Daily Photo – Doa in the Sun

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.

Doa relaxes against the balcony railing while the sun sets in Austin, Texas.


  • Shutter:  1/320
  • Aperture:  f/2.8
  • ISO:  200
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

Composition and Processing

  • What I originally wanted from this shot was a nice warm sunset to go with Doa’s casual pose and expression.  There are obvious lighting challenges:  the range from Doa’s face in shadow to the (relatively) bright sunset is too broad to be captured by a single shot.  I could have popped the camera on a tripod and taken multiple shots for an HDR exposure (or more likely, HDR that blended the best exposure of the subject back into the finished shot), but that’s pretty hard to do without creating weird halo effects or noticeably incongruous lighting.  So I underexposed Doa’s face as much as possible without clipping the shadows, hoping I wouldn’t clip too much of the sunset (or at least leaving enough information in there for me to add a color gradient or similar later).
  • In Photoshop I started using multiple layers to tweak the exposure of different parts of the photo.  The final image you see here was actually just one of the layers I expected to use for all or part of Doa herself.  I found I liked this layer as a complete shot.  I’ve lost any direct representation of the sunset, but still have a surge of light in the upper left to suggest the location of the sun on the horizon.  Doa herself is warmly lit, indirectly suggesting sunset light.  And the landscape below is likewise washed out in yellow-orange.  So here we have a sunset shot without, in the traditional sense, a sunset.  Does it work?  You tell me…


April 06 2009 05:59 pm | Photography

2 Responses to “Daily Photo – Doa in the Sun”

  1. berta on 06 Apr 2009 at 6:56 pm #

    The proceed with th ephotoshop is really amazing! I’ll try to do something familiar with one of my photos!
    thanks for explain it!

  2. Gretchen on 03 Jun 2009 at 7:09 am #

    Yes, it works…. the soft, warm, nuanced, pale, understated, suggestive background is one of the charming features that draws the eye to this portrait.

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply