photography from the ground up

Archive for June, 2010

From The Crystal Forest

This image was made in The Crystal Forest section of Petrified Forest National Park. As I noted in a previous post, The Crystal Forest, at one time, contained a large concentration of quartz and amethyst crystals, but most have been removed by souvenir hunters. I wanted to get closer to the petrified logs to make them a foreground element, but straying off the maintained trails is strictly forbidden. I could have used a telephoto lens, but the resulting compression would have removed the depth and and sense of distance from the image.

This is one of the few photos from this trip that has some clouds to break up the blue sky. To my eye it is just the right amount to add some interest without overwhelming the rest of the image.

Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 17–35 mm f 2.8 zoom lens, circular polarizer, Bogen tripod.

Camera Settings: f 22, 1/30th sec., ISO 100


Attack Of The Hoodoos

This is another image from Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wash. I have been to most of the badlands in the San Juan Basin, but Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah is by far my favorite. It is not as large, or as well known as the Bisti, It is not as convenient as Ojito or Lybrook, but when it comes to hoodoos, it is the most prolific, and most outrageous.

This image was made along the eastern edge of the wash, near the terminus of the rim. After several hours of being overwhelmed by the bizarre, other–worldly formations, I began to think of them as an army. Here they are poised to launch an attack on unsuspecting hikers and photographers.

Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 17-35 mm f 2.8 zoom lens, circular polarizer, Bogen tripod

Camera Settings: f 22, 1/20th sec., ISO 100


Harrison Wright Falls: a case for HDR imaging

This is an image of Harrison Wright Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park. Wright was a friend of R. B. Ricketts for whom the park is named. It, along with Adams Falls, is considered to be the most photogenic of all the waterfalls in Ricketts Glen.

Photographing the waterfalls in Ricketts Glen can be a challenge: the canopy of old growth hardwood trees can be as thick as a jungle in places, but elsewhere, the cover opens up allowing the sunlight to penetrate and illuminate the scene. Such is the case at Harrison Wright Falls, and as any photographer knows, this combination of highlights and shadows can make it difficult to make a good exposure.

While photographing this scene, I used a 3 stop neutral density filter to darken things enough to allow me to use a slow shutter speed. This renders the moving water as a silky blur, and in this case causes the falls to look almost like a sheer curtain. All of these measures achieved my goal of capturing the waterfall in an aesthetically pleasing way, but the shadows were almost totally blocked up, and there were several hot spots on the falls. Here is the image as initially processed in Lightroom and Photoshop.

I decided that this image would be a good candidate for an HDR image (I had bracketed at least three exposures for each photo I took on this trip). I used Photomatix Pro, and tone mapped one using the details enhancer feature, and made another using the exposure fusion tool. I still could not get what I was looking for, so, starting with the original image, I created a second layer in Photoshop, and copied the exposure fusion HDR image to it, and then I adjusted the opacity of the new layer until I found what I was looking for. The result is the first image seen above.

There are many photographers out there who say that this kind of manipulation is not real photography, that it does not render an image that is true to the scene that the eye beheld. But, the eye has the ability to see detail in highlights and shadows, a dynamic range, that is far greater than the that of a camera. So, is this kind of processing really cheating, or is it just another tool in the photographer’s arsenal that will enable him to more effectively capture the scene before him, and share his vision with the world?

Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 17-35 mm f2.8 zoom lens, 3 stop ND filter, Bogen tripod.

Camera Settings: f 22, 1, 2, 4 sec., ISO 100


Ganoga Falls

At ninety seven feet, Ganoga Falls is the tallest waterfall in Ricketts Glen. It is a classic example of a “wedding cake” waterfall, so named because of the tiered structure. Wedding cake falls typically consist of numerous small cascades that spread the flow giving the water a diaphanous glow.

Once again, due to the high dynamic range of the scene, I blended four source images into this final image using the exposure fusion workflow in Photomatix Pro. I then made the usual curves adjustments in Photoshop.

Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 17-35 mm f 2.8 zoom lens, 2 stop neutral density filter, Bogen tripod.

Camera Settings: f22, 1/2, 1, 2, and 4 sec., ISO 250.


Ferngully

This is another image from Ricketts Glen. We were almost to the confluence of the two forks of Kitchen Creek when I spotted a small stream entering the main flow from the west, so I bushwacked up through the watercourse for about a hundred yards, and I was rewarded with this little cascade. The scene brought to mind an animated movie that was a favorite of my girls when they were small.

I started with my regular workflow in Adobe Lightroom, then I did a three exposure fusion in Photomatix Pro, and finally some curves and color balance adjustments in Photoshop.

Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 17-35 mm zoom lens, 2 stop ND filter, Bogen tripod.

Camera Settings: f22, 8/10ths, 1/3rd, 3 sec., ISO 250