Leaving Dallas on a Sunday evening, pointing my truck to the western sky I headed out to Montague for what was planned to be an astrophotography shoot. The skies were clear, the winds were light, nearly ideal weather for shooting the night sky. However once I passed through Denton and left the DFW metroplex a light gray shadow appeared on the horizon. By the time I was approaching Montague the gray shadow was now an ominous monster of a storm.
|Date||July 03, 2016, 08:17:55 PM|
|Location||Montague County, North Central Texas|
|Camera||Canon EOS 6D|
|Lens||Canon EF 16-35mm F/4L IS USM|
|Exposure Program||Aperture priority|
The original plan was to meet up with a few friends to shoot the night sky, but as I’d arrived early in Montague, I decided to continue west to hopefully find a suitable foreground to shoot the storm as it approached. With the skies darkening by the second, I quickly pulled off on a side road that provided a view over pasture land with a couple of pumpjacks for visual interest. I knew the skies would be the majority of the photo, but any landscape photo should, you know, land.
With the wind gusting and an unknown amount of time before the skies opened up over me with rain, or lightning, I decided to hand hold my camera giving me a quick retreat back to the truck if necessary. To keep the blowing trees not to mention the wind blowing me around from blurring the photo, I kept the shutter speed high with a higher ISO than I would normally shoot. I knew that my Canon 6D still produces clean usable photos at ISO 400. I worked on several different compositions, but this down pour shot with a visible rain shaft to pull the eye up through the frame into the dark dramatic skies was a favorite.
Amazing light is what makes landscape photography. I doesn’t get much more amazing than thunderstorms at sunset. When it comes to processing photos of amazing light the best thing to do is not screw up what nature has already provided. The saying “get it right in camera” comes to mind, but when shooting in RAW format, some of the drama of the light is going to be missing when the photo is first pulled up on a computer screen. That was certainly the case in this photo. A lot of the light and contrast simply wasn’t captured by the camera the way I remembered it.
The first order of business as with any of my photo edits was to run the photo through a general Lightroom edit. And as you can tell from the before and after of the Lightroom edit above, the White Balance was waaaaaay off. Just another example of the camera thinking it knows what its looking at, when it fact, it really really doesn’t. Ever. Only fairly minor adjustments to the highlight, shadow, white and black points of the photo along with the white balance went a very long way towards bringing back the drama and wow of the ominous clouds and warm filtered light through the rain on the horizon. I always work on getting all elements of contrast where I want them before working with any saturation or vibrance control as contrast will increase saturation as a byproduct. A small dose of Clarity was the only other adjustment made to the photo within Lightroom. With the slightly higher ISO than typical for landscape, I kept the edit fairly mild, opting to leave the foreground mostly in shadow rather than attempt to pull out the detail – and thus a lot of noise – for the shadows.
Really didn’t need to do much in Photoshop on this one, really, I could have stopped at the Lightroom edit, but while I certainly didn’t want to mess up what nature had provided, but also I couldn’t leave well enough alone.
The first fix was to fix the extreme lean of the pumpjack in the foreground. Ultra-wide angle lenses, pointed upward into the sky, are not forgiving to vertical lines. From there it was all about pumping in as much color and drama as I remember seeing standing there on the edge of the road. Nik Color Efex, a very common tool used in my photo editing, was employed here. The ‘Skylight Filter’ effect has a great way of enriching warm tones and cool tones alike. The final change was to crop in the shot just a little more to remove the power line pole on the far left which I had less luck getting to straighten up nicely.