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regnaD kciN's Journal - Archives
Posted by regnaD kciN in Photography Group
Tue Jun 07th 2011, 05:28 AM
There is one basic, fundamental rule of waterfall photography: Always shoot waterfalls, if at all possible, on cloudy days. There are two reasons for this rule. First, it's a lot easier to get that slow-shutter-speed "silken" effect when the light is softer and lower. Second, direct sunlight ratchets up the contrast, which is usually enough to destroy any forest shots. If you want the most effective waterfall shots, wait until it is overcast.

So, why was I setting out on the first 80-degree-day of the year, a day when we were guaranteed bright sunlight without a cloud in the sky, to photograph Rocky Brook Falls on the Olympic Peninsula?

Because it was my only chance to get a good image.

Rocky Brook Falls is reached by a short trail through the woods that only opens up for views of the fall at its very base. This means that any shots are going to have to be close-in, looking almost straight up, and including a good chunk of the sky in the frame. Try to shoot this waterfall on a cloudy day, and you're going to have blown-out white sky at the top, which is enough to ruin any photograph.

What's the solution? Bryan Swan, admin of the Northwest Waterfall Survey (and a fine photographer in his own right), had a counter-intuitive suggestion: Try shooting this fall in direct sunlight (at the time of the day when the sun hits it full-on, without any shadows) on a perfectly clear day, then slap a polarizer and every neutral-density filter you own (in my case, that meant stacking a Cokin 4x on top of an 8x) on the lens, stop it down as far as you can, and see if that allows you to slow the shutter speed enough. As you can see, the results seem to validate his approach.

The situation wasn't perfect -- I think better angles could be found a few feet to my right but, at the height of spring melt season, the places where I could normally put up a tripod were several inches underwater, and I hadn't brought my river sandals.

Here's a detail of the base of the fall, rendered in black-and-white.

Finally, although the sun was playing havoc with Rocky Brook itself on the way out, I did find one stretch of the creek that was still shaded. As far as I'm concerned, this image alone would be enough to justify the whole trip.

I expect to come back here at lower-flow, where I can maneuver into more angles on the fall itself...possibly in the autumn, as I understand the fall foliage compliments the scene quite well.

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Posted by regnaD kciN in Photography Group
Sun May 29th 2011, 12:10 AM
Last week, I drove north to what might be the closest falls to the state's Canadian border, in a park located, improbably enough, in a suburban area of one of Washington's bigger cities, Bellingham. Although these may look like they're far up in the Cascades, they're really only a few miles off Interstate 5 on its way to the border crossing.

First, Whatcom Falls itself.

A bit further upstream, you find this officially-unnamed fall, which I have decided to christen Way-Too-Flippin'-Muddy Footpath Falls.

Beyond that, Upper Whatcom Falls. It appears a former path down to these falls has washed out, and the only view is peering between trees on the main trail.

Returning to the main falls, you find a man-made spillway diverting part of Whatcom Creek. At this point during the spring melt, it was running at full force. First, from across the creek (where there was no clear shot without trees getting in the way)...

...and, then, from the top of the spillway itself.

Finally, a couple of shots of the Whatcom Creek gorge. I still find it hard to believe that these are only a few blocks from a Subway franchise.

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Posted by regnaD kciN in Photography Group
Mon May 16th 2011, 02:35 AM
With the extended winter we've had here, everything is running about three weeks later than usual. Thus, the tulips came out near the end of April instead of the beginning, and snowmelt season, where the waterfalls are running at their highest, seems to be just about starting. Unfortunately, while good waterfall photography requires overcast or light drizzle, we've been alternating between (a small amount of) sun or (more frequently) monsoons. Today featured one of the latter, as my plans to catch a substantial fall up the unpaved Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road had to be reassessed when it became clear that I was in very real danger of getting stuck up there. So, I wound up turning around before the road became impassible, but was able to catch a couple of nice "mini-falls" on the way back. I'm pretty sure neither of these are named (and the second one is more a steeply-falling creek than anything), and probably both will be dry by summer, but they provide a nice excuse for me to start up this year's WFOT posts.

