Capitol Peak at Sunset

Taken yesterday (9/24) at the Capitol Peak overlook near Aspen, CO. An hour or so before sunset almost packed up and left due to the peak being obscured in clouds but decided to wait a bit to see if anything happened. Pretty much right at sunset the clouds moved off the peak and the peak began lighting up…lasted about 2 minutes at most. Quickly changed lenses from the 28-75 to the 100 - 400.

Shot at ISO 100 at 135mm at f/8 for 1 sec. This is a blend of 3 shots…taken 2 stops apart.

Any and all thoughts welcome how this can be improved. Clouds in upper right corner too dark?

Thanks for looking.



Very beautiful composition with some spectacular light on the peak. Color balance, saturation look good to me but I think the foreground forest needs a bit more contrast and perhaps the exposure needs to be dialed back slightly to blend better with the high contrast light on the peak. In any event this image is worth taking time to optimize. Great work!

Wow Jim, this is spectacular! What fabulous clouds and light with fresh snow on the peak! My only suggestion for improvement is to look at the aspen on the hillside in the middle right. That area seems brighter and has less contrast than other areas and so draws my eye a bit. That should be easy to fix. Gorgeous shot Jim!

Beautiful light. As for the dark clouds, it might be worth vignetting the left side to match. I think that help draw the eye to the colorful light on the peaks.


This is simply gorgeous! What a spectacular light show you got to witness and capture. Of course you can’t go wrong with the autumn landscape beneath the sun lit peaks. Wow, this is wonderful.

Regarding the dark UR clouds… well, maybe a skosh too dark, but that’s very minor. In fact it works well in framing the mountain and that wonderful, warm light. I suppose you could dodge a little bit and/or add a little darkening to the opposite corner for balance. But really this doesn’t need much tweaking.

Hi Jim,

Really nice composition here, and that light on Capitol is fantastic - particularly coupled with the stormy sky.

The extreme darkness in the upper right corner pulled my attention at first, but it’s really just the relative unevenness that’s a problem for me - darkness in the sky works well here, I’d just work to even out the extreme dark and light areas up there, as that contrast pulls attention away from the star of the show, Capitol Peak. There’s also a bright strip of sky along the left edge that I would darken/vignette. There are varying shades of purple/red/cyan/blue/gray in the sky, which I understand were probably natural given the lingering red light from the sunset, but I would work to unify those into more of a uniform steely gray/blue so that attention is not drawn away from the peak.

You also might try slightly darkening the entire shaded land area below the lit peak - I know you want to show off the autumn foliage, but I think it would empower the light on the peak a bit to see it in contrast to the unlit/shaded areas, rather than having all the shaded land as bright as the area where the light is landing.

Lastly, you could maybe desaturate the blues in the midground shaded area, especially in the tree areas. And the red light on the right side of Capitol is more saturated/contrasty than in the middle and left, so you could even that out.

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Wow Jim!!! I was actually logged in to the Aspen Pano cams last night at sunset marveling at that last breath of fire before darkness. Glad you were there to “capitol”-ize on the situation (sorry - couldn’t help myself).

I can’t add much that hasn’t already been suggested. My main suggestion would be to try to balance some of the light and darken the aspens and bare brown area below and to the left of the peak in order to emphasize that amazing sidelight on Capitol Peak.

A terrific shot that can really be elevated even further with some minor tweaks. I’ll be in the area next week - maybe I’ll run into you again out and about. Cheers.

great shot! this is a nicely balanced composition and the light on capitol peak is sweet!
there’s two areas where i think you could improve on the processing (i think some of it has been pointed out before - sorry for repeating):
a) midground shadows: there is a strong blue cast which i would suggest you correct and i would probably darken the shadows a bit to work out the fantastic light on the peak. atm the shadows’ perceived luminosity is almost as high as in areas where the direct light hits.
b) foreground: i would suggest darkening the foreground a bit. as presented here it overpowers the direct light on the background. some selective dodging and burning could help to make the hills less flat.

to answer your question regarding the UR cloud: i think it should not be darker than the dark cloud on the left. for a more dramatic look you could darken the left cloud and leave the UR cloud as is.


Thanks all for your taking the time to check out this image and for taking the time to comment on it. My long suit is certainly not in Post Processing so your comments and observations are very valuable to me.

Thanks again.


Such a great light and scene, @Jim_Talaric. The colors look really good.
I also enjoy the depth of the image. Nice work!

Thank you Mattia for your comments.

Do you live in Italy? I have been there many times and just love it. Especially love the Merano area north of Bolzano in the fall.

Thanks again,


An extremely nice scene and you did very well with the gloomy skies to light up the star of the show.
FG is a very nice contrast to the peak.
We do not always get “perfect” conditions and I would want to show this photo.
Well done.

Yes @Jim_Talaric, actually I live in Trento which is very close to Bolzano.
Fall is magical, looking forward to its colors.