I was looking for new perspectives on waterfalls I have photographed many times.
Below is Punchbowl Falls in Eagle Creek Canyon, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
This shot was taken directly over the top of the falls.
Here’s how I did it…
- Canon EOS Rebel SL1
- Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L lens set at 16mm
- Extending painter’s pole (about 15′)
- Feisol ball head mounted to end of pole with custom mount
- CamRanger attached to camera and pole
- iPhone with CamRanger app installed
Setup and taking the shot:
- Camera securely mounted to ball head with safety strap.
- CamRanger hooked to camera and turned on.
- CamRanger app initiated on iPhone to verify connection to camera.
- Live view turned on via app.
- Camera and pole laid down and extended out over cliff face…tense moments here 🙂
- Move camera on pole until desired composition is achieved.
- Touch live view screen on iPhone to auto focus lens.
- Verify histogram on iPhone and adjust exposure compensation via app app if needed.
- Touch ‘Capture’ on app.
One source of light – the sun. But painting the scene from everywhere.
Yet another surprise on a recent photo shoot. Early Sunday morning from OSHU in Portland Oregon I was on their viewing platform shooting the sunrise. The sun was well above the horizon and the light was starting to get harsh. As I started getting ready to leave, I noticed light coming from everywhere.
The sun of course was illuminating the clouds and fog. But all the sudden, the mesh wall on the OSHU tram upper deck was glowing. Behind me was a curved wall of glass windows rising several stories above me. The sun was reflecting off these windows and that light was illuminating the mesh wall with color and texture. As I moved around I could get the sun to poke through the mesh providing me with yet another light source. So I set my camera to f/16 to get a sun burst effect and continued shooting.
Canon EOS-1 DX
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L with B+W CPL
Induro tripod with Kirk BH-1 ballhead
Processed in Lightroom 5 and PhotoShop CS5
On a recent snowshoe trek to Trillium Lake near Mt. Hood, I was blessed with amazing morning light. The dynamic range was fairly substantial. The mountain was bathed in sunlight and the trees and frozen lake were in shade.
Below is the original RAW image right out of the camera.
I used Lightroom 5 and PhotoShop CS5 to bring this image to life.
Here is what I did in Lightroom 5:
- Decrease Highlights and increase Whites to add light tone contrast.
- Decrease Blacks and increase Shadows to add dark tone contrast.
- Increase Clarity and Vibrance to add mid tone contrast and saturation.
Below is the Lightroom 5 edit. Getting there but I wanted more punch and detail.
I sent the Lightroom 5 edit to PhotoShop CS5. Here is what I did in CS5:
- As I usually do in CS5, I created luminosity masks. For this image I created five LMs (lights, light lights, darks, dark darks, and mids).
- I added a bit of contrast with the Mids LM.
- I added some brightness to the brighter tones via the Light Lights LM (note that only the brightest tones are available for adjustments here).
- I then turned to the Darks LM where I set the mid tone point (much like setting the white balance in Lightroom). I also added contrast to the darker tones with an s-curve). Note that none of the light tones are available here.
LM adjustments target specific tones but they affect the entire image (further masking could be done on the LMs but I prefer to do that with other masks targeting specific areas of the image.
- I thought the lake was too dark. So I created a curves adjustment layer to brighten the lake. Creating this layer affects the entire image (the mask is filled with white). There are two ways to target specific areas and I approach this by thinking how much mask painting I need to do. Since the lake portion is smaller than the rest of the image, I selected the paint bucket tool and filled the entire mask with black. This effectively takes away the curves adjustment from the entire image. To get the adjustment back on just the lake, I changed the foreground color to white and selected the paint brush tool with a soft edge. I then painted white over the lake bringing the curve adjustment back over the lake (see mask below curves).
- I then turned my attention to the Sky. I wanted more pop here. So I again used a curves adjustment layer and followed a similar process as above. The s-curve added the contrast I was after. I also set the mid point to warm up the sky (the RGB curves below).
- The trees were still fairly dark and I wanted some of the detail back here. On to another curves adjustment layer bringing up the dark tones in the trees. After creating the curves layer I filled the entire mask with black and painted white over the trees to apply the curves adjustment just to that area. Notice in the mask below that there are some gray tones. That’s because I used a Wacom tablet with a pressure sensitive pen. Using a mouse would have painted pure white allow all of the adjustment to show through. But with a pressure sensitive pen I can vary the “amount” of white applied to the mask. This effectively paints varying shades of gray thus changing the opacity of the mask. This could be done with a mouse and changing the opacity of the brush, but a pen make the task far easier.
By now I’m pretty happy with the over all image but – as I often do – I wanted to add a vignette to darken the edges (think Ansel Adams). A subtle vignette draws the viewers eye into the image, but it must be subtle. I could have saved the image and added the vignette in Lightroom, but CS5 allows far more control.
