Sunday, May 11, 2014

Four Falls - Havasupai

I written a few times about the grandeur of the falls in the quaint Indian Reservation of the Havasupai Tribe in the Grand Canyon.  What started as a crush in high school has become a full blown love affair over time. I've had a chance to study the culture in an anthropology course in college, and backpacked the ten miles to visit four times.  This last time I decided to study the reservation with my camera.  Five beautiful spring days were spent standing in warm blue-green water. From dusk to dawn I tried to capture the essence and moods, pushing my gear and prowess to the limits.  If you browse through the blog here you will find what I have discovered and experienced over the course of decades.   Every once and a while a particular image has to be showcased. Many elements have to come together and be captured to properly portray the feeling felt while standing there.  This image is one of those.  I had spent the day hiking to the lower Beaver Falls, and upon returning I came to this scene, just below Mooney Falls.  A number of times I've tried to capture it, but only recently had the skills and technology to process it to fruition.   I was struck by the last light of day reflecting off the higher canyon wall, not to mention the vantage of seeing four falls in a curious confluence.  The challenge here was to grab the dynamic range between the bright reflection of sunlight to the dark shadows of the canyon. A standard image capture would not be able to properly expose for either the highlights or shadows, so I decided to do a bracketed image. I set the camera to allow it to take three successive images, each at different shutter speeds. One to properly expose the highlights, one to properly expose the shadows and one in the middle to expose the mid-tone ranges.  I chose the initial shutter speed and f-stop to smooth the water, and the camera choose the other two exposures. The post processing was done in Photoshop using a technique called channel masking or luminosity masking. This technique allows the photographer to seamlessly blend the three images together in a more controlled and realistic fashion than using stand alone HDR (high dynamic range) software that does it for you.  Although it takes hours of work, the result more closely matches the scene you would experience if you were standing there.  For more information on the technique see the side bar to the right under the helpful links heading. Another challenge capturing this scene was to avoid other hikers and photographers.  I was standing in the stream for ten or fifteen minutes waiting for the the scene to clear, when another photographer tromps up and sets her tripod directly in front of me.  She says "Oh, am I in your way?" as I stare at her with my mouth open in dis-belief.  "It's a free country," was my response.  It's true, there is no law against being inconsiderate and oblivious in this country, and people take this notion to the extreme.  It's a cultural thing.  Just don't let it get to you.   Tune out those people just like that annoying hip-hop song on the radio. Instead focus on the beauty of nature and the moment you're living it. It will not last forever.

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