Selection of September 2019: Desert Impressions by Max Foster

Desert Impressions by Max Foster

Desert Impressions was taken in the Mesquite Flat sand dunes in Death Valley National Park on a cloudless and windy day. I wanted to focus on the patterns, shapes and textures of the dunes, and with the strong sunlight it was a perfect day for it. I headed directly to the eastern edge of the dunes and began searching for compositions while looking to the west. With only my 70-200mm telephoto lens, my primary focus was on layers of sand ridges against the backdrop of the mountains.

Upon arriving at this spot, I realized that I had forgotten my Arca Swiss lens plate to mount my 70-200mm lens on my tripod. With the wind and sand, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to take any sharp shots, but I was able to press and hold my camera firmly onto my tripod with one hand while shooting in continuous mode. This resulted in many soft shots, but a handful were tack sharp and useable. I repeated this with several compositions and ultimately, the layers, textures, depth and subtle blowing sand made this image my favorite.

After selecting this image to edit, I decided to accentuate the strong side/back lighting. Even though the RAW image was very flat, it needed very little work to bring out the contrast. In Lightroom, I made basic s-curves adjustments, and decided to increase the golden color of the light by adjusting the white balance and yellow hue. The background in the RAW image was very washed out, so I darkened this and emphasized the angle of the light coming from the top right. After this, I felt that the layers would be stronger by cropping to a 16x9 ratio, effectively removing the bottom area of the image. Due to the beautiful conditions that day, the image was very straightforward to process.  

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