Chased by the Light

On the first evening of my recent Valley of Fire Workshop, we hiked out to Fire Wave in hopes of capturing dramatic landscape images. The skies had some amazing clouds to the south hanging over Fire Wave when we first arrived and we set up for the more or less traditional shot. I encouraged my students to begin shooting as the clouds gathered and the sun began to sink on the western horizon. Just as soon as the light was getting sweet, the clouds disapeared altogether to the south rendering the scene a rather lifeless one.

The good news was that the clouds to the west and north had began to gather in dramatic fashion. I always encourage my students to always keep an open mind and be sure to check over their shoulders when shooting. Sometimes the best stuff is happening right behind you! So instead of focusing on the composition we set out to capture, we quickly re-focused our attention on composing a compelling image looking in the opposite direction. Lucky for us the lines in the stone worked perfectly! Once everyone was set up, the sun dipped well below the horizon and the clouds slowly began to light up, first in an explosion of yellow/orange and quickly followed by a soft pink/magenta hue. The light was intense and much of the color in the sky bounced down into the landscape painting the multi-colored sandstone in rich warm hues. I was able to sneak of a few exposures in-between checking my clients setting and compositions as the light reached it’s peak of color.

This is a single exposure captured in RAW (always!) and processed first in Adobe Lightroom V4 for basic color corrections, global tonal adjustments and lens corrections. I then moved into Photoshop CS6 and did some more advanced “tone mapping” to the image via channels selections and curves, setting Selective Color and finally finishing the image in NIK Viveza for some target tone adjustments to both the sky for warmth and noise reduction and the rocks for contrast, saturation and structure.

Image Details: Nikon D800, 14-24mm, 2 seconds @F14, ISO 50

We have several opening for a few upcoming workshops this spring and early summer.