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Juniper Snag and Sunrise Light on Landscape Arch

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 9 January 2011 in Landscape & Rural.


Winter Big Sur Photo Workshop - Magic Light and The Pfeiffer Beach Arch - January 11-14, 2011 (Workshop Sold Out)
Northern Arizona Photo Workshop - Grand Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Sedona - March 16-20, 2011
(Workshop Sold Out)
Spring Big Sur Workshop - 4th Annual Wildflowers and Color - April 17-20, 2011 (5 spots remaining)
Springtime in Lake Tahoe and the Mokelumne Wilderness Photo Workshop - May 14-17, 2011 (space available)
Northern California - 3rd Annual Redwoods and Mendocino Photo Workshop - May 23-26, 2011 (space available)
Second Annual Garden Isle and Tropical Paradise - Kauai Photo Workshop - July 8-12, 2011 (only 5 spots remaining)
Summer Big Sur - 3rd Annual Mystical Fog and Colorful Headlands Photo Workshop - August 23-26, 2011 (space available)
Full Moon Over Red Rock, Arches, and Canyons - 3rd Annual Arches/Canyonlands Photo Workshop - October 9-13, 2011 (only 4 spots remaining).
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Photographic software never ceases to amaze me. Just when I think I have one piece of software figured out, something new is introduced and all my old ways of thinking and working are twisted into a new reality!

Take HDR software for example. I have used Photomatix Pro for most of the past four years and thought I reached a threshold of what the software could accomplish. Further, I drew the line at trying to HDR any series of images with motion as I was never satisfied with the final rendition of the software. Then comes Nik HDR Efex Pro and once again the game changes - for the better I might add!

Today's image was was captured on during this past fall's Arches/Canyonlands Workshop in eastern Utah. Less than a mile's hike from Arches National Park's Devil's Garden parking lot affords one this view of the world's largest spanning arch - 290.1 feet (which beats Zion's Kolob Arch by three feet). I like taking my students to this location for a sunrise shoot as the sun rises approximately 45-degrees off-axis and skims the arch with beautiful warm light. The show comes and goes quickly, especially on clear-sky days, so I arrive at least 30-minutes prior to sunrise.

Having photographed this famed arch for many years, I made sure my students were content, then I challenged myself to find something different than what I had done in past years. Continuing on the trail past Landscape Arch, there is a small but impressive grove of dead Juniper snags. I had vaguely remembered these snags from the previous year and decided to see if I could somehow make them work as a foreground.

I was also testing Nik Software's HDR Efex Pro and felt this scene would be a great test. I simply metered both the shadows and the highlight areas of the scene and bracketed my shutter by one-stop. Using my 16-35 mmL Series II lens allowed me to very close to the foreground snag.

Part of what I love about the software is that it offers presets as a starting point. I like my HDR work to not look like it was HDR'd, so I generally opt for the Realistic preset as a starting point. For this image (a combination of 6 frames) the software absolutely nailed it! I really had very little to do to finish it off. My main concern was that I retained the beautiful texture in the snag and as you can see, it is all there. Moreover, the small grass that were bobbing and weaving in the morning breeze recorded sharp (I have no ideas how the software pulled that one off)!

Foreground elements are so important in the vast majority of my work that I try to find them for virtually every scene, even when photographing an icon such as Landscape Arch. If you want to set your icon images apart from the masses, challenge yourself to find a foreground element. With as good as HDR software is today, even in extreme contrasts such as this scene you can rest assured the software will retain all the glorious detail that your eyes can see.

Can't wait to see what new pieces of software are in the pipeline for 2011!

BTW - if you are interested in either Photomatix, Nik, or Topaz products, please use my codes listed below to receive a discount!

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