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Posted by regnaD kciN in Photography Group
Mon May 02nd 2011, 07:12 PM
...but this year, in the Pacific Northwest, one could add "just barely" to that observation. Thanks to the extended winter, most of April has been cold with torrential downpours and flooding, as opposed to the gentler rains more common to this time of year. Tulips were late coming up all over the region...but, since the tulip festivals are a major tourist attraction planned years in advance, there was no way to adjust for the curve nature was throwing at us. Therefore, while the tulips were just coming into their own on the last day of April, the festival would be ending and the harvesting of the fields beginning the next day. Since it was one of the two somewhat-sunny days of the month, it was clear that it was going to be "now or never"...the same thought which occurred to half the population of Washington state as well, resulting in the heaviest traffic backups I've seen up here during the tulip season.

Of course, you know what they say about the best-laid plans...although bright sunlight and mostly-clear skies are best for shooting tulip fields, and overcast conditions for shooting individual blooms, you can guess what happened: after a steady diet of mostly-cloudy skies while touring the fields, by the time we got to the display garden, the clouds were starting to clear, and I was looking at the worst-possible shooting conditions for close-ups. Therefore, I had to rush to get as many shots as possible while we still had cloud-cover.

Finally, though, my luck ran out, and the clouds dissipated, leaving us with bright, contrasty sunshine. But, when given lemons, make lemonade -- and, while you can't get the soft, diffuse light needed for detailed "floral portraits," what sort of images can you get in a garden lit by direct sunlight? Boys and girls, can you say BACKLIT? Sure, you can! See any potential entries here?

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Posted by regnaD kciN in Photography Group
Tue Mar 15th 2011, 01:14 AM
During our local school district's mid-winter vacation this February, my family and I traveled to San Diego, to visit my 91-year-old mother. The spring flowers were already in bloom, and I took the opportunity to photograph the asters and coryopsis growing on the embankment in the back yard.

My parents had a series of cascading water barrels on the embankment, and so, in the spirit of Water Falling Over Things, I tried to get a shot with both waterfall and flowers, but the flowers were pointing in the wrong direction.

As I finished up, twilight was nearing, and I got a shot of the sunset sky with typical Southern California palms and eucalypti.

I had promised my mom copies of these photos. Sadly, it was not to be. Although she was in fine health while we were there, she fell ill less than a week after we returned home to Seattle, and passed away last Monday. These images, it turns out, will really be the last ones I could capture in my parents' garden. I post them in memory of my mother, someone who brought more beauty into the world than a million flowers.

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Posted by regnaD kciN in Photography Group
Fri Dec 31st 2010, 04:38 AM
As I have done for several years running, I am concluding 2010 with a retrospective based on two rules:

1) Twelve images, one per month, and
2) None of the photographs can have previously appeared on DU.

And, as usual, I have to preface this with a complaint about how difficult the second rule is, since I tend to post everything good here as soon as I shoot it. This was an especial problem this year, since there were a couple of months were weather conditions cut way back on my shooting, and so some planned images never materialized. Nonetheless...

January took me to Leavenworth for their annual Winter Festival (along with a white-knuckle drive back in an unexpected blizzard).

In February, on the other hand, the unusually-mild winter brought us the odd sight of rhododendrons blooming several months ahead of schedule at the local arboretum.

March brought the daffodil bloom under a stormy Skagit Valley sky...

...while April took me to Woodburn, Oregon, for the most photogenic tulip farm in the Northwest, Wooden Shoe.

In May, I made a long-awaited return to Tanner Creek and Wahclella Falls.

And, to continue the Water Falling Over Things motif, June brought me to central Oregon's Proxy Falls.

July found me on my first trip to the Palouse farming region of southeast Washington.

August marked a photo trip I'd been wanting to take for years, to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. I posted a number of shots here from Schwabacher Landing (one of the national icons for landscape photography); however, to my surprise, I realized that I never posted the image that came to be my favorite from that spot. Here it is.

September marks the last gasp of flower-growing in the Northwest, as the dahlias come into bloom. This one was taken at a dahlia farm not far from my house. I'd never made a point of photographing dahlias before, the way I'd always do with daffodils and tulips in the spring, but I expect to be remedying that from now on.

As I mentioned here before, 2010 marked a real washout for fall foliage up here. Since the trees weren't cooperating, I needed to make the October drive to Mount Rainier, where the ground cover was putting on its expected show.

