You’d think that it would be easy to find a strong and unique composition while standing in the middle of the Vermilion Cliffs during sunrise. Perhaps that’d be the case if you could freeze that perfect light for as long as you’d need but until that happens, it’s on you to find a way to create a compelling image even if you’re in totally unfamiliar terrain. A really solid rule to keep in mind is to make your foreground count. It sounds simple but it definitely requires a lot of practice to identify what elements satisfy a good foreground. I tend to look for identifying objects that either serve to draw the eye through the frame via leading lines or by contrasting themselves against the rest of the scene using color, light, or texture.
This photo was a bit hard to figure out. A big problem was that most of the brain rock was the same color, making it more difficult to separate the foreground from the middle ground. I wasn’t really worried about the background because, as you can see, it was fantastic. So, to try and create the separation I needed, I splayed my Really Right Stuff TVC-34L/BH-55 tripod legs out and brought my Sony A7 down really low, filling the frame mostly with this brain rock. What I like most about it is that the vertical and horizontal striations help aid the eye through the frame, up to the brilliant sky. I was using a Canon 24-70mm/2.8 lens (via a Metabones adapter) and had it set to 24mm. Because the full tonal range of the scene was really great, I ended up bracketing three exposures and tone-mapping it using Photomatix Pro. I then applied a custom preset that I built using Analog Efex Pro 2, part of the Nik Collection by Google. One additional filter that I applied in AEP2 was Bokeh. By rendering the top half of the frame slightly out of focus, it also help draw the eye to the foreground and create that separation that I was looking for.