Photo of the Week – “Peak Sunrise”

The pastels turn fiery as the Sun nears the horizon.

“Peak Sunrise” – Wednesday November 12, 2014 – see it in the gallery / buy a print

This sunrise photo was taken on the mushers trails about a mile north of the Creamer’s Field farmhouse. I think what I love most about this photo isn’t the incredible color cast on the clouds, but the subtle arctic blues that appear in the sky behind them.

Technical Details

Equipment: Nikon D7000 with my Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM FLD Large Aperture Standard Zoom Lens mounted on tripod – no filters

To create this image I used multiple exposures to bring the sky and the foreground into a combined exposure that is realistic to how I viewed the scene with my eyes. Although the camera captures a dynamic range that is similar to the human eye – it doesn’t do what the brain does to piece together multiple parts of a scene as your eyes move around.

While the RAW image carries enough information that the shadows can simply be “brought up”, this often leaves the shadowed area quite noisy. The trees on the horizon served as a good midpoint to create a gradient mask – using a shorter exposure for the sky and a longer one for the foreground, and a third exposure in the middle which helped to average out noise further. Using this method, as opposed to “HDR+tonemapping” I’m able to capture the wide dynamic range of the scene while avoiding “halo” and “ghosting” artifacts.

Center Exposure: shutter speed 1/6"  | aperture f/8 | ISO 400
High Exposure  : shutter speed 1/3"  | aperture f/8 | ISO 400
Low Exposure   : shutter speed 1/13" | aperture f/8 | ISO 400

I used Darktable for the RAW edits of the 3 exposures and GIMP to combine them. There was enough subtle motion (I didn’t have my remote and pressing the shutter with the tripod in the soft snow-covered bushes caused the camera to move slightly) – so I aligned the photos using Hugin. More about these free and open source programs with download links here: FOSS Photography Quick Review.


This is my first “Photo-of-the-Week” post; my plan is to post one every Saturday night (Sunday morning) at midnight with my favorite photo taken that week with a quick caption or backstory. Ocassionally I’ll try to include some technical details in how I captured the image when it’s relevant.


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