Waiting For the Shot - Matthew Kuhns in Death Valley

Photographer Matthew Kuhns (www.matthewkuhnsphotography.com) is a California-based landscape photographer, with images published in Popular Photo and PDN.  Matthew has been producing landscape imagery across the United States for many years, and shares today a unique look at color temperature as it changes over several minutes in the landscape.  

Matthew:  "'Is that what it really looked like?' is one of the most common questions I receive about my photography, which comes in second just behind the oft quoted "Wow, you must have a really nice camera!" I believe that the first question is common for two reasons, first because people are skeptical of great images due to the prevalence of Photoshop, and second because they are usually sound asleep or eating a pleasant dinner during the best light of the day when others are out capturing "The Shot." The quality and color of light can change dramatically not only over the course of the day, but even over mere minutes around sunrise and sunset. To get those great photographs, photographers not only must be in the right place, but also must be there at the right time.  Sometimes that "right time" lasts for only a minute.

"I put together the following image as an example to show how quickly light can change, especially in a location like Death Valley, and I thought readers may also find it informative.  I hope this is good inspiration to get out of that warm sleeping bag at 4 am!

"This composite image is of the Badwater area in Death Valley in January 2012. Each segment of the image was shot and processed in the exact same way using a three-stop graduated neutral density filter with a white balance of 6000 K.  Sunrise for this day was at 6:51 am. I chose Badwater because the white salt accentuates the colors and really helps illustrate the changes over time. My favorite photograph that morning was taken at 6:41 am and was shot vertically, and shot in camera with the same color temperature and external filter as I mentioned above."


Camera: Nikon D7000
Lens: Tamron 10-24 mm lens
Settings: f/10 at 0.8 seconds, set at 10 mm
Other: Postprocessing included luminosity layer curves adjustments to lights, darks, and midtones, with some selective burning of the dark tones in the foreground.  Finished with a high pass layer set to soft filter and 50% opacity and then sharpened for output.

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Death valleyLandscape photographyMatthew kuhnsPicturelineSeptember 2012