Blinded by the Light, Everglades National Park, Florida

Long Lens Workflow

Blinded by the Light - Varina Patel

This is a photo from the Florida Everglades. I was struck by the beauty of the rising sun over the distant horizon – but my wide-angle lens would not have been able to do justice to the scene. The fact is, this incredible golden color was only present right around the rising sun. The rest of the sky was a bright, clear blue – and these were the only visible clouds. So, I put the wide-angle lens away, and pulled out my 135mm prime.  The longer lens let me fill the frame with gold – leaving me with an extremely simple, monochromatic color scheme. The sun calls out for attention here – and I included a small stand of dwarf cypress trees as a secondary point of interest. I chose a diagonal composition for a more dynamic image… and to compliment the angle of the sunbeams.

I needed to think fast for this shot – a few more seconds and the sun and clouds had shifted their positions. I wanted the sun just peeping out from behind the cloud as you see it here. Luckily – aside from a quick lens change – very little setup was required. I didn’t need a GND filter, since the range of light is actually relatively even. And a circular polarizer won’t do much for you if you are shooting directly in to the sun… so I didn’t need that either. I did use a tripod – more out of habit than anything else. My shutter speed was 1/640 sec, so I could have hand-held the shot without a problem.

Post-processing took just a few minutes. I chose the color balance carefully – making sure that the golden light seemed to glow. An incorrect color balance would have left this image feeling dull and heavy – and with light like this, that would have been a crime!

I was also careful to control the blown highlights in this shot. It’s perfectly acceptable to have blown highlights in an image when you are shooting directly into the sun. If you look directly at the real sun, can you see detail there? Of course not. So, reducing the brightness of the sun would result in an extremely unnatural-looking image. On the other hand, the last thing I want to do is end up blowing out half my sky. So, I kept a close eye on my histogram and kept my adjustments very controlled.

A little bit of contrast – not too much. No saturation adjustment necessary. That’s about it.

About Author Varina Patel

There is nothing more remarkable to me than the power of nature. It is both cataclysmic and subtle. Slow and continuous erosion by water and wind can create landscapes every bit as astonishing as those shaped by catastrophic events – and minuscule details can be as breathtaking as grand vistas that stretch from one horizon to the other. Nature is incredibly diverse. Burning desert sands and mossy riverbanks… Brilliant sunbeams and fading alpenglow… Silent snowfall and raging summer storms… Each offers a unique opportunity. I am irresistibly drawn to the challenge of finding my next photograph, and mastering the skills required to capture it effectively.

Landscape

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