fact that the light lasted for all of about one minute once we got set, no time for a do-over! Experience has taught me to bracket these scenes as the camera can rarely capture the entire dynamic range of this type of light. I initially thought HDR, and it gave me an opportunity to test the supposedly improved Merge to HDR tool in Photoshop CS5. Let's just say that I was less than impressed. No problem I thought, I'll go to my old-standby, Photomatix. It did do a better job than PSCS5 but still produced noticeable artifacts along the highlighted portions of the clouds. To be fair, any movement in a scene is difficult for any of these programs to handle, and yes, these clouds were moving.

Finally, I went with the layer and mask technique that I have mentioned so often on this blog and a method I teach regularly in my workshops. It is a much more painstaking procedure, but it never fails to produce the best results. One of the new tools in CS5 that I am fond of is the Lens Correction tool, which is found in Camera RAW and also in the Filters Menu in Photoshop. I'm sure I'll be talking more about this filter as I become more familiar with its tendencies.

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 1/30 second F/16.0 ISO 100 16 mm

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