East Coast of O’ahu from Makapu’u Lookout (Hawaii)

I took this photo while in Hawaii at the end of the January. That was the day when the rain started at least 20 times. Sometimes it was just for a couple of minutes and a few drops of the water but when I reached the Makapu’u area of the O’ahu, it was practically a storm with the heavy wind and pouring water.

I spent at least 40min in the car at Makapu’u Lookout parking waiting for the rain to stop. It was totally worth it.

Hawaii. O’ahu. Makapu’u Lookout
Loc: 21.309611, -157.657027

 Shooting & Processing

Because of the spots of the really bright spots and some areas of the dark clouds I decided to shoot for HDR, taking 3 bracketed shots (-1, 0, +1) on a tripod.

[Read more…]

Beautiful Sunset At Lake Powell (Arizona)

When I visited Lake Powell the first time I did not know that it was a man-made reservoir on the Colorado River. I was under the impression that it was natural phenomena.

The first time I laid eyes on the lake I knew it would be one of my favorite photography destinations. It combines everything I love in landscapes; the water, the canyons and the desert. I was glad they decided to build it so we can enjoy completely mesmerizing and unusual scenery.

Arizona. Lake Powell
Loc: 36.878861, -111.513808

Shooting & Processing

It was easy photo to take and to edit. I was driving along the Lake Sore Drive and when I saw this amazing view I just stopped and took few shots from the side of the road. The think clouds defused the sunset light making it soft and photo friendly.

I used Lightroom Preset Based Editing where I applied Harsh Shadows present from my Landscapes Collection (you can always download free lightroom presets here) to the image and finished it up in Photoshop. [Read more…]

Day 4 – U.S. Route 89 Loop

This is a series of blog posts where I recap my latest photography trip to American Southwest.

Southern Utah – Northern Arizona Loop

Day 4 of the trip was a driving day. There was no hiking or climbing involved.

Originally, I discovered Hwy 89 Loop by accident because of my poor planning while visiting Southwest for the first time. I was on my way from Grand Canyon to Kanab with the plan to visit Lake Powell but due to the landslide the Hwy 89 was closed and I was forced to take Hwy 89A instead. Since then, the Hwy 89A became one of my favorite driving destinations.

This year I decided to complete 300km loop counterclockwise, taking 89A first and on the way back to use 89.

My plan was to visit and photograph the following destinations: Vermilion Cliffs, Marble Canyon, Lees Ferry, Echo Cliffs, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, Grand Staircase. It is amazing that all that could be accomplished in only one day.

Horseshoe Bend

I was very excited about visiting Horseshoe Bend for the first time. I’ve seen hundreds of photos of the bend but not too many of them really impressed me. They all looked very similar without any compositional variety. I was hoping to come up with something different.

When I reached the bend I understood the reason for the lack of the variety in photos and challenges facing every photographer.

First of all, the bend is enormous and it is hard to grasp the scope of the place looking at photos. Even with the widest lens (10mm) it is impossible to fit all elements into one composition. And if you want to step back to use wider perspective, the edge of the cliff abstracts the river below.

I also discovered that there are only a few spots from where you can capture the entire bend.

On top of everything, after I managed to take a couple of shots, the rain started to poor and I had to wait at least 40min before I could resume shooting.

This is when I realized that my photos would not be too different from the rest.

Arizona. Horseshoe Bend
Loc: 36.878861, -111.513808

To give you the better idea about the scale of the bend, I included 100% crop of the area of the Colorado river from the right side of my photo where you can see the paddler. [Read more…]

Lighthouse in the Field (Prince Edward Island)

This is one my favorite early photographs. I took it almost 10 years ago on Prince Edward Island in Atlantic Canada. I was driving along the North Shore of the island towards the Darnley Point approaching the ocean and this is when I saw the lighthouse in the field. The ocean was not visible at that point, still hidden behind the hill and the lone lighthouse in the field looked very surreal.

The ocean was not visible at that point, still hidden behind the hill and the lone lighthouse in the field looked very surreal.

Canada. Prince Edward Island. North Shore
Loc: 46.559486, -63.656975


It was late morning and the light was not too favorable. I had to shoot almost against the sun and I could see that the sky was too bright with not too many details.  I took 3 bracketed shots (-1, 0, +1) hand-held.


Even though I took 3 bracketed shots and I managed to properly expose the middle bracket the right side of the sky had no details.

As the last resort,  I decided to replace the sky. I used the photograph I took half hour earlier on the same day and used it as the source for the sky area.

First I applied Point Lobos preset from my Landscapes Collection to both images and then I fine-tuned them individually using ToolKit adjustments (check my tutorial here).

Next, I loaded both images as layers in new Photoshop document. I used transparency masks and the Gradient Tool to blend them together.

Finally, I used the Stamp Tool to clean up the image and to remove the electric poles and the wires.

Deconstructing Featured Photo

Camera: Canon 60D
Lens: Sigma 17-70mm
Focal Length: 17mm
ISO: 100
Aperture: F8
Shutter speed: 1/200
Tripod: hand-held

Processing: Lightroom & Photoshop Based Workflow

Lightroom: import, tagging, preset based processing (Point Lobos preset from Landscape Collection).
Photoshop: I blended 2 images together using transparency masks, contrast, color correction. I used the Stamp Tool to remove the poles and the wires.

