Jordan Lake Zero © jj raia

Jordan Lake Zero © jj raia

It was a mostly cloudy day, but my son was interested in taking some photos down at Jordan Lake that day, so off we went in hopes of something breaking out to light up all the clouds that were around. When we arrived, there were some interesting clouds, but nothing noteworthy. However, there were a few openings along the horizon that might prove to be the difference between a “zero sunset” or an otherworldly one. The water was a bit choppy making perfect reflections out of the question, so all we could do is cross our fingers and hope. Everything was pretty dark with the heavy cloud cover, and the opening along the horizon near where the sun would set was pretty bright, but never grabbed any color; just a faint orange. Even a split neutral density filter didn’t help much with that singular bright spot. For the exposure above, any increase in exposure threatened to blow out the bright area altogether, and any color there would not be recoverable. Blending was a possibility, but since this frame had the darkest bright area, it was first used to see if the rest of the frame could be lightened enough to make blending unnecessary.

But while there, the question was what to do? The first few straight shots were only worthy of the trash can. So a 10-stop ND filter was used for a two-minute exposure to blur the water and clouds. Still nothing, but kept at it until I could get a somewhat useable file and hope processing would make a difference. As seen in the unprocessed image at the top, the clouds and water were pretty dark, while the bright sky along the horizon was useable, but certainly nothing of note. Yes, the clouds showed movement, and the water was a smooth blur, but it was still basically a zero.

Jordan Lake — Failed Sunset © jj raia

Jordan Lake — Failed Sunset © jj raia

Processing the image really didn’t do much to salvage the image either, but it did serve as an exercise in practicing skills for when a good file is the initial starting point. Color was the main culprit to contend with. After increasing the exposure of the entire image except for the orange in the sky and reflection, the clouds and water contained a blue/magenta cast that looked a bit out of character to say the least, so it was desaturated quite a bit. However, going too far in that direction left the entire frame looking completely dead. Quite a few radial and graduated filters were used to give it some life, but in the end, it still remains a zero.

Using the tools in Lightroom after a few month layoff, was a series of attempts to confront the major problems, which is always what’s done whenever processing an image. Many questions arise on how to push the image in the direction you want to take it, or what preconceived notion you might have for it, and sometimes, no matter how hard you try, it just doesn’t work out. It just wasn’t there in the first place. You have to just let it go and accept the reality that it was just a zero. The same holds true for this final frame below. Everything was squeezed out that could be, even a  major crop, but it remains as all the others from that day. Zeroes.

Faint sunset Color — Jordan Lake, NC © jj raia

Faint Sunset Color — Jordan Lake, NC © jj raia

By the way, if you’re into football, I hope you enjoy the big game, and if you happen to be in a pool, Good Luck!! I know I’ll be watching tonight, just as I have for every game since Super Bowl I. The string continues.

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