- Start with a curves adjustment layer and darken the entire. There are two ways to define the vignette area. One is to use the lasso tool and make a selection of the vignette border and fill the selection with black. The other method is to use the paint brush tool and paint black inside the area where the darkened tones won’t be applied. Either of these methods results in a sharp edged vignette. To soften the edges, apply a Gaussian Blur with a radius of 250 pixels.
- Last but not least, I wanted to sharpen the image a bit. I started by creating a new blank layer. I then selected “Merge visible” while holding the ‘Alt’ key (this merges all the layers below into one layer and keeping all the original layers intact). I then applied a High Pass filter with a radius of 10 and a blend mode of ‘Soft light’.
Up at 5:00 and on the road at 5:30. The forecast called for clear skies but I had no idea since it was pitch black outside. On my way to Trillium Lake. What will it be like up there? Arrived at the parking lot and on the trail (road actually) by 6:40. Huffing it pretty good since sunrise was at 7:50 and I had a 2 mile hike on snowshoes. As I arrived at Trillium Lake campground I could see fog over the lake. Dang…was this going to be nothing more than a 4 mile hike and get skunked photographically? At least it would be a good workout. It is what it is – right? Made my way to the frozen lake shore. Mt. Hood was visible if not obscured by light fog. I’ll take it. I can go for one of those moody fog images. And then the first light hit the clouds over the mountain. YES!!
I was the only sole there to witness this amazing sight….
As the sun began to rise and strike the mountain, the fog magically disappeared. What a great day and it was only 9:00!!
This image was completely processed in PS CS5.
It was taken in the Gorge last April. It was one of those days with heavy showers moving through and sun breaks. Here was one of those showers in the background with sun shining from the south hitting the trees and the fields. It was one of those WOW moments. But what I saw and what the RAW image gave me were two completely different things.
Lightroom could have done quite a bit with this image but I went right to CS5 instead. With the differing light conditions, white balance was a challenge. The clouds were too blue but making them warmer made the trees too warm thus killing those great spring colors.
In CS5 I did the following:
- I started with luminosity masks to selectively lighten specific tones and set the white point.
- To get rid of some of the blues in the clouds, I added a B&W adjustment layer, used the high contrast red filter, and played a bit with the color channels to add contrast and drama to the clouds. I then filled the entire mask with black to kill all the adjustments and used a Wacom tablet with pressure sensitive pen to paint white in the clouds thus bringing back the adjustment layer settings (and not affecting the lower portions). I ended this by adding Gaussian blur to soften the edges of the mask.
- To further add contrast to the clouds I turned to a curve adjustment layer, brightened the lighter tones and darkened the darker tones. I again painted black in the entire mask to kill the adjustments. To isolate the clouds again I activated the selection I used in the B&W filter and filled it with white to activate the adjustments. A Gaussian blur was once again added to this mask.
- I wanted more contrast in the trees to bring out the great light that was hitting them. So once again to a curves adjustment layer with lighter light tones and no change to the dark tones. The same process of painting the entire mask with black and selectively painting white back where I wanted the adjustments was done.
- I then wanted to add some light to specific areas to help lead the viewer into the image. Another curves adjustment layer to get the desired effect and again killing the entire mask with black and painting white just in the areas I wanted (the curves in the field in the foreground).
- I wanted sharpen the image but only in certain areas (everything but the clouds to avoid any unnecessary noise). I created a new blank layer at the top of the layer panel. Holding the ALT key and selecting Merge Visible creates a layer with everything under it but not destroying (merging) the other layers. I then applied a layer mask to this layer and added a high pass filter to sharpen everything. You guessed it, fill the entire mask with black and paint white back in just where I wanted sharpening.
- Lastly, the brown file in the left of the image was fairly bright, so I employed another curves adjustment layer to isolate that area and tone it down.
- Not everything was done in CS5. The RAW image was sent to CS5 from LR5. That way when I saved the CS5 edits, I have a copy of the edits in the LR catalog so I can easily export, print, etc from there.
As always, thanks for looking.
The image below looks innocent enough. One of the many great scenes along the Oregon Coast. Twin Rocks in the background. Beach grass in the foreground. But several aspects of photography went into taking this image.
1. Foreground elements: The beach grass served well to lead the viewer’s eye into the image.
2. Point of View: I got low (but not too low) to include the grass in the foreground.
3. Focal length: I used a 45mm lens on a full frame camera. This resulted in a “normal” view (about what I was seeing with my eyes). A wider angle would have made Twin Rocks appear much smaller and a longer focal length would have meant stepping back and possibly making the rocks appear too large.
4. Sharpness from foreground to background: The grass is in sharp focus as is Twin Rocks. The “trick” here was to focus about 1/3 into the scene and use a small aperture.
5. Cropping: Due to positioning constraints, I was not able to get the rocks off center in the composition. So I cropped the image in post processing thus shifting the rocks more to the right.
I know…a lot of things to consider.
Want to learn more about this and much more? We are offering a class at the end of this month…Getting Past DSLR Intimidation