Remember when I mentioned, at the top of this retrospective, a couple of months of bad weather conditions where I got almost no shooting done? Well, November of this year was the worst month for photography I've yet experienced, as extremely-late-summer-not-quite-fall suddenly shifted into full-blown winter, with heavy downpours, flooding, and, for a change, snow with subterranean temperatures and iced-over roads. I finally got this detail shot of the end of one snowy period; if I hadn't gone out with my camera that day, I'd have done no photography at all that month.

Finally, December brought about my expedition to a rarely-running Upper Franklin Falls, after a series of monsoons had turned it from a dry cliff into a true subject for WFOT.

It's been an interesting year -- while there were a number of major high points, such as finally getting around to visit Woodburn, Grand Teton, and Proxy Falls, conditions and circumstances meant that I didn't get around to some of my standard photo subjects (Mount Rainier wildflowers, fall foliage, Christmas light displays) without which the year somehow doesn't feel "complete." Next year, I expect to be concentrating on the local area more than in 2010 (after all, there are only so many twelve-plus hour drives I can put in with my age and gas budget ), and hopefully will be able to get to more of my favorite western Washington locations than I managed this time around. At any rate, as always, I wish us all joyful lives and great opportunities for photography in 2011.

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Posted by regnaD kciN in Photography Group
Thu Dec 16th 2010, 09:13 PM
Beyond a doubt, the closest waterfall to my home is Upper Franklin Falls, just north of the Green River Gorge. But, until a few days ago, I'd only shot it once in several years.

How come? Upper Franklin is what's known as a "seasonal" waterfall -- one that only exists at high-water periods. And, in Upper Franklin's case, make that a very seasonal waterfall, in that it seems to run for only a few days a year. (In fact, it's so "seasonal" that Waterfalls Northwest recently dropped it from their database -- although the fact that, despite its name, it's found about an hour away and on a completely different watershed from the well-known Franklin Falls probably contributed to the decision.)

My first experience of Upper Franklin was in early spring several years ago, at a time when I didn't have the equipment or circumstances available to take more than a few quick "grab shots." A few days later, I went back, this time with enough gear to get a good photo...only to discover a dry cliff. I've been back a few times since then, only to be frustrated each time.

Well, last week, we had a huge series of monsoons hit the area, being carried up along the prevailing winds from Hawaii, pushing much of the region into "Flood Warning" territory. I realized that this was probably the best chance I'd have to catch Upper Franklin in action. As you can see, I was not disappointed.

This, I suspect, will bring WFOT2010 to an end. Hopefully, next spring will finally give me the chance to make it to Punch Bowl Falls in the Columbia Gorge.

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Posted by regnaD kciN in Photography Group
Sun Oct 17th 2010, 06:36 PM
As I've mentioned before, out here on the western side of the Cascades, we have "bottom-up" fall color. Since the vast majority of the trees are evergreens, we don't get the yellow, orange, and red leaves you find over the mountains on the eastern side. Instead, it's the ground-cover -- huckleberry, vine maples, and assorted shrubs -- that change color, providing a bright carpet under the unchanging green of the pines and firs.

Since, for reasons probably related to the El Niño winter last year, this has been a relatively poor autumn for foliage throughout the northwest (the PNW Nature Photographers' "Fall Color Outing" was canceled this year due to, and I quote, "no fall color" ), my only choice was to forgo the east Cascades aspens and cottonwoods in favor of western ground-cover. Since, this year, I hadn't yet been to Paradise (however many times I'd been to me), it was time to drive up to Rainier and check out autumn on "The Mountain." Fortunately, the poor foliage conditions for trees didn't apply to the shrubs there...

Myrtle Falls

But, as spectacular as the front-lit views of The Mountain were, what really became special was the hike back down, with the backlight turning the bushes into a riot of brilliant color. Although there was no photogenic mountain background, and a constant struggle finding angles that wouldn't be ruined by lens flare, I think these give some idea what the experience was like.

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Posted by regnaD kciN in Photography Group
Sun Oct 17th 2010, 04:20 AM
...a "brand new" waterfall! (If one can consider "brand new" a fall that tens of thousands of people drive past every year, that is.)

