Sunset on Flathead River or Why I Love Lightroom

We were heading back to our hotel after a long, exhausting day in Glacier National Park. Just before entering the town of Columbia Falls, where we were staying, we drove across a bridge over the Flathead River. It's the kind of bridge where you hardly notice you are on a bridge. The road just goes a little uphill and then a little downhill - it's over in 10 seconds - and if you don't happen to look to the sides, you might have thought it was just a small hill.

Fortunately, on that night I did look to the side, and what I saw was one of the most magical sights I'd ever seen. The sun had gone down, but some light still remained. An orange glow on the far horizon where the sun had recently disappeared, gradually, and with the help of a few high clouds, turned purple, leaving a magical pink reflection on the river.  And right smack in the middle of the river a lonely canoe floated silently toward the bridge carrying two people.

This was not the kind of bridge where you could just stop in the middle and get out and take a picture. If I wanted a picture, it had to be right there, that instant, and out through the side window of the moving car.

Fortunately, the camera was already in my hand so all I had to do was raise it, point, and shoot. That's all there was time for. I managed to get two shots off within a couple of seconds. Then the scene disappeared behind us.

Well, not that I had the highest expectations, but you can imagine my disappointment when I later looked at the pictures and the best of the two  had turned out like this:

That was hardly what I had seen with my own eyes. Still, I had hope. While I knew that this would never be the technically best picture I'd ever taken or anywhere near sharp, I thought that I could probably improve it enough to make it decent.

Well, I will let you be the judge now, but this is the result after quite a bit of work in Lightroom. Obviously, the horizon has been straightened, the colors have been emphasized, highlights down, shadows up, and I made it as sharp as I could without making it grainy. I was personally very happy with just how much I was able to improve it considering it was taken out the side window of a car moving at 50 kilometers an hour.

The next night I made sure we returned to the spot around the same time hoping there would be more time to take a better picture. But the light was nowhere near as good, and despite spending around an hour there, I didn't take a single picture that was worth showing off.

So, the moral of the story? Well, if the choice is between shooting a crappy picture and not shooting at all, shoot the crappy picture. You might just be able to save it.

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