Think this photo was a simple shot … think again. It actually is quite technically difficult to capture everything in this photo. In fact it can’t even be done in one photo. Check out how I did it …
First you should know that the dynamic range of a camera is limited on its ability to capture extreme brightness while also capturing extreme shadows. For example, if you shoot a sunset while the sun is still far above the horizon, it will often blow out the sun or the shadows will be solid black. So you have to basically take one photo for the bright light (highlights) and one photo for the dark shadows in order to capture all the details.
In addition, I used a polarizer filter (similar to polarizer sunglasses) to make the sky blue but also to bring out the reflection in the water. However due to how a polarizer works, those two don't happen at the same time ... so on the bright light photo I used the polarizer to bring out the blue in the sky and in the shadows photo I used the polarizer to create the reflection in the water.
Creating the solar flair / sun beam is also a trick. To create that I had to use my camera aperture very narrow (around f/22). When a camera lens is narrow and the sun is partly blocked by something (horizon, tree, mountain, etc) then the flair will occur.
And you might wonder why my finger is in one of the photos. By doing that, I remove all the sunspots that might show up particularly in the shadows photo.
I also wanted the photo to be sharp throughout the image which requires focus stacking. Focus stacking is where you take different photos where the focus is adjusted to different spots in the photo and then you merge them in post-production. So the image includes another merged photo where the rocks and shore are in focus.
Finally, I shoot my Canon camera in RAW so the images are very unprocessed coming out of the camera (typically they will look gray and drab). So each image was adjusted some to get it closer to what I want before being merged together.
Once I cleaned up the photos, I merged them together in photoshop with one contributing the sun-rays and sky and the other contributing the darker tones and reflection and another for the focus on the rocks and shore.
And once I had my final photo, I then did some remaining adjustments to the colors/contrast to bring the photo to what it is.
All of this seems like a lot but has kept the integrity of the photo and I don't believe in adding in elements from other shots - for example, some people change the sky from a completely different area or manipulate the photo to look like it is a different part of the world - I simply believe in making what we saw in real life come to life in a photograph for all to enjoy.
I hope you found this interesting and gives you a little flavor of the work it takes to create some of these images.