Last Thursday, I was driving to Mount Rainier to try to get some images of the mountain in autumn. On the way down, I was taking State Route 123 over Cayuse Pass. As you drive through the forest, there are a number of gaps in the foliage along the east side of the route, which is built along the base of a Rainier foothill. Most of these gaps are just for creeks (running or dry) or rockslides, but occasionally, you'll see a small waterfall along the side of the road, nestled in one of those gaps. For example, last year, I "discovered" a fall that turned out to be Zigzag Falls (which I covered in this post). But I thought I had a pretty good grasp on the real waterfalls (as opposed to the slanted-creeks-that-kind-of-look-like-waterfalls) along 123. Therefore, it was a surprise when I turned to look in one of those gaps about a mile and a half past Cayuse, and saw a 15-to-20-foot "real" waterfall that I had never noticed before. Fortunately, there was a pullout nearby, so I was able to stop the car and get a photo of this new discovery.

Upon returning home, I checked, and found this fall listed in neither the Waterfall Lover's Guide to the Pacific Northwest nor the Waterfalls Northwest database, the two most-reliable sources for waterfall information up here. I contacted Bryan Swan, the owner of Waterfalls Northwest, with a description and photo of the fall. I got back his reply last night -- this is definitely a waterfall he himself had found, and named, while hiking through the area, but one that wasn't in his database yet -- it was due to be added in the next few months, once he could get a photo of it himself. Interestingly, he says that the portion visible from the road is only the lowest part of the fall, and that it actually continues up the hillside quite a distance, so the height might be in the hundred-plus foot range rather than the smaller size I guessed.

At any rate, since this waterfall has apparently never appeared in any reference source yet, I hereby present to you Seymour Peak Falls:

I hope to get back there when Cayuse reopens next spring, when the water should be running a lot higher. Maybe I'll be able to find a vantage point to get the entire fall, instead of just the lowest levels seen here.

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Posted by regnaD kciN in Photography Group
Tue Sep 07th 2010, 05:04 PM
In the last two weeks of August, my family and I journeyed to darkest "red state" America, fearlessly braving the dangers of hordes of rampaging teabaggers, to discover the splendors of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

NOTE: Whoever it was here who railed against "photographic clichés" should probably leave the thread right now, because virtually every location in Grand Teton has long since become a photographic cliché...but one well-worth encountering for yourself.

To start out, what has been described as "the most-photographed beaver pond in America," with the Cathedral Group reflected in the waters of the Snake River at Schwabacher Landing.

Several of the barns along "Mormon Row" -- first, the John Moulton barn...

...and the Thomas Alva Moulton barn...

...and one I call Little (Out)House On The Prairie.

One of the iconic views of the Tetons is from the Snake River Overlook, made famous from the photo by Ansel Adams. Ironically, this is a case where nature has trumped nature photography, as the trees on the slope below the overlook have grown since Adams captured his image sixty-eight years ago, now completely blocking the lower bend of the river. In not too many more years, they will have blocked any view of the river at all, but, for now, this is what remains.

Of course, that didn't stop me from trying my own version of the Adams image...

...but, given the circumstances, I found a more interesting use of the cloudy sky (and the reflection off the river) near sundown.

Here is Mount Moran (no jokes, please) and the waters of String Lake.

And more images of Moran, this time from Oxbow Bend, first before dawn...

...and at sunrise...

 well as a final shot at sunset.

On my last morning of shooting, I returned to Schwabacher Landing, and this time did find something original -- the standard sunrise view, but with a lenticular cloud atop the Tetons. I've seen dozens of images from this location, but never one with a lenticular before -- and I might, for once, be the only one to have captured such an image, since, amazingly enough, there was not a single other photographer there that morning.

The story continues here.

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Posted by regnaD kciN in Photography Group
Tue Sep 07th 2010, 05:03 PM
The second, too-brief part of the trip took us to Yellowstone. First stop was the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and this view of Lower Falls.

At the Midway Geyser Basin, I found possibly the quintessential Yellowstone image: the colorful, deceptively-placid waters of Opal Pool with a typical Wyoming landscape for a backdrop.

Part of the adjoining Turquoise Pool.

Excelsior Geyser isn't technically a geyser anymore, as repeated eruptions dislodged the constriction that distinguishes a geyser from other thermal features, and now it's merely another hot spring, albeit a large and colorful one.

From the time I first considered visiting Yellowstone, there was one site I wanted to photograph more than any other: Grand Prismatic Spring. However, the cold and windy weather was to play a trick on me here, as it was producing so much steam (usually blown right in the direction of the boardwalk) that the spring itself was usually invisible. Finally, on our way out of the park, I stopped for one more try and, this time, was able to get some abstract glimpses through the steam when the wind shifted.

