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Fog at Dawn Over San Benito County

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 18 January 2011 in Landscape & Rural.

UPCOMING 2011 WORKSHOPS:

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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*** PLEASE NOTE: I AM CURRENTLY IN DEATH VALLEY ASSISTING GARY HART WITH HIS WORKSHOP. I MAY NOT BE ABLE TO RESPOND TO YOUR COMMENTS BUT I WILL CERTAINLY LOOK FORWARD TO READING THEM!

Still having fun reworking some of my older images with some newer software. Today's image goes back to an early June morning in 1997. I remember checking the weather forecast the night before and saw that there was some tropical moisture streaming up from the southern portion of California, and thought there may be an opportunity for a colorful sky mixed with the persistent summer fog.

Fortunately, my 4:30 am alarm got me up in time to make the 20 minute drive up San Juan Canyon Road to a location that overlooks the southern portion of the Santa Clara Valley, with my hometown of Hollister shrouded by this thick fog. Summer inversion layers oftentimes keep the deck of the fog at 2,000 feet (or lower) during the summer months and by luck, it happened on this morning. The forecast of subtropical skies also panned out and I got a perfect mix of a warm sky (prior to the sun rising) atop the coolness of the the low fog mixed into one frame.

I knew the last thing the image needed to be successful was a complimentary foreground. I can remember literally running up and down the road as the sky was coming to life and as my good fortune had it, I spotted these summer wildflowers. I lowered my Gitzo tripod (with no center column) to no more than 6 inches off the ground, held a Singh-Ray 3-stop soft edge grad over the sky and began firing away. I remember my mid-ground (which is part of Hollister Hills Motorcycle Park) was too dark so I bracketed a couple of extra exposures and blended it in using a layer mask in Photoshop.

I actually used three filters in Nik Color Efex Pro to get a bit more punch out of this image. The three I used were: Brilliance and Warmth, Foliage (to give the foreground flowers their glow) and Pro Contrast (reduced to 50% using the layer opacity slider in Photoshop). Could I have accomplished this without the help of the filters? Yes, but at an expense of tedious time in Photoshop. The filters work on the specific tones/colors that I desire and the changes are done in seconds!

I actually have a large print of this image hanging in my home and has always been a favorite of mine. It's also a constant reminder of the type of light awaiting in the wee hours of the morning. The other benefit of photographing early (especially in the summer months) is the lack of wind as the ground temperatures generally are still cool enough to not cause radiant updrafts - tough to deal with when trying to capture wildflowers in low light.

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II 10 second F/20.0 ISO 400 26 mm

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