Sunrise On the Valley

Two mornings ago I rode my bike before sunrise to beat the heatwave we’re having and also wanted to try getting the sunrise. This is on a farm road close to where I live. Sunrises are a challenge for me. Just figuring out how to get the settings right to make it come out like it actually looked. This was one of my favorite shots.

Specific Feedback Requested

I ‘lifted’ the shadows (not really sure if you could call it that on my processing tool!) so that the field wasn’t too dark, I also really like the irrigation system they use, it looks old fashioned to me and think it might create a ‘layer’. I also took out power lines and poles in the distance and a distracting light that was shining . Can you tell any of those things? Also anything and everything else!

Technical Details

Is this a composite: No
Nikon D3400
ISO 400
(Handheld, I do everything handheld but I thought I should mention it)
Cropped to 16x9, exposure : -.04, highlights : -34, contrast : -24, shadows : +23, blacks +32 and took out light poles, wires and a light…


Beautiful photo, Vanessa, looks like it was going to be a gorgeous day. On my monitor I don’t detect any of the power lines and pole, so nice job. For me, there is enough information in the field to know what it is without distracting from the sunrise. Nice job.


Well done!

I can’t find any artifacts of the power lines & poles.

Your lift of the field is just right, not too light and not too dark. Plus, the irrigation wheels are part of the landscape as you experienced it, the image celebrates that.

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I’m looking at the technical data you provided.

I’m good with handheld. I know that tripods add the extra bit of sharpness and are, in many situiations, but I also like the impulsive freedom of handheld. Plus, there are often natural tripods. Your bike, your stance with feet apart, elbows pressed againt your side, and using the viewfinder of the camera. Trees, fence posts, road signs, and more work to steady a camera. My opinion.

I’m just wondering is the triad of shutter speed, apeture, and ISO are a good combination? Given the focal length of 18mm your on the edge with a 1/13 exposure. The general rule of thumb is the shutter speed should be at or above the focal length, ie at 18 mm shutter at 1/18th or faster 1/25. If you use a wider apeture, or higher ISO - I’d pick the former - your shutter speed can be faster.

What mode are you using? A suggestion would be setting to an apturee mode of f8, often the sweet spot of a lens (but not always) and letting the shutter to the camera, but checking to not go below the focal length of the lens. If you do go below the focal length, up the ISO.

The comment, of course, is my own opinion, and shooting habitat I’ve used.

I wanted to add the selection of the 16X9 ratio. That’s a favorite and it works very well for the image. Maybe a little more sky, less field, would be another option.

Thanks for posting these great images.



Thanks @linda_mellor for your feedback! I’m glad you think it’s nice! As far as the day, I guess it was a nice day if you like 100- 106 degrees!


Thanks @paul_g_wiegman I’m glad you like it! I really appreciate your feedback… so correct me if I’m wrong, but I was fiddling around with different settings, and trying different ones, my aperture was at f/14 because I was hoping to get the foreground as in focus as possible. So at that point I had to either choose slower shutter or higher ISO. Because my camera seems to start getting noisy at ISO 1600 I always try to go for as slow of a shutter speed as I can possibly hold. Also in my many tries at sunrises find that a wide aperture doesn’t show the colors very well, and the camera seems to have a hard time focusing even though I don’t focus on the light. But maybe f/14 doesn’t really make much of difference from f/8, I’ll try the f/8 next time. Hopefully tomorrow! Thanks for your help!

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If I’m providing misinformation, please dive in with corrections for those of you following this conversation. That will benefit both Vanessa and me.

That said, f14 does provide greater depth of field, but the nearer the focus is to infinity, the greater the depth of field. At the other end, close focus, the depth of field narrows. So you probably could have used f8.

For every f stop you open up, f11, then f8, you gain faster shutter speeds proportionally, to 1/25, then 1/50th of a second. So now you are above a reciprocal of the focal length of the lens - 1/18th.

In short, f-stop (DOF), shutter speed (stop or blur movement), and ISO (grain) are all step-wise related. Here’s a handy graphic;

Every column gives the same exposure but makes a difference in various other attributes.

Focusing on the sky doesn’t have any sharp lines, and that is what the camera is looking for to focus. So first, manually determine an exposure. Watch the histogram to make sure there are no areas too bright - usually flashing red on the LCD screen, adjust f-stop, shutter speed, or ISO to eliminate the burned areas - flashing red, then manually focus on the horizon. The sky color is there; you can bring it out during processing by moving the “Highlights” left.

Again, if I’m off base, somebody, please come to the rescue.


Vanessa, a beautiful image…pays to get up early. Paul @paul_g_wiegman thank you so much for that explanation, very helpful to me.

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Ok, @paul_g_wiegman so are you saying that I really need to listen to my camera when it says that something is too dark and don’t worry that when I chimp the photo my sunrise doesn’t look like a sunrise?! And that I can get back what I saw in post processing?