Finally, is there any need to even identify this subject? Eruptions every 93 minutes or so -- and, that morning, I was lucky enough for it to take place just as the omnipresent cloud cover broke and allowed me a patch of blue sky for the background.

As we left the park on our way back home, it started to snow...

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Posted by regnaD kciN in Photography Group
Thu Aug 05th 2010, 04:36 PM
As amazing as it seems, although I’ve been living in the Pacific Northwest for more than a quarter-century, virtually my entire time has been spent west of the Cascades. Until this past July 3rd, the furthest east I had ever traveled was midway across the state.

Finally, the day before Independence Day, I made a very long drive to a long-time item on my photographic "bucket list," the rolling wheatfields of the Palouse, in the southeast corner of the state. Fortunately, at the time I was able to get out there, the new wheat had reached a considerable height, but still carried the green of spring. Later in the summer, of course, everything would have turned golden — still making for wonderful photographs, but not the freshness for which I was looking.

When Pigs Fly, already seen in July's photo contest, was a "grab shot" taken while making a loop on the farming roads of the region.

Aside from the photo opportunities available from simply driving the roads in the area, there are two buttes offering elevated views of the region. Kamiak Butte is lower with more trees, and a view facing north.

Steptoe Butte is the tallest point in the area (it has all the region's television transmitters at the top), and a good vantage point for sunrise or sunset images, although I found it better to shoot from about halfway up at sunset, as the haze gets too thick at the top. The first photo here was taken from the summit around mid-afternoon, while the remainder were taken from a pullout part-way up the butte just as the sun was going down.

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Posted by regnaD kciN in Photography Group
Tue Jun 22nd 2010, 02:56 AM
Last Saturday, I had the chance to get down to central Oregon, for a shoot at a location that I'd been wanting to visit for several years: the Proxy Falls Trail. Was the experience worth it? To be honest, I still haven't decided...and that's why this is the first WFOT installment with a poll attached, just as its the first one with far more words than pictures.

To begin with, this is as far afield as I've traveled on a photo "day-trip" -- approximately six to seven hours each way. Normally, the farthest I'll travel is about four-and-a-half hours away, and I really wasn't prepared for the road time. At other times, I might have considered making this an overnighter; but, needing to be home for Father's Day, that wasn't an option. And, since this might have been the last June weekend day with overcast in the forecast (June being supposedly the best month for shooting this fall) I figured it was "now or never."

Proxy Falls Trail is laid out as a loop, and every guidebook I've seen recommends hiking it in a clockwise direction, it being shorter and easier to get to both of the two falls, at which point you can decide to backtrack instead of completing the longer part of the loop. Upon arriving, I found out that this was not an option, due to a "house-sized log" blocking the desired trailhead. The only choice was to go counterclockwise and then return the way I'd come, meaning a longer and harder hike. It was at that point that I discovered the second "inconvenient truth" about shooting Proxy Falls; that, even though the El Niño year meant a mild winter for Washington, apparently the same was not the case for the Oregon Cascades. Not only were water levels running unusually high, but the rhododendrons (normally one of the main reasons for shooting this location in June) had not yet begun to bloom. Had I known both of these situations, I would have waited and prayed for an overcast weekend day sometime in mid-July.

In any event, I made it up the trail, past the spur to Proxy itself, to the first (and smallest) waterfall, Upper Proxy Falls (sometimes just known as Upper Falls).

If the angles on this fall seemed somewhat obscured, it's because the normal fifteen-foot-diameter plunge-pool at its base was more like thirty-five or forty feet (see "water levels running unusually high," above), meaning that the ideal tripod position would have been in a foot or two of water. Since I didn't know this would be the case, I didn't bring my waders along on this hike, and so had to be content with trying to find a set of tripod holes on a steep slope going down to the pool; even the "best" views of Upper Proxy were blocked by something or other...

...and so, in the end, the best I could do was to shoot the rapids at the very bottom of the fall.

Leaving Upper Proxy behind, I moved on to the "main attraction," Proxy Falls, renowned as one of the most photogenic waterfalls in the country.

