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How-to's Travel Stories

Dream Lake & Nymph Lake shooting experience

Rick Walker (walkerr)


Keywords: landscape, composition, focal_length, tripod, postprocessing, cropping, fine_tuning, detail, contrast, color, tones, nikon_forum

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Post-processing

Here is the relatively unprocessed raw shot that I ended up selecting as the “keeper” from the shoot. It’s the thumbnail that is highlighted on the previous screen capture.

Dream Lake postprocessing step 1

Post-processing, step 1
Click on the image for larger view

Okay, not a bad start, but I had deliberately framed the shot a little loose to give myself flexibility for in post-processing. I had a little too much “dead space” at the bottom and top of the image and I don’t like the pieces of grass at the bottom center of the frame, so I started off by cropping a little.

I then adjusted the basic exposure sliders to get a good tonal range in the image and bring out a little more detail in the trees. At that point, the image looked like this:

Dream Lake postprocessing step 2

Post-processing, step 2
Click on the image for larger view

Not radically different, but better, and I was happier with the framing. My Lightroom editing settings were deliberately on the conservative side so that I would have more flexibility in further post-processing. I next brought the image out of Lightroom and into Photoshop, where I used one of my favorite plug-ins, Google/Nik’s Color Efex 4.0. I applied several of its filters on the image, including the Detail Extractor (great for bring out additional detail in the darker part of the image where the trees are), Tonal Contrast (gives the image a little more “pop” in the water and reflections, as well as the rocks) and Polarization (which is a rough equivalent of what a real polarizer might have done, reducing the reflection in the water slightly and bring out a little more blue in the sky). Here’s what it looked like after those tweaks to the image:

Dream Lake postprocessing step 3

Post-processing, step 3
Click on the image for larger view

Okay, that’s a bit better! Color Efex 4.0 definitely helped, and I’m happier with the results. I saved the image in Photoshop, which returned it back to Lightroom. I had used the feature that exports the image out of Lightroom and into Photoshop as a Smart Object. This means that not only can I change the settings in Color Efex at a later date; I can also change the underlying raw conversion parameters as well. Very handy!


What would I do next time?

It’s always good to think through what you might do next time. If I were to return (which I will), I’d probably try some shooting locations toward the left. There were some nice alternative spots there on the other side of a small creek. It also had good foreground elements, including a chain of small rocks. I might also try some shots slightly closer to the log in the foreground, getting even closer than the few feet I was at in this shot.  Going too much lower wouldn’t work, since the reflection of the mountains would get caught up in the logs and be distracting. I’m sure the next time will be even better!


Nymph Lake

After wrapping up the shoot in this area and being grateful the sun came out briefly, Eric and I headed back down the trail. We stopped at Nymph Lake and liked the soft, diffused light that was illuminating the shoreline.

I took a few shots with the 80-400mm set to just over 200mm and at an aperture of f/11. Shutter speeds were in the realm of 1/8 to 1/15 of a second with the ISO still set to 64. My tripod remained important, giving me the ability to use the settings I wanted rather than ones I was forced into.

I used a polarizing filter on these shots as well to fine tune the amount of reflection there was on the water, as well as to bring out details in the foliage. Finally, I locked up the mirror to reduce any vibrations that might be more apparent at a longer focal length. That is often more important than you would think.

The new electronic shutter option of the D810 is great for further reducing vibration and increasing sharpness, so that was also enabled. It probably wasn’t absolutely necessary, but why not?

Nymph Lake shot 1

Nymph Lake
Click on the image for larger view

Nymph Lake shot 2

Nymph Lake
Click on the image for larger view

Back to Estes Park!

At this point, Eric and I headed back into Estes Park for a well-deserved breakfast, and more importantly, plenty of coffee. We were pleased with our shots that morning and relished yet another experience out in the wild with views that most people never see. It’s good to be a landscape photographer! 

