Single-image Sunday: Morning at Colorado National Monument   14 comments

The early morning sun streams into Ute Canyon in Colorado National Monument.

This is an image from earlier in the summer that I reprocessed.  I wanted to bring out some of the drama of that June morning in Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction.  It was the proverbial ‘dark and stormy night’ when I camped near the monument boundary, high up to escape the heat of the valley floor.  It’s been a very hot summer in the American West.  I woke up a bit too late, assuming it would be a grey, cloudy sunrise.  But after examining the slowly brightening sky, I realized there was promise of clearing.  I didn’t waste any more time.

The monument occupies a spectacular place at the northern edge of the Colorado Plateau, where canyons cut deeply into the colorful sandstone, creating fascinating erosional forms.  I’d camped only 10 minutes or so from the canyon rim, so despite the late start I arrived before sunup.  I searched, somewhat frantically, for a good spot to shoot from.  This is the problem with sunrise.  If you don’t already have something scoped out from the day before, it’s difficult to find a spot in time for the good light.

Ever since my first trip here, I’d been wanting an image of Ute Canyon.  It’s sort of off the radar, mostly because it lacks the soaring rock pinnacles that the monument is known for.  But the canyon has a sort of magnetic draw for me, and it’s aligned toward the rising sun in summertime.  By the way you can hike up the canyon from below.  It makes a great overnight backpack.

I parked and worked my way along the canyon rim.  The sun rose and light was good, but I just got images that included the road.  I didn’t stop there because I know the presence of dramatic clouds like this can mean good shooting even well after sunrise.  I kept looking for a good spot, being careful around the cliff edge.   Just in time for the last of the warm light I found this natural viewpoint, a flat rock perched high above the canyon.

HOW THIS IMAGE WAS MADE

As the sun peeked through and light streamed into the canyon, I got a couple shots.  For this image, I used my 21 mm. lens. I wanted to get very close to the foreground rock to show the interesting lichen and impart a feeling of standing there.  So in order to get as much depth of field as possible, I had to focus stack.  So I shot one frame for the foreground and a couple more for the background and sky.

There was a lot of contrast in the scene, shooting toward a sun that had already risen.  So in addition to the focus stack I did a basic exposure stack as well.  In other words the shot for the sky was a shorter exposure so as not to blow it out.  Using Photoshop I merged the separate exposures for a final image that represents a single moment, despite the shots being some seconds apart.

I hope your weekend was a fun one.  Happy shooting!

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14 responses to “Single-image Sunday: Morning at Colorado National Monument

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  1. Great shot! Can’t wait to make it out to the Colorado National Monument … it’s not too far of a drive from Durango.

  2. Excelent read, great tonal values throughout on the iamges!

  3. Great post and image of a place quite close to my home. I often use the same technique of stacking and blending.

  4. Wow! There’s magic in your photo! But all your pics are extraordinary!

  5. Really nice. I did actually notice the lichen on the ground and wondered at that detail. Thanks for the explanation of you got it. I only have PS elements, so I guess I will have to enjoy the technique from others. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks a bunch for checking it out! Actually with Elements you can do the same things I did to make the image. Only difference is you have to convert to 8-bit instead of staying at 16 bit w/full Photoshop.

  6. So Beautiful!

  7. Exceptional photographic work, the blog was a great read too!

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