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Lava

Lava flow into Pacific, Volcano National Park, January 2017.  The trek from car to viewing site was 9 miles round trip on loose gravel of a temporary road.  My wife and I rented mountain bikes.  To save weight, I carried only one camera and lens.  Chose an a6500 with Zeiss/Sony 24mm f1.8.  With this combination I have my best all purpose camera.  It's a terrific wide angle landscape lens.  The 24 mp a6500 image plus superb resolution of this lens allows cropping to mimic telephoto field of view.  For low light the f1.8 aperture is far better than using even the fastest zoom.   (This lens also focuses so closely that I do not need my Zeiss Touit 50/2.8 macro, should an insect or flower beckon.)  Thought we would get very close to flowing lava, as had previous visitors, however rangers stopped us about 3/4 mile from lava flow, indeed at the only view point given curvature of shoreline.  Had I known I'd be shooting from distance, lens would have been the 18-105mm G f4 zoom.

Challenges composing this photo included shooting into setting sun reflected off water, volcanic fog ("vog") scattering light, and such rapid billowing of steam from boiling ocean that catching view of lava was hit and miss.

Aperture was set at f/3.5 aperture priority, Alpha 6500 was set at ISO 200 and continuous shooting "motor drive" in RAW.  Alpha 6500 selected 1/4000" shutter.  Hoya HD3 rotating polarizer was adjusted to remove water surface glare and cut through vog.  Of about 40 frames exposed, the one best showing hot lava was selected.

Processing in Adobe Lightroom CC (LrCC) included extreme center cropping.  Coastline was alined to direct viewer's vision towards the subject, hot flowing lava.  Tour boats lend perspective to the monstrous height of lava cliffs.  Just enough foreground was retained to show exquisite and glistening texture of recently cooled lava.  In LrCC shadows were slightly recovered.  LrCC haze reduction filter was applied with significant improvement (an advantage of LrCC over previous versions).  Due to extreme cropping, noise reduction was applied.  Color contrast was enhanced in Nik Tonal Contrast filter.  Finally I cheated:  back in LrCC, gave the orange luminance slider a small nudge rightward, please forgive me.

Self critique of resulting image is that I captured the mystical mood and got the composition well balanced.  Where I should have done better is that had I brought the 18-105 G f4, less cropping would have been needed and recovered shadows would have been less noisy (note cliffs to viewer's right).  But perhaps the grain  from over cropping helps convey the misty, eery mood we felt while standing there.

Hope you appreciate the photo.

Richard

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