Banakas | Photography

This particular shot was taken on one of the first cold mornings from the parking lot of Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Clingman’s Dome is the highest point (6,643 feet) within the Smoky Mountains and the third highest point east of the Mississippi River (Mt. Mitchell (6,684 feet) and Mt. Craig (6,647), both located in Mt. Mitchell State Park in western North Carolina, rise higher).

The morning of this photo, my wife and kids got up with me at 3am so we could drive to the top of the mountain and get there before the sun rose. We met a friend of mine there and we just all started taking photos from different angles.

Did I mention it was cold? At the bottom of the mountain, it had to have been in the 60’s at 3am. But at the top of the mountain, it was just above freezing at 6am. I was not prepared for the cold and it made for a miserable morning. Add that to the fact that what I was seeing in the LCD of the camera was not making me any happier.

Below is a look at the before and after of my process on this particular image.

Daybreak - Before

Daybreak – Before

The image above is the unedited, straight out of the camera, shot.
Processing Steps:

  • Changed White Balance to Daylight
  • Increased the Contrast +38
  • Decreased the Highlights -45
  • Increased the Shadows +76
  • Decreased the Exposure -.83
  • Decreased the Black Clipping -52
  • Decreased the White Clipping -17
  • Decreased the Vibrance +19

In addition to the changes above, I used a tool in Lightroom called the Graduated Filter. This tool allows you to create a filter on top of the image and make adjustments to the tonal settings that affect only the selected area and not the whole image. On this particular image, the top of the image will see more of the adjustments that are made than in the middle.

Graduated Filter:

  • Decreased Exposure -3.36
  • Increased Contrast +52
  • Decreased Highlights -10
  • Decreased Shadows -38
  • Increased Clarity +22
  • Increased Saturation +54
Daybreak - After

Daybreak – After

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