Photoshop Plugins: 

Archiving: I saved photo as JPEG (quality: 100%) at full resolution and with the help of Lightroom plugin, I synchronized it with my portfolio on SmugMug (read my review The Way I Use SmugMug in My Photography Business) for safekeeping, sharing, image hosting and online sales.

Lightroom HDR – Shooting for HDR with Compact Camera

That was the day when we had amazing cloud formations over Island of Montreal. My original plan was to wait until evening and try to capture sunset colors over Sait Lawrence river.

But when I saw these shapes and colors in the local park around noon, I knew I had to stop and take a few shots. All I had with me is my favorite compact camera – Pansonic Lumix Lx7.

My goal was to come up with the composition that emphasizes an amazing color contrast between white clouds, deep blue sky and green grass, and at the same time to make the shapes of the clouds the main attraction.

Canada. Montreal. Lachine
Loc: 45.429813, -73.690427


Lumix LX7 allows to shoot maximum of 3 bracketed exposures, but it was more than enough because the clouds acted as the huge natural light diffuser, making light much softer than you would expect on sunny day in early afternoon.

I shot 3 bracketed shots (-1, 0, +1) hand-held.


For the processing, I used Lightroom HDR based workflow. I outlined this technique in my latest tutorial “Lightroom HDR – Natural Looking HDR In Lightroom”

After I produced HDR image I used a Lightroom preset based workflow, using Point Lobos present from my Landscapes Collection (you can always download free lightroom presets here).

The main challenge while editing the featured photo was excessive digital noise produced by small Lumix LX7 sensor and I had to apply very aggressive settings in Topa DeNoise to reduce it.


Deconstructing Featured Photo

Camera: Lumix LX-7
Focal Length: 4.7 (24)mm
ISO: 100
Aperture: F5.6
Tripod: hand-held [Read more…]

Lightroom HDR – Natural Looking HDR In Lightroom

I am a big proponent of HDR photography and use it on a daily basis. I employ different HDR software and various editing techniques to achieve natural looking and balanced HDR photos.

Over the years, the foundation of my Natural Looking HDR approach was the workflow where I used a combination of Photoshop and Lightroom. Using Photoshop HDR Pro, the module of Photoshop, to merge multiple photos to HDR and Lightroom to apply a custom editing technique to produce the final look.

“Natural Looking HDR Photography Guide” is, by far, the most popular tutorial on PhotoTraces.com where I break down my favorite technique.

I highly recommend that you check out the “Natural Looking HDR Photography Guide” where I also answer the most common questions in simple terms. Some of the questions include: “What exactly is HDR Photography?” and “Why do I need HDR?”

The technique requires multiple steps and, if I display them schematically, it looks like this:

Lightroom > Photoshop HDR Pro > Lightroom > Photoshop

In general, the technique is not too complex but it requires both Lightroom and Photoshop, as well as multiple steps to complete it.

HDR in Lightroom? Is this for real?

Recently Adobe released a new version of Lightroom, version 6 (read my review Adobe Lightroom 6 Review – New Features). One of the biggest addition that surprised many photographers was the Photo Merge HDR module integrated into Lightroom.

It became the game changer in the field of HDR photography. Not only does the new processing method bypasses Photoshop altogether, it also saves an enormous amount of time on creating and editing HDR photographs.

The HDR in Lightroom is the reality now.

[Read more…]

The White Cliffs of The Grand Staircase (Utah)

The featured photo perfectly illustrates how the light affects our photography.

The day I took this photo I drove from Knab (Utah) to Zion National Park early in the morning. The sun was rising behind the White Cliffs and they look less than spectacular, just huge grey rocks, nothing more. I did not even bother to stop the car and take a couple of shots.

On the way back from Zion in the late evening, I witnessed completely different landscape. The setting sun illuminated the White Cliffs with the warm evening light and I could swear that was the most beautiful rocks I have ever seen in my life.

The White Cliffs of The Grand Staircase (Utah)

Utah. The Grand Staircase. The White Cliffs
Loc: 37°15’40” N 112°46’13” W

Shooting & Processing

I took 3 bracketed exposures (-2, 0 +2) using a tripod for support.

I used Photomatix to merge 3 bracketed photos to HDR and I put an extra effort to make sure I could emphasize the colors and the textures of the White Cliffs.

The main challenge, while processing this photo, was to remove all the distracting elements from the composition. I used the Stam Tool in Photoshop to mask/erase multiple road signs and electric wires.

