Yosemite Tunnel View Dawn

October 21, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Tunnel View DawnSunrise over "Clouds Rest" in the Yosemite Valley from the Tunnel View vista on Wawona Road (CA Rt 41).

OK, I confess it. This is not a “straight” image. This is an image that has been created out of several images and it has been significantly worked on in Photoshop and Lightroom. The base photo is a high dynamic range merge created from a seven shot bracket. (When it’s fairly dark and you are shooting directly into a rising sun, what exposure should you use?) The resulting HDR image was quite pleasing but it had a very boring sky – there were absolutely no clouds on this particular dawn.

I had shot several sky shots with stars in the early morning before sunrise. Although these were not taken from exactly the same position as the main HDR, one image was close enough that I could add it to my image. The foreground was totally black, so adding the stars was a simple matter of putting both images into Photoshop as layers and aligning the mountains, then changing the overlay mode to “lighten”. This allowed the stars to come through to the HDR image but hid all the other dark features of the star image. Some work was also done in Photoshop to reduce a large lens flare and improve the coloration of the sun beams. This created my final image, which I was satisfied with for a while.

I had other images that showed the valley floor with better light and coloration. One of these was from another bracket set taken after the sun had fully risen but before I changed the tripod position. In this image the sky and mountains are completely blown out but the valley has good exposure and rich color. I decided to add this to my final image as well. This image was added as a new layer and a mask was used to “paint” in just a few areas where the forest coloration could be improved. Upon completion in Photoshop, I added a touch of clarity and vibrance in Lightroom and made some minor adjustment brush corrections.

The result of my work is not an honest representation of exactly what I saw on the morning of August 4th, 2016. It is a representation of what I experienced on that morning – the starry sky, the dark mountains, the overwhelming brightness of a rising sun and the shadowy detail of the illuminated forests. You don’t take this kind of a photo, you make it. I’m pleased with the result. 


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