Death Valley is one of my favorite places to photograph. I was teaching a workshop with my good friend Brenda Tharp and we spent the morning with our group photographing the golf course. When we were about to wrap up our morning, I was in the parking lot with a few students when I spied this view about a mile away. I call them the Neapolitan Hills because they remind me of a bowl of different flavor ice cream with some various syrups poured on top.
I attached my 300mm to my Canon 5D and aimed it the hills. I shot various sections of the scene and then also made sure I overlapped a few frames to make a panoramic image.
These files have sat on the hard drive for 6 months and the reason is that when I looked at the thumbnails of the images, they looked very flat and boring like this one pictured. I was not inspired! However, recently I needed a challenge and decided to look for an image that can be rescued and here it is.
I opened the image in ACR and first went to the curves dialog where you can see a very flat image with all the data compressed in the middle. I needed to pull the shadow areas closer to black and the lighter areas closer to white.
I selected and pulled the black anchor point in closer to the black area of the curve, then did the same pulling in the highlight anchor point.
I next went back to the Basic panel and adjusted the WB to 8000 to reduce the blue/gray cast that was prevalent. I also slid the Black slider up to almost the middle while watching the histogram to make sure I did not go too far. I also considered the fact that there really was not a black in the scene so I did not move the slider too far. I next bumped up the brightness and contrast a little, added some Clarity, and some Vibrance and Saturation. Here I am “sliding to taste” or until I like the image.
I then selected the HSL panel in ACR and slid the sliders for almost all the colors to the right slightly to increase the saturation.
The Final Image!
I then opened up three more images that were the left and right of the first image and when they opened in ACR I selected the Previous Conversion from the drop down menu on ACR and processed them with the same settings as the first image so they matched. Finally, I opened Photomerge in Photoshop and selected these three images and stitched them together.
I have a very striking single image and panorama as well.