Daily Photo – Sunlight Through Redwoods

The Daily Photo series focuses on the two or three key creative choices, in terms of composition and processing, that go into creating an image.  Specific technical details about the shot have been left out — you won’t hear me talking about tone curve adjustments and whatnot unless it was a key component of the end result.

I took this HDR shot over Thanksgiving, from the deck of my dad’s house in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  The clouds had been unusual all day, but as the sun neared the horizon, the fog started to thicken and spill over the distant ridge.


  • Shutter:  1/30, 1/125, 1/500, 1/2000
  • Aperture:  f/16
  • ISO:  200
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

Composition and Processing

  • The deep shade of the redwoods and the direct sun on the horizon made this an obvious candidate for HDR.  Looking at the individual shots though (a couple of which are below), there was minimal representation of the light streaming through the trees.  I expected a broad exposure range for the clouds on the ridge, but thought the rays of sunlight themselves would be much narrower.  Fortunately, the combined image managed to re-capture the original look.
  • The color in the trees came out in the HDR image, but I added color to the sun and clouds.  I went a little milder than a typical sunset, mostly because I thought it would detract from the bottom half of the shot (the interesting part).  The area in-between, where the clouds have come over the far ridge, looks a little bland to me and creates a weird break between the top and bottom.  It might have been worth pasting in some faint ridge lines from a different image, but that would have been more work than this photo warranted.

Original (sample 1):

Original (sample 2):

February 11 2009 05:19 pm | Photography

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