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This was captured on an early morning shoot before breakfast with photography guides Don Smith and Gary Hart in the Columbia River Gorge, April 20, 2021. My tripod was placed on an outcropping a short down climb from the Vista House overlook, a location requiring caution. The nearer right lower shadowed area needed much more exposure than the sky and sunstar, hence I elected to bracket for HDR. A Zeiss Loxia was selected for its clean 10 point sunstars. HDR merge and processing was in LrC and Topaz AI DeNoise. Ps was used to heal over a large truck on I-84 which bombed one frame.
An interesting geologic feature here is the stream and linear pond to the right of the highway. This is an example of a "yazoo stream", a situation in which a tributary to a large river runs parallel to the main channel with delayed confluence.
I tried several compositions with this scene, using different focal lengths and then in processing different crops. I prefer this, my largest view, showing the highway and the pond as leading lines to the sunstar.
I chose not to use a polarizer, wishing to preserve reflections on the pond surface.
The most challenging aspect of processing was getting the sky right. Quite a gradient of luminosity and of color existed from the northeast on upper left to southeast upper right. Care was needed not to disturb this in a manor which would make it look unnatural or become a distraction, yet contrast in the sun beams crossing the river needed emphasis.
Sunstars are always tricky. The center will be "blown out" but careful burning is needed to contain the blown highlight to the smallest central circle possible.
Why did I create this image? Because it's fun to shoot in the field, because playing with precise professional tools is aesthetically satisfying, because the high contrast scene presented a challenge, and because processing and reprocessing keeps me entertained and absorbed long after a shoot. I am just a hobbyist, retired from a career in medicine.
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor