I spent the end of January doing a lot of traveling and trying to photograph as much as I could. After an amazing trip to Salt Lake City for the 2013 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, a small group of us were rounded up before dawn and shuttled off to parts unknown in Idaho courtesy of GeigerRig. The thick morning storm clouds were beginning to open up as the sun came up behind the snow covered mountains just north of Ogden. Any good photographer would have wanted to stop and set up for the shot, but I didn’t have that luxury. As we sped along the slushy freeway, I rolled down the window and snapped off a few shots hoping I could keep the camera steady.
You can see it was a dramatic sunrise. The clouds were great, and the snowy mountains were picture perfect. I knew taking the shots out of the window would give me a blurry foreground (hard not to at 60MPH) and would require cropping. I framed the shot accordingly, knowing I would crop the road out later. This sort of shot wanted to be a panoramic format anyway. Problem is, the raw image muted a lot of the color and intensity of the scene. So when I got back to the cabin I loaded the image into Photoshop and played with it. I wanted to get some contrast into the image and bring some of the colors out without losing the clouds. I did my typical edit of higher contrast, and pushed some light into the shadows and then intensified the blacks.
Photograph edited in Photoshop CS4…
I was initially very happy with this image after I worked it over in Photoshop. I got the blue sky and intense sunrise colors I was looking for. Certainly better than the raw image. After time, I became less happy with the image. I had lost some of the detail and drama in the clouds and the mountains still seemed a little muted in the color scheme. The sky just didn’t feel as “big” as it should and the mountains looked pale. After looking at it I also felt like I had over-cropped the image. I needed a little more foreground, even though the foreground wasn’t anything amazing it still gave the story context. Context is an important part of telling your story in writing as well as photography.
Photograph edited in Lightroom 4.3…
I started from scratch in Lightroom with the raw image. I played the same game of lightening the shadows and filling in the blacks while playing adjustments to clarity and contrast. Once I felt I had the nuts and bolts of the image dialed in I worked on coaxing more color out of the clouds to set them off. The differences are subtle but I managed to keep the clouds intact, bring more weight to the mountain shadows and still bring out some brilliant colors in the sky. I fine tuned the yellows and oranges to keep the pallet warm but not “sunset warm”. I cropped the image to include more of the foreground which seemed to maintain the “big sky” feel that the original image had.
Ultimately, I now feel I’ve got an image that has retained the integrity of the original shot but with a much more dramatic story to tell. This just shows you what minor tweaks to the development and cropping can do for an image.
- This image was shot on a Nikon D300 with a Nikon Nikkor 10-28mm WA lens.
- Exp: 1/200, F/7.1, ISO-200, 10mm.
- Originally shot in RAW format and processed in Adobe Lightroom.