Sun Dog

Early morning in Southern Utah. The sun rises over Goblin Valley State Park. The blue of the shadows in the valley combine with the red of the rocks or m...
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Early morning in Southern Utah. The sun rises over Goblin Valley State Park. The blue of the shadows in the valley combine with the red of the rocks or make a strange purple tint in the shadows. The sun pours gold onto the landscape. The sphinx-dog looks to the west. Every rock shape looks like something.

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Nikon D810 ISO64 ƒ-22 1-160 55mm
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Behind The Lens

This image was taken at the Goblin Valley State Park in Southern Utah. This place is probably about 100 miles from Moab, just north of Hanksville.
The sun is low on the horizon, so this is obviously near the beginning of the day. This was probably near the end of my day shooting, even though it was only shot at 7 AM. The light is starting to get poor. The lack of any clouds mean the sun is about to get REAL harsh.... so this was probably one of my last attempts at a good image this day at Goblin.
I do like to shoot sun stars, and they are pretty easy to get. You do need to do a few things to do them, though. First, you need a REAL clean lens. Any dirt will show up as horrendous spots. because of the great contrast in the sky between the light, the streaks and the sky itself, repairing the spots is relatively difficult. If you try and use the clone, you have to match the color exactly, and the auto repair tool is pretty worthless for this repair. Step two is to set your lens at the max aperture- in this case, ƒ/22. It is your iris blades that make the star, so this is VERY important. I always shoot manual, so from the aperture being set and my ISO set as low as I can go, I dial in my exposure; I'm shooting on a tripod (ALWAYS!), so I do not care how slow the shutter is. Here I was still able to shoot at a respectable 1/60th of a second. For earlier exposures, they got quite long. I always use a remote release. The final bit of set up instrumental in getting the sun star is to only show a portion of the sun. The whole sun is too big to get a star- you just want a piece of it showing. You can do this easily by shooting through leaves, or, as here, using the foreground object to cut off the majority of the sun disk. Since I was on a tripod (and it was set low), it would have been difficult to set up looking through the view finder. So I just moved the camera and lens on the tripod as a group from above until I see the shadow of the object I want covering the lens face. Then I'm 90% there- then I get down and look through the camera for the minor adjustments and I'm golden!
This was shot with a Nikon D-810 and a TAMRON SP 24-70mm F2.8 Di VC USD A007N mounted on a manfrotto carbon fiber tripod. A remote trigger was used (the nikon probably), and no other equipment was used.
I had never been to Goblin Valley, but I had seen a lot of pictures. So I knew I wanted images from this place. And I love sunrises.... so I left my house at 2 AM to get here for sunrise. It was dark when I arrived, so I just wandered hoping to be in a place for a decent view when the light started coming up. Luckily, I was. I just kept shooting solit from about 5:30 to about 8, getting and many different views and set ups as I could. This was probably late in the day (8 AM!) for me!
The majority of post I do is in lightoom. I like LR because it limits me to what one normally can accomplish in a darkroom. I do not like a lot of fake and made up changes. I WILL use ligtrooom to remove blemishes and clean up, but I like to keep a certain naturalness in a picture.
In my camera bag
I had a full bag with me for this shoot, because i knew I would have a variety of shooting challenges on this morning. I had an extreme wide (14-24), a mid (24-70) and a good tele (70-200). I use ALL of them. Of course, I had a shutter release and a tripod. My bad also always has lens cleaner (which I may or may not have used, I dunno!), ND's (Did not use), Polarizers (would not have changed anything for this image), and various other doo-dads.
When something stops you, shoot it. I don't think I even noticed the dog shape until later, but I knew it was a good composition. Trust your eyes and and your instincts.

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