Matt Beyer  

Rock On Great Salt Lake by Matt Beyer

October 2020 - Rock On Great Salt Lake

October 2020 - Matt Beyer


About the Image(s)

Fujifilm X-H1, XF10-24mmF4 R OIS @ 24mm (36mm full-frame), Aperture: f/4.0, Shutter: 1/160, ISO: 100
I took some time while travelling to Salt Lake City for work to get out and shoot some sunset pictures at the Antelope Island State Park on September 26th. This image is one that I captured while waiting for the sunset to begin at Ladyfinger Point. In the background you can see a blurred Fremont Island sitting to the North across the Great Salt Lake. I was attracted to the warm light that really highlighted the texture of the rock. Shooting conditions were difficult as the sky was very bright and made it difficult for me to select the proper exposure. I tried to keep the highlights in the sky from going white while also preventing the shadows from falling to pure black. The lens is new to me, and I enjoyed using a wide-angle lens for the first time, but I think I'm more comfortable shooting intimate compositions as opposed to "sweeping vistas", but I hope to improve!

8 comments posted

Thorro Jones   Thorro Jones
Matt I like the way you captured the warm colors in the foreground rock as well as on the island in the background. The two nicely play off each other. I like that you captured the details in the texture of the rock. I also like the grey muted clouds in the sky as they add to the focus on the rock and the island. I do feel the foreground rock is dominating the photo a little too much and the sunlight could be a little warmer. I adjusted the photo in LR (exposure +0.07, contrast +7, highlights -7, shadows +21, whites +9, blacks -28. Clarity +10, vibrance +19, saturation +2 and a slight S figure to the tone curve) to bring out more warm in the sunlight. I also cropped the rock slightly to shift the warm highlights to the rule of thirds focal points and remove the dark gray clouds across the top of the photo. I found these clouds distracting.   Posted: 10/02/2020 12:31:17
Comment Image
Matt Beyer   Matt Beyer
Hi Thorro! Thanks for your feedback! I have a few questions related to your comments, but I'd also like to know what you might have done in the same situation. I'm really excited about picking everyone's brains on this, so I hope you don't mind me asking a boatload of questions:

- When I was shooting this photo, the sky was very bright, but the cloud cover was also very uniform and this resulted in a very flat and diffuse light. I found it difficult to get an exposure in camera that felt "right". Everything seemed too "contrasty" and I really struggled to keep from blowing out the highlights or blacks. What could I do to limit this in camera? Since I shoot RAW, I was hoping that I could dial things back in Lightroom, but this has some effects on the clouds that I didn't like. I'd really like to get it as close to "right" in camera if I can...

- When I was composing (and later when cropping) the image I had to decide how much "rock" was appropriate in the frame. Too little and you end up with an uncertain focal point, too much and you end up with a one-note composition that is mostly just texture. I settled on what you see in order to anchor the photo as a "picture of a rock" as opposed to "picture of island with foreground rock". How do you like to balance your photos between subject and environment? I felt like I needed to give the rock some empty space in order to balance the "heavy" lower right corner. Should I maybe have made a 50/50 frame by moving the rock further right and down? Maybe make it less than 50% of the frame?

- I really like your color adjustments and crop. I agree that the image looks better without the clouds and the warmer, brighter sunlight is more welcoming. Do you think I should pump up the warm tones in the shadows?

Thanks for your thoughts! I'm really eager to hear what everyone thinks, with my Engineering background I thrive on good feedback and I have no ego tied up in this image, so don't feel like you'll hurt my feelings with constructive suggestions! Fire away!   Posted: 10/03/2020 15:43:32
Thorro Jones   Thorro Jones
Matt my only suggestion for dealing with the contrast between the highlights and blacks is to shoot multiple images and create a HDR image. I would be interested in what others may have to say regarding your question.
As to your composition questions I think you were correct in balancing the warm colors of the rock with the warm colors on the island. This made for a more interesting scene that draws the viewer into the photo to experience the changing light at sunset. Otherwise as you noted this photo would be a study in the rock texture and the background should have been blurred and muted.   Posted: 10/05/2020 05:46:22

Steve Sampliner   Steve Sampliner
Hi Matt, I see that you and Thorro have been quite thorough in your discussion concerning your photo. I like where Thorro went with his edit suggestions. I like contrast, I like pushing the clarity up, as well as luminations and saturations. I am a big fan of how clouds manipulate light. Even when we have to "fight" it, I still like it adds something that we can't always control but should embrace. I personally like the clouds in your photo. They are a graceful and sweeping motion that is the emotional balance to the angular rock.
As for composition, I do feel that is an undecided image. Is it a rock image? Is it a vast landscape and island image? For me, I like it is more about not being able to find a clear focal point or some color / object that grabs my attention. Thorro's edit pulls that orange out of the island, and I think that it helpful in drawing the eyes back and creating that "distance" that moves the view across your landscape. But, you are on to something here. Wide-angle lens landscape hint. Have something solid in the foreground to help anchor the image. Wide-angle can really "push" vistas and horizons back. Something in the foreground grounds the image in a spatial location manner so what the viewer sees falls within their native sense of visual distance. Thus creating a perceptual "comfort" and allowing the viewer to engage in grandeur of the landscape in front of them.
Did I just run off on a tangent??? hahaha   Posted: 10/10/2020 08:17:02
Matt Beyer   Matt Beyer
Hi Steve! Thanks for your feedback! Don't worry about running off on tangents, I'll be right beside you!

Thanks for the wide-angle tip. As a new user of such a wide lens (10-24mm APS-C is roughly 15-36mm on a full-frame camera) and I'm still getting used to the way the distortion works and how to use it to my benefit. I think the suggestion for a foreground "anchor" is a good one. Do you mostly try to limit the overall distortion in the image or do you ever purposefully tilt the lens with respect to your subject to create distortion effects in your images?

I appreciate your comments on the focal point of the image. Does the subject seem vague because the background is there at all? or because of the amount of frame devoted to the rock? Would it seem more defined as a "rock photo" if there was more rock in the picture? or if the background was less distinct? Or is it just that the rock itself doesn't have enough interest to be a solid subject?

What do you (or anyone else too!) think?
  Posted: 10/19/2020 15:07:20
Steve Sampliner   Steve Sampliner
Hi Matt,

I feel drawn towards the horizon in your photo. Is it because of the rock? I'm beginning to think so. It isn't keeping there. I like the texture of the rock, but maybe not dynamic enough to hold the composition together?
Wide-angle tip; well I'm still working it out myself hahaha. I'm careful with creating distortion. I try to think about how much distortion is comfortable or useful. I would lean towards zero distortion in capturing "grand vistas" because in real life there are no focal distortions when "gazing" across an expansive horizon.   Posted: 10/20/2020 01:16:15

Sophia Schade   Sophia Schade
Hi Matt.. I really like the angle of the photo. I also like all the changes that Thorro made. When I take a landscaping photo I always use my I-phone and then my camera. When using my camera I set it on program mode and based on what the histogram shows me that is my starting point in Manuel mode and I make adjustments accordingly.. Sorry I don't have any additional feedback but Thorro did an outstanding job.   Posted: 10/19/2020 14:24:10
Matt Beyer   Matt Beyer
Hi Sophia! Thanks for your comments. It's helpful for me to understand how you all would tackle the same composition, so I'm happy to take any and all feedback!   Posted: 10/19/2020 14:56:13


Please log in to post a comment