Image Honesty

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Last week I took a small group of enthusiastic photographers up to the top of Sentinel Dome in Yosemite National Park. The goal was to catch the moon rising over the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Using a technique that I learned from Gary Hart, I knew when and where the moonrise would occur. Getting there was a little bit of a challenge. 

Sentinel Dome is an 8100′ granite dome on the South rim of Yosemite Valley. It’s a great vantage point that gives you a 360 degree view of the area. You can see some of the tallest peaks in the Yosemite backcountry and all the way to the Coastal Range to the West. Normally is a fairly short, albeit steep, hike. This time, the trip up the side was through snow. The park service had just opened the Glacier Point road a couple of days prior to our arrival so not many folks had been up there yet. Getting up wasn’t too hard, coming down was a little dicey. The view was, however, certainly worth the effort.

I’ve written before about my feelings on Photoshop. This image is an excellent example of why we have to process our images. This image was taken on the night of the full moon. The best night to shoot a “full moon” rising is actually the day prior to totality. The day before the full moon, the moon rises approximately an hour before sunrise. The extra hour gives you a lighter foreground and makes it much easier to shoot without blowing out the moon. To make this image I had to produce two different exposures and blend the result in Photoshop. The resulting image is an accurate representation of what my eyes saw even though the camera couldn’t capture it all at once. While I’m a strong advocate of doing everything possible to get the shot right “in camera” there are certainly situations that force you to take other tactics. The important thing is to learn to recognize those situations and take the necessary steps to mitigate them. As soon as the moon started to rise I knew that I’d have to do a blend. I composed by shot then took two exposures; one for the moon and one for the foreground.  

To blend the two I painted over the the moon from the foreground frame, with the color of the sky, and then change the blend mode of the moon frame to “screen.”  With the blend complete, I flattened the image and did the rest of my standard processing workflow.


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