Painted Desert Sun Rays

Here's another photo from my recent trip across the country. This one was taken as we made our way through the Painted Desert in Arizona. The first thing that caught my eye in this scene was the sun rays. Then I started looking at the background and deciding how to compose. I took a couple of shots at different focal lengths, and I ended up liking the wide angle best. I composed vertical so I could get a chunk of the cloud that was hiding the sun, and I set the small mountain just off center to help break the photo up a bit. I shot this at f/22 and at 18mm so that everything would be in focus.

Painted Desert Sun Rays Process

The JPEG (1) didn't turn out well at all. It was really drab and lacked the color and contrast I saw with my eyes. So a few slider bars later in ACR, I got a decently processed RAW file (2) to start my editing with. Before I started in on the sun rays, I applied a small curves adjustment layer (3) to bump the contrast. That adjustment also seemed to do quite a bit for the blue in the sky too — it got a little cleaner looking. Now it's time for the sky. I added a layer of dodging (4) by using a curves adjustment and layer mask. I basically just painted over the sun rays and they started popping out. Yet it wasn't enough for me, so I added a layer of burning (5) to darken the areas of sky between the sun rays. The last step was a layer of sharpening (6), which isn't terribly obvious unless you're looking at 100% zoom — but it served to clean up the edges of the clouds.

Painted Desert Sun Rays

** You can also see this photo on Flickr **

Photo by Brian Auer
07/13/07 Painted Desert, AZ
Painted Desert Sun Rays
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
27mm equiv * f/22 * 1/90s * ISO100