(20 Votes )
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Originally written on May 27, 2015

Last updated on October 28, 2016

Rick Walker Rick Walker (walkerr)

Awarded for his con tributed articles published at the Resources Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in multiple areas Master Ribbon awarded as a member who has gone beyond technical knowledge to show mastery of the art and science of photography   Donor Ribbon awarded for his most generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015

Colorado Springs, USA
Gold, 17638 posts

19 comments

Annette Palm (Alisiane) on August 20, 2015

(Edited by jrp Sunday, 23 August 2015 ) A very informative article. Awesome Pics. Thanks. A

Preston Moochnek RPh. (massulo) on August 17, 2015

Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Laureate Ribbon awarded for winning a Nikonians Annual Photo Contest Ribbon awarded for his win in the 2018 Best of Nikonians Images Annual Photo Contest

Excellent and informative article...

Richard Cron (rcron) on June 19, 2015

I'be had no such encounter but it'seems worth considering, I think. A sow with cubs might an unpleasant meeting, and I understand that moose can be agressive if happened upon. We also have cougar in Colorado. I don't have a gun either... Sorry if I hijacked the topic.

Rick Walker (walkerr) on June 18, 2015

Awarded for his con tributed articles published at the Resources Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in multiple areas Master Ribbon awarded as a member who has gone beyond technical knowledge to show mastery of the art and science of photography   Donor Ribbon awarded for his most generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015

Richard, I don't own a gun, so that's not something I take. Bears aren't too big of problem in Colorado, so I don't worry about that too often either. I've seen a couple of black bears while hiking other places in Colorado, but they were interesting rather than threatening. Both they and I kept a comfortable distance from each other. :)

Richard Cron (rcron) on June 18, 2015

Very nice, thanks. On the subject of hiking in the dark or in the back country anytime, do you take bear spray or a firearm or something?

Mark Abraham (AM4L) on June 17, 2015

Nymph Lake is a gorgeous location as is all the rest of RMNP, one of my favorite hiking locations. Here are two of my favorite pics from RMNP! This first is of Nimph lake and an example of how a slice can sometimes be as pretty as the whole. [imglink:460052] The second is from Alberta falls, I went off the trail to get this one and was very happy with the result. [imglink:482398] Needless to say, one can take a lot of pictures when visiting and hiking and it definitely pays off to be in a bit of shape when you go, I always have a tendency to hike a lot farther than I intend due to the stunning views!

Ronald J. Sacco (Priest) on June 2, 2015

Just a nice photographer's story of a day's experience- well told and rather enjoyable, I thought, Mr. Walker. Thank you. Ron

Marion Pavan (pqtrths) on May 31, 2015

Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014

Hi Rick: Very good, step-by-step description of the process - start to finish - you employed in capturing these photographs. Hope to see more articles. Marion Pavan

User on May 31, 2015

Thanks Rick. I see from the charts of various cameras that the PDR tails over at the top end, so one would use the flat portion of the curve to get maximum PDR-ISOs...and then use the smallest ISO for noise minimization. In my case, the D7000 curve is a straight line, so I never saw a minimum except the left end of the line...which is 100 (or smaller, presumably). So my situation is pretty simple. Thanks again. Great article! Mike

Rick Walker (walkerr) on May 30, 2015

Awarded for his con tributed articles published at the Resources Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in multiple areas Master Ribbon awarded as a member who has gone beyond technical knowledge to show mastery of the art and science of photography   Donor Ribbon awarded for his most generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015

Hi, Mike. Generally speaking, DSLRs can handle the widest range of light (dynamic range) and exhibit the least noise (which shows up mostly in the shadows) when you use the lowest regular ISO setting, Modern sensors tend to lose a stop of dynamic range for each increasing full step in ISO. Here is a good resource for the dynamic range in particular: http://home.comcast.net/~nikond70/Charts/PDR.htm

User on May 30, 2015

This is great article, Rick... You have encouraged me to grab my D7000 and get on up there for some more personal shooting. I live in Longmont and used to go up before dawn with my N2020 to capture that sun. I couldn't agree more that "It's good to be a landscape photographer!" You said you use "an ISO of 64 since that’s where a D810 will have the most dynamic range and least noise" Would you please explain that a little more or point me to a good article? I would like to use that to improve D7000 images and this is all new to me. DXoMark reports D810 PDR as 11.52ev at 3206iso, I just learned, with no reference to noise. There must be multiple ways to look at this. Thanks! Mike Munger

Rick Walker (walkerr) on May 29, 2015

Awarded for his con tributed articles published at the Resources Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in multiple areas Master Ribbon awarded as a member who has gone beyond technical knowledge to show mastery of the art and science of photography   Donor Ribbon awarded for his most generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015

Thanks, Eric. Your comment on the polarizer jogged my memory. I think we temporarily tried them and concluded they weren't doing anything for us due to the sun angle. Now I feel better!

