Reader Story: Location scouting and shooting the Valley of Fire at Sunset by Peter K. Burian

by Guest Contributor

posted Thursday, November 5, 2015 at 7:41 AM EDT


by IR Reader Peter K. Burian

One of my favorite locations in the Southwestern US, Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada is particularly beautiful in early morning and late evening, when the sandstone formations virtually glow when lit by the warm light of the sun. Prior to one visit in early March, I decided to research the best shooting locations using the Photograph America Newsletter on Valley of Fire. Following the author's recommendation, I drove toward the highest point in the park a half hour before sunset, parked, and hiked back down a short distance to the exact location that I had found earlier.  

To make this image, I mounted the EOS 5D Mk II and 70-200mm lens at 185mm on a Manfrotto 190 tripod and composed so the roadway would lead the viewer's eye into the scene. To add a sense of scale, I decided to wait until a vehicle appeared, freezing its motion, with a 1/160 sec. shutter speed, at f/5.6, (ISO 800). The camera's depth of field preview control allowed me to confirm that range of acceptably sharp focus would be adequate even at the relatively wide aperture, precluding the need for a higher ISO level. Later, I processed the RAW file and tweaked the colors, contrast, tonal range and sharpness in Photoshop.


Canon EOS 5D Mk II, 70-200mm f/4 lens, f/5.6 at 1/160 sec., ISO 800, Vivid picture style, Evaluative Metering and +1/3EV exposure compensation; Manfrotto 190 tripod. (c) 2011 Peter K. Burian

The experience confirmed the benefit of researching a location before the actual visit, using a Google search with keywords including the name of the destination and Best Photo Locations. This tactic has been valuable in many natural areas, but also in cities such as Prague and Vienna that I visited in May 2015. While I have no absolutely no interest in copying the images made by others, I have achieved some success by combining advice as to photogenic locations with my own creative vision.

A higher resolution version of this image (a Photo of the Day a few years ago) is available for viewing by clicking here (Click on the image on that page for a larger version).

Peter K. Burian ( is a stock photographer and Contributing Editor to three photographic publications in Canada and one in Australia. He was also the co-author of the National Geographic Photography Field Guide: Secrets to Making Great Pictures.

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