Desert at Dawn

Saguaro Salute
Saguaro Salute

 

Traveling to Arizona has become a usual thing now that we have grandkids in Phoenix. We travel a few times a year and can’t wait to see the kids.  It’s always a fun time.

One factor that we have to deal with in Arizona is the time change. Because dawn comes earlier in North Carolina, we always wake up in Arizona at 5:30 am or earlier. This year I was prepared to make use of that early hour.

Everything was ready to go when I woke up at 5:00 am to shoot the sunrise at 6:00 am.  I had my clothes set out, my camera gear sitting by the door and a bottle of water ready for me in the fridge. Water is pretty essential, so is a hat and sunglasses. It may be dark when you get up and go out but once that sun comes up, it is very sunny and hot in late August/early September.

There were a number of parks near where we were staying. I picked one and planned to get there before the sunrise. I was going to photograph the desert.

Saguaro Cactus on the Trail
Saguaro Cactus on the Trail

You always hope for clouds on the horizon because clouds add interest to the sky. On the day I arrived to photograph, clouds were there early and then began to disappear. But I did get a few cloudy skies photos. (see photo above).

Rugged Desert (Phyllis Peterson)
Rugged Desert (Phyllis Peterson)

 

My camera had a full battery, empty media card and a strap to put over my shoulder. I would not lug a tripod up a narrow hiking trail this time. If I couldn’t handhold the camera I would put it on a rock to steady it.

Pinnacle Peak
Pinnacle Peak

To process these photos, I import them into a photo processing program called Adobe Lightroom. Within Lightroom I can crop the photo, adjust the highlights or shadows, contrast or sharpness and tweak colors.  Presets are useful in processing photos because they combine all those adjustments I mentioned into one click of the mouse.

Old Saguaro Cactus (Phyllis Peterson)
Old Saguaro Cactus (Phyllis Peterson)

 

I was asked to test a product called Lightroom workflow for landscapes produced by a company named Sleeklens.  They also offer a product for Photoshop which I did not review. The Sleeklens workflow called Through the Woods Workflow contains a variety of presets, each one producing a different effect on the photo. (Clicking on the italicized words will link you to the product on the Sleeklens site).  These presets are loaded into Lightroom. I also received a set of brushes to try. Brushes are separate from the presets because, with a brush you can ‘brush’ in an adjustment to part of the photo, not the entire photo.

Here is my image, right out of the camera, before using any adjustments.  I used it to test the Sleeklens workflow.

Desert Scene Before photo processing.
Desert Scene Before photo processing.

 

And here is the same scene after using 4 Sleeklens presets; a base preset and one of the brushes. The base preset used was called ‘Morning Light‘. To that I added some smaller preset adjustments called ‘Clarity, Color Pop, and Cool It Off‘.

Desert Scene After photo processing (Phyllis Peterson)
Desert Scene After photo processing

Morning light preset raised the brightness of the entire image and gave it a yellow ‘glow’. The addition of Clarity preset helped to increase the contrast and sharpness, Color Pop to boost or saturate the color, and Cool It off to bring down some of warm color. I used a Sleeklens brush to brush in some color and clarity on the mountains and the foliage.

I definitely feel that the Sleeklens presets make a welcome addition to my Lightroom workflow. i can combine the various presets and adjust their effect.  For someone who is new to Lightroom, the Sleeklens presets will make the workflow easier and quicker once you familiarize yourself with what they can do. The brushes were also handy tools for making adjustments.

Photographing in Arizona is a real treat! I can see something to photograph everywhere I turn. You can find beautiful, scenic landscapes and you can also find graphic shapes in many colors.

Can’t wait to go back!