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Friday, July 8, 2011

Savannah Sunsets

Scroll Mouse Over Image to See 'Before' Version
It's great to be back! Thank you guys for the nice comments and 'welcome backs'. A few of you guessed the approximate location of the last post. That image was, in fact, taken on a plantation in South Carolina, U.S.; Charleston, S.C. to be specific. I must say that, in retrospect, I feel a bit silly having assumed that everyone would easily identify the location from which that photograph was taken. Unless you are from the United States, how could you possibly know where that photo was shot? When a friend of mine from Thailand commented that he had no idea where that shot was taken, I realized how ignorant my assumption was. Actually, there is a word for that type of phenomenon, particularly for Americans, when you 'forget' there are other countries in the world and your thinking is based solely on American culture. Can anyone think of that word? It's driving me crazy. I think it sounds like 'egocentricity', but it's a different word. It's one of those words you learn in college and then quickly forget once you graduate...Anyways...

I have so many stories to tell about my travels, I don't know where to start. I had never been to the southern states on the east coast (other than Florida). I have always been intrigued by the "Southern" way of life, their history, their culture, etc., so it was awesome to be able to visit this area of the United States and engross myself in this sub-culture. I traveled to 4 locations...Charleston, South Carolina; Beaufort, South Carolina, Savannah, Georgia; and the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina. I must say that all of these places are absolutely beautiful...but my favorite was Savannah, Georgia. This is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen.

The above photograph was quite challenging to take. OK. Here I go with the stories. This is a funny one. My family and I were driving back to our hotel after a day of exploring the seashores of Georgia. It was close to sunset and I was getting that 'itch'. I'm sure the photographers out there know exactly what i mean. The hour preceding sunset offers some of the best light to photograph under. (Sunrise and sunset are the 'golden' hours for photography.) I was just telling my husband that I was feeling disappointed about the limited number of sunset/sunrise shots i had gotten by that point in our trip. We had been down south for 3 or 4 days already, and i had only gotten a few shots under that 'golden light'. Anyways, we're driving in the car and I can see those incredible colors starting to form in the sky. I couldn't contain my anxiety any longer. I insisted that my husband, who was driving the car, turn off the highway and just 'follow the light'. Of course, that's easier said than done. I mean, we were driving around a part of the country we've never been in before...Don't know where we are going or what is in the area to photograph...But, I didn't really care because I needed to get a shot. The closer the sun fell toward the horizon, the more 'crazy' i became, screaming and jumping up and down in the car, "I'm losing light! I'm losing light!" My kids got a kick out of it...they always laugh when Mom acts 'weird'. At some point, we found ourselves entering a private, gated community of very large and expensive homes. This community was located on the water...a gorgeous marsh. We drove around and finally came to a mansion that was situated right on the banks of this marsh. The sun was setting in their backyard, where there were numerous live oak trees with hanging Spanish moss. It was the quintessential southern scene. I needed that shot. So, I screamed at my husband to pull the car over, I jumped out of the car with my gear, and proceeded to walk to this home and knock on the door. No one was home...what do I do now? I really should get permission before I trespass on this property. So, I looked around to see if anyone was watching. There was no one around, it seemed safe, so i ran (literally ran) into the backyard of this multi-million dollar property, set up my tripod, and began shooting as fast as i could. I was getting the shots, but we had another problem...alligators. No joke. I had set up my tripod right on the banks of the marsh, where alligators thrive. I had already been warned by the locals to be careful around the marshes because they are filled with alligators. However, I was so excited about getting these incredible sunset shots, I had forgotten about the large alligator population in this neck of the woods. It wasn't until I heard this sound coming from the ground near my something large scurrying through the leaves and tall grasses...that i remembered I wasn't in Pennsylvania anymore. Alligator!! Fortunately, alligators are more scared of us than we are of them, so it just ran off into the water. Crocodiles, on the other hand, are problematic. Lucky for me, there aren't any crocodiles on the east coast. Regardless, I screamed like a girl...grabbed my tripod with the camera still attached to it, and ran back to the car as fast as i could. But it was worth it....I really love this shot.

Post Processing:
This is an HDR, taken with 5 exposures (-2 to +2). The 'before' shot was the 0 exposure shot, one of the five exposures used to create the tone mapped version. Processed in Photomatix. The tone mapped version, along with the 5 original exposures, were brought into Photoshop, each on their own layer. I added a layer mask to the tone mapped layer and brought in some of the sky (at 25% opacity) from the darkest exposure layer. Also brought back some of the spanish moss from another exposure to fix ghosting that resulted from the moss blowing in the wind between shots. i also did the usual Levels and Curves. I also brightened the colors in the sky. This has to be done carefully as not to ruin the natural sky colors. I did this by using the eye dropper tool, sampling an actual color in the sky, switching to the brush tool, setting the blending mode to 'Multiply' at a 7% opacity, and carefully painting in more color on top of the original color. This is a great trick for brightening up your images, but not changing the original color constellation. I also had to remove color fringing or 'chromatic aberration'. My regular readers already know how much I hate chromatic aberration. Here's how I removed most of it...I used the desaturation tool to remove the green fringing by going over each and every edge with this tool. However, this trick does not work very well on the red fringing. So, for the red i had to use the clone stamp tool. I set the opacity to 50%, set the stamp for a clean area along side the red fringe, and then cloned out the red edge. What a pain...but it works. The final steps were noise removal (I use Noise Ninja) and sharpening with Unsharp Mask. Viola!! 


  1. I just saw this image on your Flickr stream, and rushed straight over here to see if you had posted the story behind the shot.

    I love it! The HDR and all the layer work has really paid off here. Great story about how you stole the shot too (^___^)

  2. As usual, your stories of obtaining the image was only part of the story (though I really enjoyed your story). Your experimentation with post processing sounds like a lot of work, but very much worth it.
    Yet another lovely post. Thanks.

  3. Thank you all! I love telling the story as much as processing the image. :-) Life is too short to not have a "story" associated with everything you do. Right?

  4. Love the image. Love the story. Xenphobia?

  5. Stunning work Natalie... You've pulled some amazing details out of this shot... and wonderful colours too...