Sunday, January 4, 2015

White Ocean

Badwater Basin, Death Valley, California

The Badwater Basin in the Death Valley was once the bottom of a huge lake that stretched for miles across the western part of what is now the Mojave desert in California. When the temperatures in the Death Valley raised to world record levels at the end of the last ice age, the lake quickly dried up leaving a huge depression, the lowest point in North America, covered by what is normally known as table salt. Washed by sudden flash floods during the year and constantly dried by the intense heat, salt will crystallize forming these beautiful shapes and lines that stretch like an ocean to the horizon. The view at sunset is simply breathtaking, the mild temperature in January makes shooting this scene a pleasantly amazing experience that I'm trying to convey in this image. Special thanks to Elene for helping scouting the location to find the best possible composition.

This image is a composition of four frames to capture the wild dynamic range and the huge depth of field required to properly display the characteristic white salt formations in the Badwater Basin. To create the star shaped sun, I closed down to f/22: the very narrow aperture created the sun rays effect. I took two frames to expose for the sun and for the sky, to be blended together later on. For the foreground, I opened up slightly to f/20 to reduce the effect of diffraction and gain some much needed details on the salt crystals. I took two frames of the foreground, one focused on the immediate foreground and one on the distant formations. By focus stacking the two frames I achieved critical focus on the entire scene. The post processing work required some degree of luminance masking to match the exposure between the foreground, the mountains and the sky. Opening up the mid-tones brought life and even more details to the beautiful salt formations, the absolute star of this image: by selectively dodging I also slightly enhanced the rim light around the edges of the formations to achieve more separation and direct the eyes to the middle of the frame.

White Ocean has tons of details in the salt formations and it’s best experienced when viewing a large print. Beautiful acrylic prints are available on FineArtAmerica.

White Ocean is the second piece of the "Ocean" series:

SONY SLT-A99V, f/20 @ 20 mm, 0.6s, ISO 100