Cathedral Valley Aerial View (Utah)

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I took the featured photo in the Capitol Reef National Park in Utah.

The Capitol Reef is the least visited national park in Utah. It is located pretty far away from major southwest cities and, as a result, attracts fewer tourists.

The distance to Capitol Reef from Las Vegas is 550km, 800km from Phoenix, and 700km from Denver.

Nevertheless, the park is packed with tourists during the high season, from May to October.

But for people, who prefer secluded locations, like me, there is always Cathedral Valley.

The valley is located further away from the major park’s attractions, and the only way to get there is by driving 50km of ruff and twisted dirt road. Plus, to get there, you need to ford the Fermont river. It is not a big deal in the dry season, but after heavy rain or flash flood, it can be an issue.

The Cathedral Vally road loop is 92km long, and most of the time, you do not need a 4×4 car, but you absolutely need a high clearance one.

In the middle of the Cathedral Vally loop, there is a primitive (free) campground located at 2200m above sea level, and it offers fantastic views on Cathedral Valley.

I took the featured photo 50m from our camping spot.

Capitol Reef National Park. Cathedral Valley.

Shooting

Today, I want to share my new approach to getting the optimal exposure for my photos. I’ve been testing the new approach since switching to Fujifilm cameras and lenses.

The new method is based on the premise that to get maximum quality from the camera sensor (any brand, any model), you need to maximize sensor saturation with light. The idea is not to get right exposure in-camera but rather to capture as much light as possible without clipping the highlights. And you address the final exposure adjustments in Lightroom or any other RAW editor.

Below is the histogram of the featured photo. It is overexposed by 1/2 stops.

In the case of the featured photo, the shooting was straight forward. I had my camera on the tripod, and the setting sun was behind me, illuminating the valley with the soft light. I had no problem capturing the dynamic range of the scene with one shot. Bracketing was not necessary.

Editing & Processing

It was a single RAW processing workflow. 

Lightroom (70%)

I kept the original aspect ratio (3 x 2) but I had to crop the image slightly to make composition tighter and to align the leading line of the road with the bottom left corner.

Next, I used the Napa preset from my Travel Pro Kit Collection (coming soon) as the base for Lightroom Rapid Editing. Then I used TOOLKIT to reduce Exposure and boost Contrast.

The Lightroom Preset Editing Formula: Napa (5, 10, 13, 16, 20, 32)

Photoshop (30%)

In Photoshop, all I had to do was to boost details and reduce digital noise. Plus, I had to do some cleaning by using the Spot Removal tool.

Plugins: DeNoise AI (noise reduction).

Total Time: 15min

Before & After Transformation

  • Ken Wheeler is brilliant! The overexposure concept works and your rendering proves it. Ken’s approach works particularly well for wild animals and birds.

    • Viktor Elizarov says:

      Ken is a character 🙂

  • Mike West says:

    Adam Schallau taught this little trick when we did a Grand Canyon workshop with him back in 2013. He is a great photographer and a great teacher.

  • Whats with the driving distance in km this the USA we use miles.I stopped reading as soon as I read that.

    • Viktor Elizarov says:

      I am Canadain who came to Canada from Europe. I can not do miles, it boils my brain 🙂

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