Pre and post Sunset from Sentinel Dome

I spent the day in Yosemite earlier this week and lucked out with some amazing lighting at the top of Sentinel Dome. I know its a very photographed spot so I’m not going to get anything groundbreaking or new here but figured I’d give it a shot to get my own take from the top. I have one shot of the sun rays shining on El Capitan before the sunset and then a shot of the top of the dome with the sky lit up after sunset. I wish I had shot the first shot on a wider lens and tried to get a sunstar but the light was changing quickly and I didn’t take the time to switch lenses.

What technical feedback would you like if any?

Any, specifically post processing.

What artistic feedback would you like if any?

Any different crops, composition etc.

Any pertinent technical details:

Both Shots on 5d Mark III
El Cap: 50mm 1/100 F/ 9 ISO: 160 This was a merge of two different panos one of the sky taken vertically and one of the foreground taken horizontally. I merged them together in PS because I felt it needed the sky and I didn’t like the crop from the first pano.
Tree Branch: 16-35mm @ 16. 1/6 F/ 9 iso: 250 This is three images that were focus stacked for sharpness.

You may only download this image to demonstrate post-processing techniques.

Beautiful light, especially in the first one. Great view. I am finding the sky in the second quite saturated, especially in the yellows. You got some great conditions up there and did well with it.

I agree with Harley’s comments. I think you could crop the very bright area on the right in the first image without losing the drama of the wonderful light on El Cap.

I like the light on the foreground and the texture of the old Sentinel Jeffrey. I think if you worked on the sky, this would be even better.

You know you’re getting old when you remember seeing the tree when it alive.

David, the first image has gorgeous light through the valley and hitting El Cap, and I like how you processed it, you really captured that special light very well. The highlights along the left side have lost detail, and likely are not recoverable (unless you have an exposure bracket to blend in). I might consider a crop from the left side to reduce the washed out area, the nice light is in the right 3/4’s of the image anyways. I’m a little torn on the triangle of grey rock in the lower left corner, it is so bright it pulls me away from the valley and El Cap. I would consider burning it down.

On the second image, I’m with Harley on the saturation. I am also a bit bothered by the horizon splitting the middle of the frame, it’s almost like you have two pictures here. I would crop some from the top of the sky, cutting it off just above the clouds.

Nice work @David_Nilsen

I’m curious if you monitor your histogram while you’re shooting these broad dynamic range situations. The sky in the first image appears to be over exposed. And the second one is coming close in a couple of areas.

Thanks for the feedback everyone. I’ve taken all the feedback and tried to edit both shots a bit. I agree with the crop for the shot of El cap. I tried to crop the sun out of it to get rid of most of the blown highlights. I actually shot a bracketed exposure of the sky but unfortunately since I was shooting into the sun it didn’t make much of a difference so the crop would probably be best. As far as the second image I agree the saturation was a bit much on it, so I tried to tweak it a bit.

@Ed_McGuirk I agree with your suggestion on the crop I decided to crop some of the sky and the left side where I felt there was some dead space and I like the image much more now.

@Gary_Randall I do monitor my histogram, the first shot I was shooting the opposite direction and turned around and saw the light on El Cap and tried to compose a shot as fast as I could before the sun went too far below the clouds. Unfortunately in my rush I didn’t bracket my exposures properly. I also bracketed the second image but when I saw the sky in Lightroom I felt that I could get enough detail back without using the bracketed shots. I can go back and do it now, would just take some work blending the images together since the focus stack distorted the original image a bit.

Here are the re edits of the images.


@David_Nilsen - Wow. What a drastic difference. Beautiful work!! Love the revisions.

@David_Nilsen Really nice job on the re-works! The tweaks made a huge difference. Nicely done!

The revision on the second image is remarkable. It’s now a really nice image.

David, nice re-work on both images. I might even crop a slight bit more out of the sky in the tree shot.


You nailed the reposts! In the El Cap image, my main suggestion was going to be cropping the granite in the LLC. And in your rework, it’s been improved greatly and now El Cap and the light are featured beautifully.

The adjustments with the Jeffrey pine are equally as beneficial. I think the light is balanced beautifully in that one.

It can be overwhelming at times being in that place… and one some times gets caught up shooting feverishly in the ever change light and conditions. I’ll be there next week (Well, maybe not Taft Pt. or Sentinel…)


Thanks everyone. I’m pretty happy on how the revisions came out thanks again for the suggestions.

@Ed_McGuirk Yeah I was considering cropping out the top of the sky with no clouds but kind of liked how it looked as is I might play around with it some more.

@Lon_Overacker Thank you. Enjoy Yosemite this week, there are some great fall colors on the Valley floor.