Sunday, March 25, 2012

View From Our Backyard

I was washing dishes Saturday afternoon and looked out the kitchen window to see this.

We get some awesome sunsets across that pasture and I've tried to capture them before.  Most of the time by the time I get my camera and tripod out, run outside, and set up the light is gone.   I've never been able to capture any of those light displays.  This time was different.  I had just gotten a new Canon 5D Mark ii the day before and it was sitting out where I could grab it on the way out the door.   I didn't bother with the tripod and decided to do the best I could without it.

The bright sky and relatively dark field was much to big of a dynamic range of light for the camera to capture.  Either the sky was going to be blown out bright white or the field and trees were going to be very dark.  I shot three exposures (-1 EV, 0, +1 EV) to capture the entire range of light.   I should have gone with a wider spread because the brightest part of the sky was blown out at -1.   After I made those shots I changed the settings and poof the light was gone!   Unlike the light in my last post, this time it only lasted a couple minutes.

I used ISO 800 and f/22 to try and get a star burst from the clouds.  At that setting I got shutter speeds of 1/20, 1/40 and 1/80.  I was hand holding with image stabilization on.  I had no idea if the three images would line up or if I had too much camera shake.

My workflow for this photo was longer than most:
  1. Ran the three exposures through Nik Define to remove the digital noise due to the ISO of 800.
  2. Combined them using Nik HDR Efex Pro using a Natural setting.  I used some control points to tone down the dramatic clouds that HDR processing created.  I used another control point to brighten up the tree on the right that had come out too dark.
  3. Edited in Photoshop Elements to remove some severe lens flare created by shooting into the sun and some power lines in the distance.
  4. Edited in Nik Color Efex 4 to fix the clouds (they came out light brown), make the rolling hills more distinct, and bring out the "God Beams" of sunlight.  Also added a little dark vignette  around the edges.
I am truly blessed to live in such a beautiful part of the country, have such a great view right outside my back door, and have a God that creates such beauty each and every day.  I'm also thankful for my wife June who first pointed out the light and offered to finish the dishes while I went out and played. My photography would be dull and uninteresting without her spotting the shots for me.

Of course, you can buy prints of this photo online