Being Late

I have a pattern of being later. I always get too involved in photographing wherever I’m and end up being late for photographing sunset wherever I want to photograph sunset. Or I wake up just a little bit late and late to photographing sunrise.

Sometimes it plays out well though. Like in this case I was driving to photograph sunrise at mountain Rainier and I was late, I was too late.

On the way there I was passing a lake as usual. The morning was very cold and steam was rising from the lake. The sky had just a touch of pastel pink from a distant sunrise. I decided that this scene was worth stopping and photographing. Even though I was in a hurry. And that’s how I met the sunrise.

A Tale of Light

Day 6, Dawn

It is my last day in Death Valley, to be more accurate my last morning at Death Valley since after sunrise I will be driving back to Las Vegas and flying home. I can’t wait to hug my wife and son.

On my last morning at Death Valley I decided to photograph at Zabriskie Point. Morning photos from Zabriskie Point has become cliché. I heard stories of tens of photographers showing up there at sunrise. Strangely enough with several trips to Death Valley I’ve never been there. It was about time to change that.

Surprisingly I was the only person there… That’s one hour before sunrise. By sunrise there were 9 photographers and about 15 spectators.

I took several panoramas before, during and after sunrise. The sunrise was not very impressive – there were not much clouds in the sky. Only while reviewing panoramas at home I realized that I created a tale of light of that morning – I was taking a panorama every time there was significant change in light.

So here it is, a tale of light at Zabriskie Point. (Click on the images to see them in larger size.)

6:07 Deep blue of twilight.
Deep blue of twilight

6:21 Sunrise moving across the sky.
Sunrise moving across the sky

6:29 Touchdown. The gap between horizon and line of sunrise closed. The clouds lit up.
Touchdown

6:32 Sun kissed the mountains.
Sun kissed the mountains

7:03 The light is deep in the valley.
The light is deep in the valley

Badwater

Day 2, Sunrise

Badwater

My first sunrise on this trip was at Badwater. That’s a large flat with lots of salt deposits from drying out water. The salt is brought by streams running down the mountains surrounding the valley in those rare cases there is a rain in Death Valley.

I wanted to capture psychedelic twilight and early dawn colors that I saw long time ago here but now with better techniques. This time colors were too weak, so I had to put gold-n-blue polarizer to give them a punch. I use this filter very rarely because it saturates and shifts colors too much for my taste. The only exception when I use would be photographing sunrise or sunset when rich orange colors would be expected and I don’t get those colors without this filter.

I liked how sky came out with gold-n-blue polarizer but I did not like the color cast on salt flats. Thus in post-processing I removed the color cast and put back the color of salt flats without gold-n-blue polarizer.

My first attempt to remove cast was to do color balance. Unfortunately, I could not color balance uniformly across the whole field. That’s because gold-n-blue polarizer produces different color casts depending on an angle to light source (Sun in this case). Given that this is more than 180 degree panorama the color casts produced by the filter in the middle and on the sides was significantly different. As I color balanced middle of the photo, I’d have unpleasant green color cast on the sides. As I color balanced sides I’d get magenta cast in the middle.

After that struggle I decided that the only way to fix color cast on the salt flats was to get rid of color information completely and bring back color from a photo without polarizer. The first step was putting a black and white layer on top of salt flats to remove color completely. Then I put photo filter with color picked from photo taken without the gold-n-blue polarizer. The last step was blending that with original color of this photograph to add variation and make smooth transitions between colors.

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