Today I have a great example of “seeing the forest for the trees”… Sometimes, when something truly breathtaking happens right before your lens, you get caught up in the moment and don’t see the big picture.  This was one of those moments, and I almost missed it completely.

The Photo

(Click here for a larger version!)

The Equipment and Settings

The Shoooting Conditions

Here is what the scene looked like, just before the moonrise.  These islands are in a remote area just north of Vancouver, about 1-2 hour’s boat ride from the rest of civilization…


As I hinted earlier, the moment I saw the moon come over the trees in such a beautiful setting, I guess you could say I choked, compositionally speaking.  In fact in the span of just 10 minutes I rattled off 70 images in my excitement and since I had the 80-400mm lens on my camera, naturally I went straight to 400mm and shot almost every one of those 70 images zoomed way in to the moon and the trees:


I tried all sorts of vertical and horizontal compositions with nothing but the moon and a few trees in the frame.  I also switched lenses and tried a wider angle vertical composition:


Looking back through the photos, I ended up with just ONE image that came even close to what I feel is the best possible composition.  A single image, basically an afterthought!

I’m sure there are plenty of photographers out there who can relate: your afterthought image frequently ends up being the best shot of the scene!  Go figure…

The Post-Processing

This photo was taken back in 2005, and to be honest I have probably spent 20-30 hours playing around with it over the years.  The image has been in several gallery exhibitions, and each time it seemed like my processing needed to be re-worked from scratch.  What can I say, I was still learning the whole digital workflow thing!

[Rewind: Recommended HDR Software]

In short, I can say that producing the final image involved an incredible amount of delicate masking and burning /dodging.  I double-processed the image, one version for the sky and the moon, and one for the foreground.  This was before the day of good quality HDR software, but nowadays you should be able to avoid such delicate work.  However if you’re interested in learning more about HDR photography, check out our killer HDR workshop DVD by clicking here!

Anyways, here is what the original un-edited image looked like, just in case you’re wondering…


Thanks for reading, and take care!
=Matthew Saville=

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