Eric Bowles (ericbowles) on May 29, 2015

Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level skills in various areas, especially Landscape and Wildlife Photoghraphy Writer Ribbon awarded for for his article contributions to the community Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded as a member who has gone beyond technical knowledge to show mastery of the art a

It was great reading Rick's article and brought back a lot of good memories. He did leave out the part about the one mile walk in the dark was at a 10% grade in addition to the elevation. I was puffing pretty hard. Working in the dark can be a challenge. We did not have any mishaps here, but another photographer at the location dropped a lens into the water. The day before are Bear Lake, we did have some problems with cell phones, headlamps, and LCD playback casting odd light on the scene. This is a great location but helpful to visit in daylight the day before. We had a good area to photograph the location, but a better location to the left was already taken by a photographer who got up a little earlier. We arrived at the location about 45 minutes before sunrise. As for the circular polarizer, I considered one but there were several related issues. With a wide lens, the risk of blotchy skies had to be considered. I liked the reflection of the mountains and sunrise, but not the gray of the skies. The other thought was with the sun at our back, the polarizer was not going to make a lot of difference. One interesting thing. As we returned to the car, we saw a drone being flown in the park. Obviously this is strictly against regulations, so we reported it and a ranger was sent to try to find the person.

Rick Walker (walkerr) on May 28, 2015

Awarded for his con tributed articles published at the Resources Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in multiple areas Master Ribbon awarded as a member who has gone beyond technical knowledge to show mastery of the art and science of photography   Donor Ribbon awarded for his most generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015

Ernesto, thanks! I believe Eric is working on some similar articles, but probably not the exact same location within RMNP. We're using this article and a few others as examples that we'll do more of on this site if they're useful to photographers.

Rick Walker (walkerr) on May 28, 2015

Awarded for his con tributed articles published at the Resources Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in multiple areas Master Ribbon awarded as a member who has gone beyond technical knowledge to show mastery of the art and science of photography   Donor Ribbon awarded for his most generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015

Tom Egel, I should have used a polarizer in this situation (and normally would have), but quite honestly I think I was a bit fuzzy-headed due to lack of sleep and forget to get it out. :) Using the Nik filter helped a bit, but I would have preferred to use a real one.

Tom Egel (tegel) on May 27, 2015

Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Winner of the Best of Nikonians 2018 Annual Photo Contest

Rick, Thanks for taking the time to write this and for sharing some of your tips and tricks! A few questions/comments: 1. Could you expand more on the choice to apply a polarizer filter in post versus on the camera? I've been under the impression that this is the one filter that can't be replicated by software and I make sure I always have one with me. 2. I believe you can get to the Nik collection directly from LR without going through PS. Is there an advantage to exporting to PS for this? Thanks, Tom

Robert Wightman (robwig) on May 27, 2015

Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Ribbon awarded for his most generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017

Great article Rick. It is very enlightening to read about the entire process, from hiking in the dark all the way through post processing, and even what you will different next time. I hope we will see more articles in the future. Thank you.

Egbert M. Reinhold (Ineluki) on May 27, 2015

Very good article of a real photographic adventure. Thank you very much for this, Rick.

Ernesto Santos (esantos) on May 27, 2015

Nikonians Resources Writer. Recognized for his outstanding reviews on printers and printing articles. Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas, including Landscape Photography Awarded for his extraordinary accomplishments in Landscape Photography. His work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian. Winner of the Best of Nikonians Images 2018 Annual Photo Contest

Great article Rick. I have never been to RMNP, now you have forced me to move it up on my list . :) It is very helpful to read through your thought process in developing the shots and how you made important considerations to accommodate how you would process the image back at the computer. I'd also like to here about Eric's experiences on this trip - any chance he's working on a companion submission?

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