Sunrise at Badlands National Park

This was taken at 5am in June 2019. Most of the sunrises during my stay in the Badlands were mediocre, but this sunrise was exciting. I hope in processing this I conveyed the beauty of the Badlands.

Specific Feedback Requested

Any feedback welcome.

Technical Details

Is this a composite: Yes
This is an HDR of three shots and processed also in Luminar to enhance the contrast. The sky is the original sky.


That looks like one epic sunset, you were certainly in the right place at the right time. I like the composition a lot. The arrangement of the badlands formations is excellent, you have a nice zig-zag pattern in the foreground that anchors the image. And there are lots of interesting details, colors and patterns in the badlands to appreciate. These badlands are amazing, and even with a sky like this I can see why you minimized the sky in the composition.

My suggestions relate to processing. I think the greens in the grass are too saturated and draw some attention away from the lower saturation colors of the badlands. For my taste, the luminosity of the landscape feels too bright, and I would suggest darkening the badlands to better balance luminosity between sky and land. The sky looks fine, and I like how some of the pink colors in the sky mimic the colors of the badlands.

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@Ed_McGuirk Thank you so much Ed! I did two different shots of this vista - one with the sky taking up 2/3 of the photo and this one with it only being 1/3. I did lighten up the landscape in processing, so I think I can dial it back easily. And I agree on the green being too saturated; I just missed it, trying to work on the rest of the photo. I am wondering if purchasing Lumenzia would be helpful to work on luminosity. I have been looking at it, but it looks overwhelming and complicated. Thank you again! I will re-post once I’ve worked on the photos. And congratulations on your NPN year end awards! Well deserved!

Roberta, this is a great image. The composition is spot on and the colors are marvelous. A definite keeper. For my taste, there is too much “pop” in the image, so I suggest some combination of decreasing the contrast and saturation.

This is outstanding Roberta; it just needs the noted tweeks. For me, the key is darkening that foreground so it more naturally matches the sky. I look forward to your edit!

Great image. I really like how the green winds thorough and is localized to the right. Nice balance. I hope to visit and photograph the Badlands this year.

@Ed_McGuirk @Tony_Siciliano @John_Williams @Mario_Cornacchione Thank you all for your comments and suggestions. I reworked the image, desaturated the green, lowered the brightness, and added a vignette. Your thoughts would be most appreciated - did I adjust too much, not enough? Everyone is going to have a different opinion, but I think this looks better. Thanks!

I prefer the re-worked image. The overall light level matches a sunset better. Whopping shot!

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@Kris_Smith Thank you so much Kris! Welcome to NPN! Looking forward to seeing your images!

Agreed! Much prefer the newer version.

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@robertakayne I like the rework a lot. You still have plenty of detail in the foreground, but the luminosity balance between land and sky is much more natural looking now.

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@Ed_McGuirk Thank you so very much for coming back to comment on the rework! I’m sure you have your hands full as the Landscape Moderator, so I appreciate any feedback.