The picture above doesn't begin to do it justice, simply because you can't really convey scale in an 800-pixel-tall image; imagine a fall 250 feet high, with the water breaking into dozens of mini-trails over moss-covered rock, then dropping through an undercut onto a series of basalt "steps" somewhat resembling Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. As you look at the photo, also imagine a sense of the water constantly in motion on its multitude of passages, instead of being frozen in time by the camera's shutter. I wish I could find a way to convey it; "breathtaking" doesn't come close to an accurate description.

Still, as impressive as that was, I was well aware that the best photos I've seen of Proxy Falls haven't been from the upper viewpoint, but up-close-and-personal ones from the riverbed directly below the falls. Accordingly, after taking a bunch of "record shots" from the viewpoint, I packed up my equipment and started to follow the trail down to the base of the falls.

And, then, I discovered the third "inconvenient truth" -- there is no trail down to the base of the falls. The trail basically stops just past the viewpoint, and it is up to the visitor to figure out a route down a steep, slippery slope to the river's edge a hundred or so feet down -- and, just as importantly, a route back up again. (This is where I air my gripe about the many guidebooks that describe the hike to Proxy Falls as "easy" -- re-reading them, I realize that what they're referring to is the hike to the upper viewpoint, not to the base of the falls. In retrospect, it also explains why so many of those "best photos I've seen" turn out to be the work of only a handful of photographers -- those young and agile enough to make it down to the best vantage points.)

After making a couple of attempts on my own, each ending when I found myself hanging onto a tree, realizing that the next step might cause irreparable damage to either my bones or, worse, my equipment. Finally, I went back to the upper viewpoint and asked if anyone there had experience getting down to the base. As it turned out, the only ones I found were a couple of young kids with a rather expensive Nikon, who proceeded to show me their route -- unfortunately, although it looked easier than the ones I tried, it was blocked by a fallen tree-trunk which was quite easy for young kids to duck under, but thoroughly impossible for a less-than-agile fifty-something like myself. (In any event, the same two kids returned a few minutes later, reporting that the aforementioned high water meant extremely slippery conditions at the base of the falls, plus enough spray to make photography down there pointless.)

So, with no other option available, all I could do was return to the upper viewpoint, break out the telephoto, and try to get "close-up" shots from a distance. (For obvious reasons, the resulting images will be at the bottom of the post, near the poll question.)

Meanwhile, on the way back to the road, the trail took me through a forest glade just as the sun illuminated the small tree at its center...

...and, afterward, through a lava-flow from an extinct volcano, with new growth emerging from the volcanic rocks and remains of older growth providing a sobering reminder of what is often the fate of living things trying to gain a toehold among the stones.

So, finally, we get to the shots I mentioned, the "plan B" attempts to capture Proxy Falls via long lenses, all taken from more-or-less the same vantage point, with different focal lengths and orientations. Keep in mind that these look nothing like the images I had long hoped to find at Proxy, based on other photos of the falls I've been seeing for years. Because of the length of the drive, I doubt I'll be returning here again, so these are probably the only images I'll ever take of this location. Did I waste my time?

So, please be (brutally) honest: Was this trip worth it?
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Posted by regnaD kciN in Photography Group
Sat May 22nd 2010, 02:06 AM
This is a later-than-usual start to my WFOT series. Unfortunately, I think that will tend to be the norm for now on, simply because I've shot and re-shot every notable waterfall within easy driving distance of Seattle. (Do you really want to see yet another series of images from the same viewpoint at Snoqualmie Falls? Neither do I.) However, that means that I have to go further and farther afield to find new subjects, meaning full day or weekend trips, of which there are only a limited number I can manage per year. On the upside, each of those trips should result in images from a number of different falls, rather than just one or two.

So it was last Saturday, when I took a hunch on the weather forecast not being as dire as earlier predicted, and headed out for the 3.5-hour drive to Oregon's Columbia Gorge. My initial objective was to finally make it up Eagle Creek to Punch Bowl Falls, a Mecca for Northwest photographers I had never visited before.

Initially, it looked like my gamble wouldn't pay off, as the skies opened up just as I was crossing the river into Oregon. After a quick break for lunch, and just as the downpour was starting to die down, I decided to first try to bag a few waterfalls with drive-by access before deciding if the weather was lifting enough to justify the three-mile hike up Eagle Creek. Accordingly, my first stop was the familiar and easiest-to-access attraction along the Gorge, Wahkeena Falls.

Although the falls were, as usual, partly obscured (and never have been the easiest to shoot), it should be noted that Wahkeena Creek was running fast enough that you could easily make out the upper levels of the fall, at the top of the image, and not just the main attraction two-thirds of the way up.