The White Cliffs of The Grand Staircase (Utah)

Camera: Canon 60D
Lens: Sigma 17-70mm
Focal Length: 53mm
ISO: 100
Aperture: F9
Bracketing: 3 shots (-2; 0, +2)
Tripod: FEISOL Tournament CT-3442 ( Check my FEISOL Tournament CT-3442 Review ).
Ballhead: FEISOL CB-40D

Processing Steps

Lightroom: import, tagging, export to Photomatix
Photomatix: I used 3  images to tone map image (-2; 0, +2), 16-bit tiff image was exported to Lightroom.
Lightroom: straightening, cropping, export as PSD image
Photoshop:  cleaning (the Stamp Tool), contrast

Photoshop Plugins:

Archiving: I saved photo as JPEG (quality: 100%) at full resolution and with the help of Lightroom plugin, I synchronized it with my portfolio on SmugMug (read my review The Way I Use SmugMug in My Photography Business) for safekeeping, sharing, image hosting and online sales.

Day 3 – Extreme Weather in Bryce Canyon

This is a series of blog posts where I recap my latest photography trip to American Southwest.

From Kanab to Bryce

The city of Kanab is a very important place when you visit Utah and Arizona. It is strategically located in the “Grand Circle” area within driving reach to iconic destinations such as Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Grand Canyon, Lake Powell and the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

After a successful day two of my trip spending the entire day in Zion, I was ready to tackle the Bryce Canyon National Park, which was located 100 km from my hotel in Kanab.

During my trip, I met many photographers from different parts of the world and, every time after a short talk about photo equipment and weather, we would always end up discussing the best location, from a photography standpoint, in South Utah and North Arizona.

Some photographers prefer Zion and some prefer the Grand Canyon but, for me, I always prefer Bryce Canyon. It is such an easy choice because of its distinctive and sometimes even surreal colors and shapes. The extraterrestrial looking landscapes of Bryce Canyon always fascinates me.

Utah. Bryce Canyon
Loc: 37.622100, -112.166205

That day, my only concern was the weather. The year before I had to cut my visit to Bryce short in the middle of the day due to a major snowstorm when the temperature plummeted from 20°C to -2°C (68°F to 28°F)  in a matter of hours

This year, however, I was lucky. Even though the temperature fluctuations were extreme (from 25°C/77F° to 5°C/41F°), it never dropped below freezing. The rain started at least five different times, but I never complained because the extreme weather changes resulted in a beautiful sky with stunning cloud formations.

Another highlight of my visit to Bryce was the hike to the bottom of the canyon. The view from the bottom gives you a completely different perspective on Bryce where, instead of shooting wide open landscapes, you shoot up converging orange rocks.

The view from the bottom of Bryce Canyon

Also, when you reach the bottom of the canyon, it feels as if you are in an entirely different climate zone as it is much warmer down there with absolutely no wind. It looked very comical when I was climbing up, sweat pouring through my t-shirt, as  all of the hikers climbing down were dressed for winter.

Shooting & Processing

There were not too many challenges with shooting and processing. I took 3 bracketed shots (-1, 0, +1) on a tripod but when I started editing them in Lightroom I realized that I did not need to use HDR processing, single RAW was enough.

I used a Lightroom preset based editing, using Point Lobos present from my Landscapes Collection (you can always download free lightroom presets here).



Deconstructing Featured Photo

[Read more…]

Sunrise at Little Sur River Beach (California)

This is one of the most scenic spots along the California State Route 1 in the vicinity of Big Sur, not far from Monterey.

But at the same time it can be challenging to come up with the interesting composition shooting Little Sure River Beach. First, this is a private property and it is not accessible to the public. Second, there are only a few spots along the road where you can stop and park your car.

After second or third trip to the Big Sur, I realized that most of my photos taken from around this place looked very similar. This is when I decided to try to come up with something different when visiting Big Sur in the future.

California. Cabrillo Highway. Big Sur
Loc: 36.331944, -121.889722


Normally, I visit a northern stretch of California Route 1 in the sunset hours just before the sun is about to submerge in the ocean illuminating the mountains with the soft, golden light.

This time I arrived at BigSur around sunrise and of course everything looked different.

I took 3 bracketed shots (-1, 0, +1) on a tripod.


Once again, I used Lightroom HDR processing workflow. First, I used new Lightroom 6 HDR Merge tool. In Lightroom, I selected 3 bracketed photos and sent them to Photo Merge HDR.

Lightroom merged 3 bracketed photos and created new HDR image (DNG). [Read more…]

The Perfect Hike In Forillon National Park (Canada)

I keep having fun with my old photographs. I took the featured photo almost seven years ago in Forillon National Park in Atlantic Canada. This is one of my favorite trails in the park with the wide open views on Gaspe Bay from where you can observe five different types of whales entering the bay from the ocean.

Many things have changed over the last seven years. I have learned a lot about photography and as the result my personal style changed. Also, I completely changed the way I edit my photographs by incorporating HDR processing and some new plugins. By re-processing and re-editing my old photos, helps me to revive and align them with my current style and standards.

Canada. Quebec. Forillon National Park
Loc: 48.756891, -64.176119

Shooting & Processing

That day I went hiking light without a tripod or spare lens. I took 3 bracketed shots handheld which allowed me to process them for HDR using Photoshop HDR Pro (see my free guide “Natural Looking HDR Workflow”).

After, I used a Lightroom preset based workflow, applying Natural present from my Landscapes Collection (you can always download free lightroom presets here).

Deconstructing Featured Photo

[Read more…]