Dramatic winter sunset over snow covered lake

Many times when I look out my home office window to the west and see a beautiful, dramatic sunset, I want to run out and find a spot with a low horizon to capture the view. Most often, the problem is timing. If the sunset is at it’s peak, there’s no way it’s going to last the 6-8 minutes it takes me to get somewhere for the shot. The trick of course is getting out there ahead of time either as a crap shoot … since there’s no way of knowing which conditions will produce the great colors and reflections, or by jumping out when the first hint of color appears and there are some clouds in the sky.

One cold winter day … I ventured out anticipating a dramatic sunset, and was rewarded for my efforts. The lake was covered with snow, there were enough clouds in the sky to reflect the colors when the sun was low enough, and there was enough of an opening in the clouds for the full brightness of the sunset.

dramatic sunset over a snow covered lake
Here’s the initial image straight out of the camera. Larry Shapiro photo

There are many ways to accomplish any task within Adobe Photoshop. Often, it’s easiest to utilize third party plug-ins. After all, it’s about achieving the desired result within acceptable time constraints. Although I keep current with many different brands of software, I’m largely a creature of habit. NIK software, which was bought years ago by Google, who later stopped supporting it and sold it to DXO, has always been a favorite of mine. Two of the principle reasons are speed and convenience. NIK has an extension within Photoshop that resides in my workspace with a quick click to the interface. The filters load and execute quickly and allow me to move on to the next filter, layer, or image.

dramatic sunset over a snow covered lake
Here’s the edited image that I completed. Larry Shapiro photo
Photoshop layers to create a dramatic image with NIK plug-ins
Here is a screen shot of the Photoshop layers that went into the final image with NIK Color Efex

The layer stack depicted in the screen shot above shows the process that I used to go from the original to the final one. CEP stands for NIK Color Efex 3.0. I used a White Neutralizer to remove some of the magenta from the snow on the lake, then I isolated the highlights to enrich the yellow/gold tone. Next I used the Tonal Contrast filter to add some texture to the clouds and the foreground grasses. Then, the Glamour Glow added some smooth glow to the rich colors followed by a layer copy set to Screen Mode to bring out additional foreground detail. The next layer removed the sign from the image. A Levels Adjustment Layer then added some contrast, but I masked out the tree line to retain detail. Finally, I added some vibrance to the cloud reflection for a little umph.

I apologize for the sloppiness of not labeling my layers to describe each as proper editing protocol would dictate.