Yankee Boy Sunset by Jason Hatfield
Jason Hatfield's picture

Yankee Boy Sunset

A sunset storm over wildflowers in Yankee Boy Basin near Ouray, Colorado.

After an assignment in central Colorado, I decided to head to the San Juan Mountains to spend time photographing, backpacking, and running. After a few days of exploring new and old locations, I made my way to Yankee Boy Basin for sunset and to climb nearby 14er Mt. Sneffels in the morning. As I started on the 4WD road and approached the trailhead, the fields of wildflowers thickened as storm clouds built overhead. I soon found a spot that lined up with the storm in the valley and a patch of vibrant Paintbrush. I set up my camera, worked on my composition, and prepared for what looked to be an overcast sunset. But just as the last few minutes of daylight approached, the sun broke through an opening in the distance, and light spilled onto the peaks and clouds. I captured the brief and fleeting light before the thunderstorm closed in; soon after, thick rain sent me dashing for my car as lightning streaked in the sky overhead. While I've photographed Yankee Boy Basin numerous times in the 8 years I've lived in Colorado, this is the most incredible scene I've witnessed.

To create this photograph I imported 3 exposures to Lightroom and used the built-in image blending module to create a single DNG file with the dynamic range of all three images. While my middle exposure contained all the shadow and highlight detail, I was able to get more detail in the storm clouds and cleaner shadow detail in the wildflowers using all 3 exposures. Using the DNG file I edited the image for contrast, shadow/highlights, saturation/vibrance, and clarity, keeping my adjustments as close to the natural scene as possible. I then brought the image into Nik Color Efex to bring out the warmer tones in the scene and vibrancy of the wildflowers.

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