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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