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Hudson Valley Solitude, Hudson River, NY(Canon 1Ds Mk III, 17-40 f/4L, 19mm, 1/8 sec. f/16, ISO 200)

It’s been a busy 2010 so far as I prepare for a series of workshops and seminars that begin tomorrow with the Adobe Lightroom Masterclass. It’s been difficult to find time to shoot lately, much of it due to a busy schedule, but also a lack of motivation. I struggle with the creative muse on a fairly frequent basis, and have several methods to get me inspired. But the most effective way I have found is to just get out and experience nature, even if for a short time. So often I have found that there is always something new to learn, whether seeing light in a different way, or discovering a new idea that inspires more ideas.

I had a chance to sneak out yesterday and headed to one of my favorite local locations, not really thinking about capturing anything special, but just to take some time for myself and enjoy the fresh snowfall we received in the Hudson Valley a few days ago. Whether I succeeded in capturing anything was not so important, and I just enjoyed a strenuous hike, the sound of fresh snow crunching beneath my boots, and the serene solitude of the moment.

Of course, when there is magical light, I react, and it indeed turned out to be a fantastic sunset. I tried to think about the process as I searched for a composition, since it’s a frequent question from workshop students. What was I searching for as I looked through the viewfinder? Colors, shadows, light, shapes and lines? Well, all of these, but yet more. Balance and symmetry are also on my mind.

I think it starts with looking at large forms for balance, then working from there to add detail and contrast. In this case, I started with the tree and clouds, then the foreground which would anchor the image. The mountains on the far side of the river serve as a counterbalance if you will, which keeps the image from becoming too heavy on the left side.

Light is the magical ingredient that hopefully brings everything together, creates the harmony and rhythm I look for in an image. Shadows are so important for depth as well as giving the light its beauty, like a melody. I’ve use this metaphor many times, but it continues to be the best way I know how to explain this mental process. I know this thought process sounds rather simple, and given how much I’ve studied the craft I’m surprised as well, yet it all comes down to a reaction to the environment and my feelings. I can assure you it wasn’t always like that, and many times it isn’t!

I processed this image entirely in Lightroom, using a few gradient filters to control the sky, and adding a few dodging strokes to the river to bring out a few subtle highlights as shown below.

Original capture- exposed to the right (the actual conditions were much darker)

Dodging brush used to bring out subtle highlights

I’m working on a video tutorial which will cover in-depth how I developed this image – hope to have that soon! I hope this has been helpful to those who have requested more information, and I plan to have more of these articles in the future. Please leave your questions or comment below, it helps me and well as other readers learn from the discussion.

Find out more about Beyond the Lens Photo Workshops.

RR Jr

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