Sunrise at Salem Lake

Saturday, November 18, 2017 (Part 1)

Originally, I was supposed to be working a traffic detail at work today.  However, late in the week, we got word that there was going to be plenty of officers signed up for the job and my squad would not be needed.  That opened up my Saturday.  Add to that, Toni was working and Sierra was staying at a friend's house out of town.  Everything was working in my favor for a great weekend of photography....that was except for the weather.  What had originally been forecasted as a cloudy and stormy Saturday had turned into a clear and beautiful weekend.  It was looking like I would not be going out for any pictures unless I decided to hunt old cars early in the morning.

As Friday arrived, my mind was very much focused on photography, but not the landscape kind.  You see, my "Badge on Thin Blue Line" collection has been getting more and more popular and I was shooting the third and fourth badges of the week on Friday evening.  I wasn't really thinking much about if I was going to be going out on Saturday or not.

Before bed, I looked at the weather and saw that there was now going to be increasing clouds during the day with most of them being towards the mountains.  I also checked the sunrise forecast and found that the majority of the state should see some nice color in the morning.  The color faded the further to the mountains that you went though.  I wanted to take advantage of the possibility of a great sunrise, and felt that my best option was to stay close to home.

I have been wanting to shoot at Salem Lake's marina for some time now.  it is positioned just about right for a sunrise shot with some nice leading lines.  There has been construction going on though and that has kept me from going and trying it out.  I have been keeping an eye on the status, and according to the Internet the construction was now pretty much finished.  With the possibility of a good sunrise, I decided that now was as good a time as any to give Salem Lake a try.

Fortunately, I didn't have to wake up too early to get there since I'm only about 15 minutes from the marina.  I woke up with Toni left at 5, and was out the door by 6.  That would give me plenty of time to park beyond the gate and walk in.  As I got near the park though, I found that the road was still closed and I wouldn't be able to get there from here.  Glad I left in plenty of time...I was pretty much going to have to go most of the way back home and go to the other side of the lake for access.  Guess I should have checked road conditions, but the GPS was saying that the road was now open.  Oh well...nothing that I can do about it but redirect myself.

I arrived just as the light was hitting the sky which was still plenty of time to get set up.  I walked past the gate and went down the road until I got to another gate that was prohibiting entry to the marina.  Things just aren't going my way this morning.  I could see a playground and picnic tables set up on the shore of the lake to my right and I was able to get to that section.  I went ahead and walked over there to see what I could use for a foreground as the sky was already getting interesting.

A Lake Awakening
I found several trees that I wanted to use, but they were a little big, and I wasn't expecting enough color to really support that kind of wide angle.  I thought about using a bench, but I didn't really care for that either.  As I walked along the shore, I found some vegetation emerging from the water that had a slight "S curve" to it.  This would be my foreground and leading line into the frame.  I decided to use my 24-70mm lens and mounted my Lee Filter Holder in case I needed to add any grad filters.  I composed my first shot and released the shutter.  It was OK, but not great.  I shifted the composition again, and shot another frame.  Again, it was just not compelling.  I tried a few other compositions and locations without any success.  The color was really coming into the sky at this point so I was getting a little desperate.

I really wanted to use the element in the water, but I just couldn't get the composition right.  I decided to try and go a little wider without adding to the top or bottom of the composition.  In order to do that, I was going to need to shoot a panorama.  I flipped the camera on its side and shot a series of four shots.  Judging by the histogram, I was a little overexposed on the bright side of the image, so I quickly did another sweep dialing back the exposure.  That histogram looked much better.  I wasn't sure how the composition was going to look, but I had high hope for it, and only hoped that the colors in the sky would come out in the photograph as I had seen them.

With the second panorama shot, I was pretty much done as the color was fading and I couldn't find any other compositions to shoot.  I could have walked around the seven mile trail and worked on finding more subjects to capture, but I just wasn't really feeling Salem Lake on that level.  I was wanting to go to South Mountains where the clouds were supposed to be coming in shortly.  The strange thing was, I really had no idea what I wanted to shoot there, but something was saying to go.  I'll do a part 2 of this blog to cover that part of the Trek.

When I got home, I looked through a couple dozen images from my sunrise shoot, and found that none of them really grabbed my attention.  The first panorama was overexposed and I didn't think there was much need in processing it.  The second one showed a great deal of promise though.  After I got it stitched together and cropped, I was able to really start to work on pulling the color out of the sky.  I'll be honest, this one took a little work to get right.  However, after I got done, the image was true to what I had seen as the sun was coming up.  The one thing that needed to be done was to flip the picture around so that it flowed better with the bright colors to the left.  Everything faded off to the right as the eyes read.

I only got a single image that I deemed as a keeper from this sunrise shoot, but that was fine by me.  I was only really shooting one composition with several variations.  I was happy to get one that looked this good when it was all said and done.

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