Someone had left a couple of flowers on the stone railing by the lower part of the creek. I took advantage of them to create A Bouquet for Wahkeena.

As I finished taking the photo, I heard the unmistakable sound of a group of other photographers waiting their turn behind me. Turning around, I found myself encountering outstanding Seattle photographer and waterfall expert Bryan Swan, leading a group of workshop students. While comparing some notes on the day's shooting, I mentioned my Eagle Creek plans. Bryan informed me that, according to his sources, Eagle was running so high that, to get the Punch Bowl shot I wanted, I'd have to wade up to my waist in fast-running snowmelt. Seeing as I had neglected to pack insulated waders, it was on to Plan B -- a couple of trails that would feature one new (to me) fall, plus one I visited several years ago, but with which results I'd never been happy.

First up was easily-accessible Horsetail Falls, which have appeared here before.

However, if you take a short but quite-steep trail upstream from Horsetail, you find its source, Ponytail Falls.

The trail to Ponytail passes behind the falls before heading onward. Here's a shot from behind the falls (the pool forms the source to Horsetail), with the Columbia River and Gorge in the clearing beyond.

On the way back down the trail, the sun, improbably, came out. However, since Horsetail Falls itself was shaded by the cliffs surrounding it, I was able to get that most-unusual of waterfall photos: an image with both slow-shutter-speed flowing water and backlit, sun-dappled foliage.

Then, it was on to Tanner Creek, and the mile-long trail (which, I swear, gets steeper every time I hike it ) to Wahclella Falls. Last time I visited there, a series of mishaps (long story -- don't ask) resulted in me taking a whole afternoon's worth of photos without a polarizer, then trying in vain for the next two years to find post-processing settings to mute the glare off the leaves. Needless to say, I didn't make the same mistake again.

If you look carefully above Wahclella in the previous photo, you can see a small stream of water dropping sideways into the gorge. That is actually a completely-different waterfall, East Fork Falls, which is nearly impossible to shoot with a better angle and greater view than this admittedly-limited one.

On the way back down the trail, I stopped for a few shots of Munra Falls, a small waterfall that is very hard to shoot because of its closeness to the trail. How close? I think this picture tells the story.

While it's virtually impossible to get an image of Munra in its entirety, it lends itself very well to detail shots and impressionistic close-ups.

That was all for this trip. I'm hoping to get back to Oregon at least twice more in the next month; once for that "holy grail" hike of Eagle Creek, the other for an encounter with central Oregon's Proxy Falls, another photographic icon of the Northwest.
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Posted by regnaD kciN in Photography Group
Mon May 17th 2010, 07:00 PM
Since we've all been talking about limiting post-processing, and decrying "extreme" examples of it, I thought I'd like some reactions to what -- in the eyes of the particular beholder -- might qualify as "reasonable" or "extreme" post-processing.

People here will probably recall this image from my Woodburn tulip shoot of last month:

A nice shot, but I was bothered by the almost-blown-out sky above the sun, which even five stops of GNDs weren't enough to tame. It certainly wasn't what I saw in the viewfinder, but it was what the sensor, with its much-more-limited dynamic range, did. To my mind, it was the biggest flaw in the image.

Now, it just so happens that I took a second image eight seconds later, with the exact same framing from the exact same tripod position, but with the exposure compensation turned down a stop. The sky came out a lot better, but the foreground was very dark, and no Lightroom processing was sufficient to bring it up to a decent level. A few days ago, I decided to see if the images could be combined. I set the exposure parameters on the second image so the sky looked good, loaded both photos together as layers in a single Photoshop file, and used layer masks to blend in the sky from the second image over the sky in the first one. In short, a "manual exposure blend" HDR. Here is the result:

This is, to my mind, a much better image, and also closer to what I (with my greater-dynamic-range human vision) saw as I was photographing. But is it a legitimate use of post-processing, or is it an "extreme" Photoshop job? Is it HDR that should be shunned, or simply a manner of adjusting exposure to more-closely reflect the subject? If you were the host, and such an image were submitted, would you refuse to accept it as an entry? If you saw it appearing in a contest poll, and knew the technique I was using, would you say that I was "cheating" by entering it? I can imagine some people saying one thing, and some another. What should the limits be for this group?

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