Dawn Gulino  

Steptoe Lone Tree by Dawn Gulino

July 2024 - Steptoe Lone Tree

July 2024 - Dawn Gulino


About the Image(s)

Last week I visited the Palouse area of Washington and Idaho and shot this tree at sunrise. Steptoe peak was directly to the right, however I wanted to get the color directly behind the tree to create a silhouette.

Details and processing…

This was a three frame, 2 stop bracket given the bright sky and dark foreground. Shutter speeds were .5 seconds, 1/8th of a second, and 2 seconds. ISO 64 at f/13 at 50mm.

First step was to merge the HDR in Lightroom to get the complete dynamic range of the three images. Once I did that, I adjusted highlights, shadows, vibrance, saturation. I increased the green hue a tiny bit on the Color Mixer as well as increasing all three colors in the Calibration. Once I had the global adjustments, I started with masks. Here I did sky (darkened a bit), tree (decreased shadows), foreground (increased whites and decreased highlights), a glow behind the tree mask to soften the sky only (increased whites, decreased texture, clarity and dehaze), and a right side “glow” (increased temp a tiny bit) to match the left side as I felt it balanced it.

Next, while the camera was level, the ground didn’t look level as you can see if you look at the original. I warped it a tiny bit to make the horizontal line in front of the tree to be level. Last thing I did was to add a vignette around the image.

Looking forward to feedback on this one!

5 comments posted

George Schlossnagle   George Schlossnagle
Dawn, this is gorgeous. So nice. I love the comp, and the processing is really on point. It feels very serene.

It's hard to tell for sure at the PSA size, but it looks like some edges of the sky mask inside the branches is imperfect (so you get sky color shifts inside the branch gaps). Again, it's hard to tell for certain at this size (and maybe the fact that I only think I see it means it's more than good enough). If you see it at full size though, there are some pretty simple ways to fix that in photoshop that I'd be happy to share.

As I stare at it longer on a small screen, it also looks like there's a vignette at least on the sky that is just a smidge too strong or where it could maybe be feathered more. I don't know why, but vignetting (and haloing) issues always seem more obvious on small screens. I know for my own part I've often shared images that looked great when I was editing them on a big monitor and when I see them on my phone the vignette is more obvious.

Both of these are really nitpicks though. Overall I'd be proud to hang this on my wall if it was mine!

  Posted: 07/07/2024 12:10:54
Dawn Gulino
Thanks George. I really like this one as well!

Love to hear how you'd fix the branch issues in Photoshop! I tried a new trick in Lightroom by putting a filter over the tree to soften the light a bit, then subtracted the object, in this case, the tree so that it didn't soften the tree -- this is what might have caused this issue.

As for your vignette observation, I think you're right. I like to add them to bring the viewers eyes to the subject, but give the silhouette of the tree, not sure I needed to add it.   Posted: 07/07/2024 13:14:17

George Schlossnagle   George Schlossnagle
On the vignette - I don't personally think you should remove it, just tone it down a bit. Everyone's aesthetic is different, but for me I use a 100% feathered vignette and adjust the amount so that I can't actually tell that it's there without disabling/enabling to compare.

For the halo removal: in photoshop I'll create a copy of the image (or stamp up a new merged-visible layer if I already have layers), then I'll use the clone stamp with 0 hardness and the brushes blend mode set to 'darker color'. I'll then sample the sky from as close to the area as possible and paint onto the bad area. It will then effectively replace the sky scraps with the color from the good area. With the darker color mode the dark tree/foreground will not be replaced. It's really pretty magical (if a little tedious).   Posted: 07/07/2024 13:50:17

George Schlossnagle   George Schlossnagle
I recorded a quick video to demonstrate the clone stamp thing: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VVr08M8zmWwMJWyWDqYngTo5MJpwZx-9/view?usp=drive_link   Posted: 07/07/2024 21:31:52
Dawn Gulino
Awesome -- Thanks George!   Posted: 07/07/2024 22:13:29


Please log in to post a comment