In the Shadow of the Volcano – The story behind this image

Hello everyone! My name is Gaetano, an amateur photographer born in Palermo and raised in Bagheria, Sicily. Happily married and father of 3 children, I work in the restaurant business, and relatively recently, I started to cultivate a passion for photography. I bought my first DSLR camera in 2014, a Nikon APS-C. Subsequently, I changed equipment several times, from other Nikon APS-C to Nikon full-frame, Pentax and Canon, until in 2019, intrigued by the Micro 4/3 world, I decided to buy an Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark 2 with the kit lenses, 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 and 40-150mm F4-5.6.

I must admit that it was love at first sight! You want it for the high build quality, although it is still an entry-level model… you want it for the ergonomics, the pleasure of use, the handling, the weight and the small dimensions compared to the competition. The convenience of being able to carry it always. For all these reasons, I think my “need” to always change equipment is over! To tell the truth, my dream is to one day have an E-M1 Mark 3 with some PRO optics. A lot of dreaming costs nothing, right?

But let’s go to the photo in question. The image you see is a shot that I had tried many other times before, although this place is an hour and a half drive from my house (about 100km). I had to set the alarm very early to get to the location at least a couple of hours before dawn! And for me, who finished work around midnight, it was not easy… That morning in mid-May, I left home around 3:30 am to get to Gangi (the town in the province of Palermo that is seen in the foreground) in time but…

Strangely, not foreseen by the weather forecast of the evening before which are usually very precise and correct (I use different applications to monitor the weather, from “Ventusky” to “Windy” and “Clear Outside”). A thick layer of fog enveloped everything! From the village of Gangi to the Etna volcano, which is about 90 km away!

After a first moment of despair, to my enormous joy, the mists slowly began to thin out and from them the unmistakable and majestic shape of the highest active volcano in Europe, Etna, made room! Which by the way, in a rare event, on the 19th of May it was all white! I immediately placed my trusty OM-D E-M10 Mark II with the “plastic fantastic” mounted on a Rollei C5i tripod, and with the (super!) OI.Share application from the smartphone, I began to take several photos.

Among the various photos I took, at 5:34 am, about 20 minutes before dawn, I immortalized this image that remains among my most beautiful, which gave me so many emotions!

Here are the shooting settings and post-processing workflow:
• Single-shot
• 1/4 second
• f/5.4
• ISO 200
• 132mm (264 FF equiv)

I opened the file on Camera Raw, and after the first “basic” development, I completed the post-processing on Adobe Photoshop. On Camera Raw, it is simply a matter of balancing the contrast by acting on lights, shadows, whites and blacks.

Subsequently, a first white balance is made on hue and temperature. As for the sharpness on Camera Raw, with the Micro 4/3 files, I usually lower the sharpness details from 40 to 10 and increase the noise reduction around 10~15. Then I selectively add sharpness in Photoshop. I have not touched the contrast, clarity or haze sliders. With M.Zuiko optics, the lens correction occurs automatically, so I only activated the chromatic aberration correction and nothing else.

Then, continuing with Adobe Photoshop, I first converted the file into an advanced object and then a more complicated job was done to fix above all the general and selective colour balance, from the colours of the ground surface, the snow of the volcano, the colours and shades of the sky etc…

Then, through several passages with selection and colour range masks, the job to accentuate the volcano’s snow was done.

Finally, I applied the Orton effect, vignetting and selective sharpening with filter accentuating passage.
And here is the final result!

"My name is Gaetano, an amateur photographer born in Palermo and raised in Bagheria, Sicily. Happily married and father of 3 children, I work in the restaurant business, and relatively recently, I started to cultivate a passion for photography."

2 Comments

  1. Hi Gaetano,

    that’s an impressive image and it was worth to stand up so early in the night. And the post-processing is very well done 🙂

    I also own the E-M10 MKII since about four years and I thought several times about upgrading to an higher level model but I didn’t found any reason to do that. The E-M10 MKII is so called entry level, but compared to other brands this entry level camera is so full of technique and features you won’t find at many other brands. Okay, that is valid for my way of photography, I mostly take images landscape and people. So, let’s keep dreaming on and take photos with the E-M10 MKII.

    Have a nice time,
    Manfred

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