15 miles – Worlds apart

How often does one find himself in completely different environments and weather conditions within 20 minutes? It happened to me recently and quite unexpectedly. Luckily I was carrying my camera with me and I didn’t miss the opportunity for some nice photos. I was driving to work at dawn and decided to stop at a location that I have stopped before to photograph the rising sun. It was a clear day and I wanted to use the zoom lens to capture the sun rising behind some trees. I set up the camera just after dawn. It was already a very bright day with a lot of haze in the air.

Sunrise - Munich - Notis Stamos
Sunrise behind the trees

With the sun head on it was difficult to aim the camera and to focus accurately. The zoom lens made it impossible to look through the eyepiece of the camera and that left the live view as the only alternative for setting up the shot. I ended up not noticing that the highway was visible in the distance and that meant that I had to erase a couple of vehicles from the picture during post processing. The lasting impression from those moments is the blinding light (looking directly at the sun) as well as the faded colors due to the strong light. During post processing I processed towards recreating this light and ambiance.

The previous photo was a single shot, while this next one is an HDR blend of five exposures. A purplish hue that for some reason I can’t get rid of has crept in during processing but the photo is still beautiful in my eyes. It is interesting though to see the tones differences between the two otherwise similar images. In both cases I was trying to approach the sunrise tones as much as possible. The HDR photo looks to me more dramatic, but the first one looks decidedly more natural.

Sunrise behind the trees - HDR - Munich - Notis Stamos
Sunrise behind the trees take two (HDR)

It is interesting that in all cases, the HDR tonemapping software automatically went for a sunset look. So I had to spend a lot of time tonemapping to retrieve the original light as I remembered it. For this next photo however, I decided to go with the software and create a look that doesn’t have much to do with the original conditions.

Sunrise - Sunset - HDR - Row of trees - Notis Stamos - Munich
Sunrise or sunset?

This photo has also been flipped horizontally so that the trees lead the eye from left to right instead of right to left as in the original. Theoretically, westerners prefer left to right. Anyway …

Fifteen minutes later I got back in the car and drove to work. 15 miles later the scene suddenly changed completely. The grass and the trees went from green to white within a few meters and the sun starting playing hide and seek with the clouds. On a hunch I made another short detour and drove to a nearby park where I walked around and took a few shots.

Morning frost - Notis Stamos - Munich - B&W
Morning frost on the trees.

Everything was completely white with frost. A clear blue sky would make a nice contrast, but by then, the clouds were thickening. After some thought during processing I decided to turn this photo to B&W as the colours didn’t add much to it. On the contrary, in this next photo, I took advantage of the warm dawn tones and accentuated colors beyond what I was actually seeing at the time:

Golden frost - Notis Stamos - Munich
Morning frost in golden colors.

Finally, I took some photos in a small wood nearby. I didn’t have high hopes for those, but this next one ended being my favorite shot of the day:

Frosty wood - Notis Stamos - Munich
The lower part of the forest.

What you are seeing here is very different from the original shot. I have cropped off the top half of the original photo, as well as a finger or so (as seen on the screen) from the bottom. The final composition is (in my opinion) much better and much stronger than the original. Other than that, I haven’t done much else, just light exposure boosts on the tree trunks to make them look more frosty.

I processed all of these while on holidays on a borrowed laptop. Unfortunately, its screen was too bright, so the exposure is a bit lower than I originally intended. If any of the photos look too dark, just temporarily increase brightness on your monitor. Hope you like them!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


    1. Danke Conny. Es war wirklich ein spektakuläres Phänomen und so lokalisiert, dass es völlig unerwartet war. Leider war dieses Jahr der Winter so mild, das war der einzige Tag in dem ich so etwas gesehen habe.

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