The Narrows are located in the Northern part of Zion Canyon in Zion National Park, Utah. As their name states, it’s the part where the canyon gets so narrow that it’s impossible to make a path outside of the water of the river. This image was taken at the beginning of the Narrows, on the Riverside Walk (check out the exact location).
Creating this image took some patience, but mostly I had to know exactly what I wanted to achieve before setting up the camera. So let’s see how I created this shot.
What happened on location in Zion?
After trying out several compositions, I settled for this one (and a few others). I setup my tripod with my camera and my remote. I knew I wanted two things: smooth silky water as well as colorful leaves and rocks. To capture the colors, I had to add a polarizer filter in front of my lens, and rotate it so it would kill the reflections off the rocks and leaves. Then I took a test shot to see how long the exposure was, in order to calculate which Neutral Density filter I would add. From memory, I just added one NDx8 filter, which reduced the light by 3 stops, effectively multiplying the exposure time by 8. Then I just had to press the shutter.
What happened in post-processing?
Two weeks later, back in Toronto, I opened the RAW file in Adobe Lightroom 5 to start making adjustments. I use Lightroom as you would use Adobe Camera Raw when opening a file in Photoshop, but it allows me to manage my library and to do some batch editing. Here’s what the RAW image looked like (before/after):
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In Lightroom, I made basic adjustments regarding luminosity, colors, noise, lens correction. The aim was to get a good draft of my final goal, that I would fine tune in Photoshop. I made sure I had the right colors, no details loss in the highlights or the blacks, no residual noise.
I exported the image to a 16-bit TIFF file and opened it with Adobe Photoshop CC. I worked three angles: color, details and vignette.
My main concern for color was to get the right color balance on each part of the image. The best way was selective color balance: I made several selections and made a color balance mask for each of them.
I worked on details for everything but the water. I added some Tonal Contrast with Color Efex Pro and then sharpened with Topaz Detail 3.
The final touch, vignetting (or dodge & burning), is to draw the eye of the viewer. I darkened uninteresting parts of the image and lightened the parts I want the viewer to focus on.
So now you know everything about this image from Zion National Park. I hope describing my process may help some of you to capture and edit better images. Stay tuned for more!