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On Letting The Cards Fall Where They May

I'm finally starting to get feeling back in me now that I have steady internet and cell connection. :) I never realized how dependent I am on being connected. sniff

After spending four days shooting pretty much non-stop around Lake Tahoe, Donner Lake, Yosemite Valley, the Tioga Pass, and Mono Lake, I think this shot was one of the first that I knew I wanted to process and share and it revolves mostly around just letting go of the anticipation, anxiety and stress that usually accompanies racing to a sunset (or sunrise) shoot.

The goal was simple - get to Mono Lake to shoot the tufas that occupy the area as they are bathed in warm sunset light. Research was done and we even managed to get some scouting in prior to the shoot. The recipe seemed to call for a sky full of delicious clouds to help the fading sunlight bounce around and provide the scene with amazing color. Unfortunately, in the five days that I've been in this area, I haven't seen a single cloud. So on top of all the frustration and anxiety, a small amount of depression kicked in. Doubt began whispering sweet nothings in my ear and I began questioning myself and my agenda.

What the hell am I even doing here? This scene sucks and my shots will suck, too.

And that's when inspiration kicked in for me. In the face of all that, I just let it all go. If I don't get the shot today, is it the end of the world? Would I have failed anyone or, more importantly, would I have failed myself?

Nah. Not at all.

In that serendipitous moment of letting all of my burden and anxiety go, everything opened itself up to me. Once I realized that it was OK to not shoot much of the lake or its tufas. I began seeing all sorts of new images appear. This gorgeous, meandering boardwalk started calling out to me and I ended up having a blast experimenting with different angles, vantage points and focal lengths. Instead of letting the Lake be the headliner, I kicked it back to having a meager supporting role.

All in all, I do think this is a really important lesson that we should keep in the forefront of our minds. By practicing this skill of adaptability and open-mindedness when shooting a scene that is less than what you had hoped, we greatly increase our odds of seeing that jewel of a shot that would have otherwise been totally missed.

In terms of processing
First up was tone-mapping in Photomatix. I used seven brackets exposed with my Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 24-105 lens. This gave me the evenly exposed baseline image that I would begin stylizing on.

I wanted to go more painterly here so I selectively applied a Vecchi effect onto the boardwalk to make it stand out on its own. For the background, I masked in a combination of Green Enhancer and some Blue onto the exposed tufas. Finally, I globally added some Deep Forest Glow and Tonal Contrast. All were done in Perfect Effects 3 by +onOne Software.

Next, I added a tiny bit of blur to simulate a shallow depth of field with FocalPoint 2 (also by +onOne Software).

Final touches were applied in Lightroom 4.1.
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44 comments
 
Very nice Brian!  Last fall we went on a photo trip and we had the same problem - boring skies.  The day we went home..  awesome skies!

THis is lovely and I'm glad you figured out what to shoot! ;)
 
nice shot, colors and leading lines...
I've been there a dozen times and I don't remember that bench.
 
+logan hubbard Hmmm - they look like they're in pristine condition so I wonder if they were recently installed. I took this shot last night, as a frame of reference for time.

And THANK YOU! everyone for your kind comments!
 
That looks like a great place to sit and relax. Well done!
 
This image reminds me of a problem I always wanted to learn how to deal with, would you mind giving a tip, +Brian Matiash ? I know that the true horizon is level, but the "apparent" horizon is not: the mountains on the right are a bit lower, and, with different lighting, there is an illusion that the image tilts to the right. I struggle with it every time I get an image like that: go into the lightroom, check horizon, it's true. Look at the image, think "can't possibly be true".
 
Note the vagrant-proofing placement of that sole armrest. :)
 
Beautiful shot dude - the chair is exposed perfectly and sits (pun intended) nicely against the rest of the scene.  The depth of the path is so clean as well!
 
Ooh I love this photo and your post too! Great image
 
This is sensational!! Makes me wanna step right into the picture and take a slow stroll.
 
Besides the stunning image quality, it was actually the armrest on the bench that next caught my eye. Does nobody else find it strange to put an armrest in the middle of a bench in the wilderness? Their sole purpose on benches in the city is to prevent people from lying down. What is its purpose here? The same? Or did the person making the bench overgeneralize without thought?
 
I like how the pier appears to float and though we know it ends we can't tell exactly where. Nice.
林巖
 
Ideal world.
 
+Juan Gonzalez Name the time. I'll be there. :)

+Marcus Schommler I thought about that, too. I do agree with +Onny Carr's post above where it does serve as vagrant-proofing, although that particular boardwalk seemed to be in a rather remote and isolated area that I can't imagine it would attract that much vagrancy. In any case, it is a thought-provoking bench. :)
 
Wonderful picture. And great story too, that you shared!
 
Saw this post re-shared on +Erika Thornes's stream and started reading your narrative. Very inspiring perspective! It's so easy to get discouraged when a shoot doesn't go as planned. I love how you turned it around, and created your own destiny. Thank you for sharing the story of how the shots came together, both in your mind, and then later on the screen.
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Oh Yes, I'd hang out there! Wide open and lovely!
 
Your stories are so inspirational Brian. Thanks for reminding us all of these things. 
 
I know you are but what am I, +Amy Heiden. :)

But seriously, thanks for the kind words, girl. When are you coming to PDX?
 
Working on it. Hopefully soon!
 
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….​..…..♥B​eautiful image!
 
great photo...wonderful              thanks for share
 
I like especially your introduction to this photo.  You said, "All in all, I do think this is a really important lesson that we should keep in the forefront of our minds. By practicing this skill of adaptability and open-mindedness when shooting a scene that is less than what you had hoped, we greatly increase our odds of seeing that jewel of a shot that would have otherwise been totally missed."  Your photo is great!  Your reference to adaptability and open-mindedness can apply to life in general, for a more enjoyable life. Thank you, +Brian Matiash .
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