The White Cliffs of The Grand Staircase (Utah)

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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:

  • Topaz DeNoise was used to reduce digital noise (sky area )
  • Topaz Clarity was used to enhance details in foreground elements (forest, mountains)