October Sunset on the Buffalo River at Roark Bluff–02/24/15 Featured Arkansas Photography
Taken with an Nikon D810, Nikon 14-24 lens @ 14mm F8, iso 64, 1/3 of a second in a single exposure.
This is one of those images that you have to work on a while, then come back to and work it some more and then again and again. I took this shot while on a sunset/night shoot with Chris Kennedy from Russellville. We were just setting up for the night, on 10/04/14, knowing that we were way to early for the maximum fall color display, however I wanted to work with the best moonlight for later on that evening. You can barely see some pretty strong color up on top of the bluff, and the trees on the right bank were showing a bit of yellow. I have been to this spot hundreds of times and sunsets here are hit and miss. I have one other shot that is similar taken over 2 years ago, where it was also dead calm and the clouds started to get illuminated by the sun.
On this evening it started out with nothing, then as the sun crept down the left side of the frame, a bunch of high clouds rolled in. I started immediately for a spot further down the river, where I know one of the best reflections can be taken from. You have to watch this spot when certain photographers are “teaching” as they will all line up here and block the river. However it was still a bit early for this particular photographer and his minions to flock down the river. Chris decided to stay up higher and go for a different shot, but I wanted the full bluff reflection. If there is no wind on the river the reflection here will be as sharp as looking in a mirror, which on this evening it was.
As the sun set, the light on the bluff and clouds just got better. The sun hit the far right side of the bluff and turned it yellow and the afterglow on the middle of the bluff took on a wonderful rose color. The fact that there was no wind offered one great reflection of both the bluff and the clouds. I started to shoot this series with the Nikon D810, and really was not paying much attention to my histogram. I was a bit more concerned about the trees and such in the foreground and forgot to look to see if I was blowing out the sky. I was right on the line of 255:255:255: as it turned out, but somehow manged to get 5 or 6 frames that were no blown. I really attribute this to the Nikon D810’s amazing range of dynamic range at the base iso of 64. Normally I would have setup a bracketed series of exposures, but the light was changing so fast, I just shot as fast as I could and manually tried to change the bracketing but I did not really change the exposure enough to really protect the sky. The D810 is bit more tricky on highlight recovery than the D800 was and I was still shooting with the D800 mindset.
I knew from memory just how dramatic the light was that evening, so I worked this image up about 3 different times and attached different aspects of it each time. One time the sky, then the bluff, then the shadows on both banks. My main goal was to capture the amazing play of light on the bluff, from the rose color to the bright golden color on the far right. I then had to work up the reflections and make sure that the colors matched.
This shot was totally worked up in Lightroom and Photoshop. I ended up going back and forth several times before I got the image the way I wanted it. I then tweaked the colors with Topaz Clarity, which is final step I use now on pretty much all my shots.
Overall, the end result is shown here and once again it shows just how beautiful the Buffalo River and it’s bluffs can be.