There are only a few “good” photogenic rocks and trails at Racetrack Playa. Some rocks seem displaced with no trail or worse yet some trails have no rocks. What most photographers want to capture is an isolated rock with a long trail. Since rock movement occurs only every few years, there are likely many visually similar images being taken day in and day out for each rock and trail combination. In order to have a photograph to stand out from the pack, work is done in post-processing (Adobe Lightroom and Nik Silver EFex Pro 2) to create the final image here.
Processing Notes: To place the focus of the photograph on the rock and trail, the distant mountain range is darkened to provide a solid dark backdrop. By converting to a monochrome image using Silver EFex Pro 2, the entire image is simplified to distinct contrasting layers – light (sky), dark (distant mountain range), light (playa), mostly dark (rock). Hopefully the eye starts at the rock, follows the trail until it disappears into the hills. At that point, the viewer may explore the rest of the composition – the sky, clouds, the mud cracks, and maybe back to the details of the rock itself.
If you look at the distant mountain range, you can see almost a halo effect on the tops of the ridge. Usually that occurs when the contrast slider is push too far into the positive. In this case, it is the natural effect of the rising sun hitting the ridge tops from a low angle provides the halo. Of course, I still want to process it out, but I will leave most of it there.
EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center-weighted metering mode, ISO100, 18mm, f/11, 1/8 sec
Death Valley (CA), Fractured Rock and Trail, Contrasted Monochrome. Racetrack Playa, Death Valley, CA. November 26, 2016. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.