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Friday, June 10, 2011

The Mother Waterfall

Roll Mouse Over Image to See 'Before' Version

Well, as promised, here is a shot of the "mother" waterfall from that death defying hiking trip I took in Northern PA. Is this not a relatively amazing waterfall given it's location? I'm certainly not a world traveler...yet...but I have seen a few incredible waterfalls in locations such as Tahiti and Puerto Rico, and this Pennsylvania waterfall definitely holds it's own in comparison. I took several shots of this waterfall, of course, but I like this one the best because it includes the little girl in the lower left quarter of the image. Her presence adds perspective to the photograph, conveying a sense of this waterfall's incredible size and power. Whenever I shoot wide open spaces like this i try to add something of a familiar size in the frame, like a person, with which to gauge. Otherwise, it would be difficult to get a real sense of the scope of the scene. In photography terms, this is referred to as a 'scale element', which is an important part of composition.  Now, onto the post-processing information...

Post Processing:
This is an HDR image, created with 7 exposures (+3 to -3). I used 7, rather than 5 exposures, because I was shooting into a very well lit area. Remember, you need more exposures to capture the full dynamic range of light when shooting a very bright scene. In Photomatix, I used my usual conservative settings...i think this is where alot of people make mistakes in processing HDR photography. It's very tempting to go overboard with these settings, especially the light smoothing and luminosity settings. You really want to control yourself with these settings, otherwise you end up with images that simply don't look realistic. The goal of HDR, in my opinion, is to make the images look more like what  the human eye sees at the time of shooting. HDR photography allows us to that by gradually adding a bit of light to areas blacked out by shadows and removing some light from areas that are blown out by highlights. If we take HDR processing too far, then the image looks like a scene viewed by someone tripping on acid. Right? OK, so after Photomatix, I brought all of the layers, as well as the tone mapped layer, into photoshop. I carefully brought back some parts of the water from various layers to smooth it out a bit. The tone mapped version took away that 'smooth' look of water photographed with a long exposure. I also painted in red/oranges in the rocks with my brush set to a blending mode of 'soft light', as well as shades of green in the foliage. I also color corrected the water to make it a more pure white, as the tonemapped version had a yellowish tint to it. You'll also notice that i added more foliage above the waterfall to hide the boring, overcast sky. I did this because the eye is drawn to the brightest elements of an image. I did not want the viewer's eye to go to the sky, but rather the waterfall. So it was important to removed the distracting sky. If it was a clear day and the sky was blue, then perhaps i would have left it in. But, an overcast sky can sometimes be ugly in photos. Unfortunately, I'm not the greatest when it comes to using the clone stamp, which was the tool that I used to replace the sky with trees. Oh well. Anyways, I also ran the image through PhotoTools and used the Clarity and Color Boost filters. Viola!  


  1. I doubt that I would have got all the way to the mother, level one would have been enough for me!

    I would be tempted to give a very slight Gaussian blur to the clone stamped area, it looks a little sharp being cloned from the foreground trees. But that a minor niggle. Great shot and processing once again (^___^)

  2. Thank you for the tip Guav! I didn't even think of that. I will try that now.

  3. As usual, you have done a masterful job, and your sense of what makes for a great photograph is unerring.