Thanks @Mario_Cornacchione so glad you like it! Yeah, @paul_g_wiegman gave a great tutorial! I still have to look at and read it a few times. But it’s great!

Paul provided some nice information. At the end of the day, what you really need to understand is how to determine depth of field. The 3 factors that determine DOF are aperture, focal length and subject distance (i.e. how far away is the thing you are focusing on).

With your camera / lens combo as described here, even if you would have opened up to f/5.6 and focused 40 feet into the scene, your depth of field would have been from 7.6 ft to infinity. Even shooting at f/4, your depth focusing 40 ft into the scene would have been from 10 feet to infinity. The bottom line is f/14 didn’t buy you much of anything except a much slower shutter speed with a much stronger possibility of camera shake. At f/14, your depth was about 4 feet to infinity. If you don’t have a good feel for DOF , get an app on your phone or study the relationships of the 3 variables that determine DOF online. is a decent tool online.


Thanks @Keith_Bauer for that information! I was going off of some advice I had previously gotten from @Ed_McGuirk who said for being able to get in focus foreground in a landscape photo f/14 and even higher is really good! So that’s kind of where I was coming from on that. f/14 was about as small as I could do without the camera shake. I usually always am using my 70-300 lens so like @paul_g_wiegman I do pretty well with handheld especially at 18mm, that’s pretty short and light. Thanks for your advice and feedback, it’s really appreciated!

f/14 by itself doesn’t mean anything. Again, without taking into account focal length and subject distance, the aperture by itself for determining DOF is meaningless. I can’t emphasize enough the fallacy of assuming the aperture is the determining factor for DOF. Look at the tools to determine DOF that are available on the web, your phone or anywhere. They ALL ask for aperture, subject distance and focal length.

Here’s a example to emphasize the issue:
On your camera:

18mm, f/14, focused at 40ft: Near DOF 5.7 ft, Far DOF - Infinity
300mm, f/14, focused at 40ft: Near DOF 39.2 ft, Far DOF - 40.9 ft.

So… it is meaningless to say that f/14 is good to get focus on the foreground and background. You have to use all 3 variables to determine what works or not.


Yeah, that’s great! Since I wanted the close foreground grasses in the field right off the side of the road about 5 ft away and I wanted the sunrise which basically is infinity, and I was focusing somewhere below the trees, without a ruler don’t really know if it was 40 feet or not, that’s exactly what I was going for!

For those of you following this conversation, if I’m providing misinformation, please dive in with corrections. That will benefit both Vanessa and me.

That said, f14 does provide greater depth of field, but the nearer the focus is to infinity, the greater the depth of field. At the other end, close focus, the depth of field narrows. You probably could have used f8.

For every f stop you open up, f11, then f8, you gain faster shutter speeds proportionally, to 1/25, then 1/50th of a second. Now you are above a reciprical of the focal length of the lens - 1/18th.


Vanessa, any advice that I gave you about using f14 needs to be taken in the context of the specific image being discussed, and not necessarily as a general principal good in all cases. The description that @Keith_Bauer gives about the multiple variables that affect DOF is the right advice for understanding what settings are most appropriate for a given situation.

And there is another factor to consider, tripod use. I use a tripod for virtually 100% of my images, so a high percentage of my landscape images are taken at f11 to f16. But if you are handholding, that advice goes out the window, and camera shake becomes an important factor. I often forget that some people frequently handhold, and that higher apertures may not be appropriate for them. As @paul_g_wiegman points out the Exposure Triangle of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO comes into play as well.

So it pays to understand the theory behind how DOF and the Exposure Triangle work, because different situations require different solutions. Thereis an old photography adage on how to get good shots called “F8 and Be There” Sadly, “F14 and Be There” is over-simplifying things too much.


Vanessa, by the way this is a great shot, with wonderful light and mood. A little ground fog on the landscape can create magic at sunrise, and you were able to take full advantage of that. Very nicely done…

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Thank you all @Keith_Bauer @Ed_McGuirk @paul_g_wiegman @Mario_Cornacchione @linda_mellor for your comments and feedback and advice. I just also want to clarify mainly for @Ed_McGuirk @Keith_Bauer and @paul_g_wiegman about my shutter speed choices. I really love the photos where people use a slow shutter speed , I realize that it is done with a tripod. But I am constantly experimenting with that, to see how far I can take it even though I don’t have a tripod. So that’s another factor in why I end up with a higher f-stop. To stop too much light from coming in which obviously happens with the slower shutter speed. I don’t think I have to wait to experiment with this until I have a tripod! I just love to see and compare what happens when the shutter is at different speeds for different scenes like water, wind or a sunrise, clouds. But I realize what you are saying that I need to understand technically how it all works. And I really appreciate all the references which will be really helpful! So thank you for your interest and time!

Really nice image. I can’t see any evidence of the cloning, so well done. Great information from Keith and very much agree with Ed about the tripod.

Thank you @Harley_Goldman for your feedback and thoughts.