The Making of "Yaquina Head Lighthouse"

The winning image in our "Night Time is the Right Time" photo contest

By DK77 in Photo Contests on Nov 19, 2015

"Yaquina Head Lighthouse"

Hello folks, my name is Derek and I have been a long time member of the Pentax Forums. I'm honoured to have won the September “Night Time is the Right Time” photo contest. Thank you so much for your votes! I've been asked, and am happy to share, a little behind the scenes information about my winning photograph.

Back in the autumn of 2013 I was in Oregon and had the opportunity to join a photowalk with Pacific Northwest photography friends. We met up in Newport and walked down to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse in the daytime – it's a very pretty location on the Oregon coast. After supper three of us walked back down to the lighthouse in the dark to photograph it with the stars. It was a moonless night and the Milky Way was surprisingly clear even that we were so near to the lights of Newport.

Because the Milky Way stretched high into the sky, I went super-wide with the Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 manual focus fisheye lens on the Pentax K-5. Locked down on the tripod, I used my wireless trigger to eliminate camera shake.


It's tricky to mention everything I did in processing this image, both because there were a lot of steps involved, and because I processed this so long ago that I've forgotten most of the details. Deconstructing the edit, however, I can list most of the major steps between the original RAW file and the finished product.

Ultimately, the photo is a two-exposure composite. The first exposure (a), for the stars, was limited to 30 seconds to avoid star trailing. The second (b), was 131 seconds and had a higher f-stop and lower ISO, to give me a cleaner image to use for the foreground and the lighthouse.

The original image

Here's the full breakdown:

Exposure one (a):
30 seconds
F4 (I stopped down because the lens isn't the sharpest wide open)
ISO 3200

Exposure two (b):
131 seconds (using bulb mode and wireless remote)
ISO 1600

In Photoshop I used a layer mask to paint the cleaner (less noisy) foreground from (b) onto the star background of (a).

In Lightroom I minimized the extreme fisheye distortion with the lens correction controls to straighten the horizon. Then I played with the white balance, exposure, tone and color sliders, including some local adjustments to brighten the Milky Way. Progress:

Progress towards the end result

I took it back into Photoshop to clone out a couple of the signs, and to do more distortion correction using the Warp Tool.

To finish off, I brought the image into Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and added a few of the filters. I have no record of this part of the processing, so I can't tell you which filters I might have used, but my intention was to darken and soften the edges of the frame to bring more attention to the center.


FinalThe final image

Thank you again to the Pentax Forums for putting on this contest, and to everyone who voted for this lighthouse photo. I hope you liked my little “making of” article. Good luck to those participating in the next month's theme, and happy shooting, friends!

Derek (DK77)

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