Pete Scifres, GPSA  

Sunrise in the Badlands by Pete Scifres, GPSA

May 2022 - Sunrise in the Badlands

May 2022 - Pete Scifres, GPSA


About the Image(s)

These amazing cliffs are located about 10 miles east of Badlands National Park. It's an example of a workaround to the restrictions on drone use in many areas in the west. Often the same scenery can be located near but outside of the park or wilderness area. I spent 4 days in the park in July of 2021 and wish I could have stayed longer.

I flew twice that morning and took many images of the area.

I'm at about 350 ft, and maybe 1000(?) feet from the cliffs. I wish I had gotten closer because I did crop some.

It's a morning shot, a little after peak light. ISO 400, second to the most bright exposure of a five shot HDR burst. I didn't need to photo merge as the contrast wasn't too extreme. Some cropping in post, otherwise normal LR and PS plug-in processing

7 comments posted

Don Stouder   Don Stouder
Well Pete, the difference between the original and your edited version is quite striking. I am going on a road trip to the Grand Canyon at the end of June. I hoping that using your technique and flying just outside on the national park will allow me to have the same success as you.

As I look at your original, I am curious why you chose that exposure to edit. I would have chosen a somewhat darker one and brightened it a bit. Was your choice driven by wanting to preserve as much of the shadow details as possible?

At any rate you have captured a stunning image.

  Posted: 05/01/2022 18:30:22
Pete Scifres   Pete Scifres
Don, thanks so much. Between watching a webinar by a very drone knowledgeable person and just observing that my drone images -- vs those shot on my R6 -- are noticeably more noisy and difficult to clean in post I've been making it a point to use the brightest possible exposures(s). The exposure I used was the brightest that did not have any pixels against the left side of the histogram.   Posted: 05/01/2022 21:07:43
Don Stouder   Don Stouder
Pete, you are right about drone images having more noise than those from a DSLR-type camera, in my case an R5. My approach is to use a tad of noise reduction in LR. Maybe I need to try your approach. Also, why not just use the HDR result, even though it may not be needed? I have often done that as well.   Posted: 05/02/2022 09:13:40

Lou McLove   Lou McLove
Hi Pete, very dramatic image. Drones can certainly allow for some great landscapes images. I am going to try your exposure technique to see how it works for me. I think you have done a great job post processing a very well composed image, I love the colors and details.   Posted: 05/02/2022 08:22:24

Drema Swader   Drema Swader
Was this in the badlands of Dakota, or Utah? Coincidence that we both posted badland images the same month! :)

You did a really good job with the post-processing. I have heard the rule about shooting to the right on the histogram and I usually try to apply it, although I still tend to shoot a little darker than I should. I can see how this is even more applicable for drone photography when noise is more of a problem. I have been meaning to do some tests on my DSLR to see the difference for myself... I need to do that! Thanks for the tip!

I put your original into Photoshop to see if I could duplicate your processing. I came close although I couldn't get the colors just right (I suspect you adjusted those colors and contrast with the Lightroom sliders). I did not crop in as tight as you did and I think more of the plateau at the top gives it a little more breathing room. It looks like you have sharpened the photo, which is good, but I would recommend backing off a little on the contrast and sharpening at the very top so you don't lose the depth in the photo. The more distant hills should have a little more haze that the foreground.   Posted: 05/02/2022 12:03:51
Pete Scifres   Pete Scifres
Badlands National Park in SD. If you drive to one exit east of the park's east-most exit on I-90, this area can be reached via a dirt road south of the interstate.

I would really like to go back sometime and try this just after sunrise. There was so much to shoot in the park I used all my sunrises for places inside the park.

Good point about the background   Posted: 05/02/2022 12:24:16

Janos Demeter   Janos Demeter
What a difference between the original and the final image! Good job! I am envy when I see people working with manual settings. I always use automatic settings not to loose precious flying time with adjusting settings, rather taking more pictures, then selecting the best.   Posted: 05/11/2022 09:13:48


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