Date Taken: 10/13/2016
Location: Rough Ridge Trail, Milepost 302.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the High Country of North Carolina.
Camera: Nikon D700
Lens: Tamron 17-35 f/2.8-4
Focal Length: 17mm
Filters: HiTech 4 stop graduated ND filter
How I Got This Shot: This image was a tough one to capture. I arrived at Rough Ridge Parking Area (milepost 302.8) to catch a sunrise with some fall foliage sprinkled in. I made the short hike from the parking area, up a staircase and to an opening where I was exposed to some brutal winds – gusts well over 40 MPH, occasionally knocking me and my camera off balance. A tripod (a heavy, durable one) is a must here. I originally set up to shoot some distant images of the fog way off in the distance with a telephoto lens, but the wind oscillated my lens to the point where I couldn’t get a sharp image, even at a higher ISO speed. Then the sun rose; and I switched to my ultrawide Tamron lens, using the staircase as a focal point and a leading line to the rising sun. I boosted my ISO speed to 800 – a sensitivity I rarely, if ever, use. But it was crucial here with the high winds and low light. I had to freeze the blowing branches and foliage in front of me, otherwise they’d be blurry from a slow shutter speed. Also, with a high contrast scene, I had to use a graduated ND filter to hold back the bright sky while projecting the foreground. At 1/50 of a second and at 17mm, with an aperture of f/11, and using the aforementioned graduated ND filter, I was able to control depth of field, capture everything I wanted in the scene, expose the image properly, all the while ensuring there wouldn’t be much, if any, blurring of the colorful leaves or branches in my foreground. In post-processing I was able to remove the modest amount of noise present from the high ISO speed, while doing my usual developments for contrast, color, luminance, clarity, and a quick smart sharpening pass in Photoshop. The end result came mighty close to what I saw with my own eyes, given the limitations of my gear.
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