Tropical Sunrise at East Coast of O’ahu (Hawaii)

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That was probably the most spectacular sunrise I got to witness in my life. Of course, the weather and the location played a big part in it. Only two days before I took the featured photo I was in freezing Montreal where the temperature was below -20°C for 3 weeks in a row and now, after a short 12-hour flight, I was in the tropics hiking the volcanos and witnessing the sun rising over the Pacific Ocean.

Hawaii. O’ahu
Loc: 21.306406, -157.651981


When I analyzed the scene before shooting, I could see the very dark areas below me, the town was shaded by the mountain. At the same time, despite the sky was being mostly covered by thick clouds, I could see a few extremely bright spots above the horizon. It made me change the exposure bracketing intervals from 1EV to 2EV to cover the entire dynamic range of the scene.

I took 3 bracketed shots with 2EV intervals (-2, 0, +2) on a tripod standing on top of Lanikai Pillbox Trail


First, I merged 3 bracketed shots for HDR using the new Lightroom Merge tool. I described this technique in my latest tutorial “Lightroom HDR – Natural Looking HDR In Lightroom”.

When I had a brand new HDR image I created in a previous step, I started editing approach I outlined in Introduction to Lightroom Rapid Editing System. I liked the effect of Sunrise preset from Landscape Collection and later used ToolKit adjustments to fine-tune image.

The Lightroom Preset Editing Formula: Sunrise (1, 10, 12, 21, 39)

Later, I decided to add more “fire” to the sky and used the Graduated Filter to add more red color to the left part of the sky.

Deconstructing Featured Photo

Processing: Lightroom HDR Preset Based Workflow

Lightroom: import, tagging, cropping, HDR Merge, preset based processing (Sunrise preset from Landscape Collection)
Photoshop: contrast, color correction, cleaning with the help of the Stamp Tool.

Photoshop Plugins: 

  • Topaz DeNoise was used to reduce digital noise (sky, ocean).
  • Topaz Clarity was used to enhance details and boost colors (town, mountains).