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Opaeka'a Falls, Kauai

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 17 August 2010 in Landscape & Rural.

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Summer Big Sur Photo Workshop - August, 17-20, 2010 (Workshop Sold Out)
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Winter Big Sur Photo Workshop - Magic Light and The Pfeiffer Beach Arch - January 11-14, 2011 (space available)
Northern Arizona Photo Workshop - Grand Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Sedona - March 16-20, 2011 (space available)
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New Article on my Website: Three Ideas for Improving Your Compositions

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High Dynamic Range software seems to have caught the attention of most landscape photographers - professionals included. Simply put, HDR allows a photographer to bracket exposures for shadows and highlights and then combine them via software allowing a viable workaround for the camera's limited capture range of 6 stops (for 35mm digital SLR's). Some manufacturers are now putting this software into their cameras.

You have read many times in my writings that the human visionary system allows for an incredible range of contrast (2000:1) while most camera sensors are limited to (64:1). Galen Rowell worked with Singh-Ray to develop their successful line of graduated neutral density filters and in many circumstances that is my first choice (why do it in the computer when I can control my exposure at capture)?

There are seemingly many choices of HDR software on the market, but the king, by most consensus, still seems to be Photomatix Pro. I enjoy testing new software to see if it fits my workflow, and I liked Photomatix so much that I now offer 15% off if you order with my code (see link below). I also like combining images in Photoshop using layer masks. This is admittedly more time-consuming method, but I can control the blends precisely and it works well when there is any movement (water, clouds, foliage, etc.) in the scene.

With today's image of Kauai's Opaeka'a Falls, the air was unusually still. I bracketed four frames at one-stop shutter intervals and decided to use Photomatix because it is quick and there was no movement that would result in weird artifacts. I'm happy to say the program nailed it. About the only adjustment I made was in the white point and black point setting (I believe the default settings are generally set too hot). An easy tweak!

I outputted the image as a 16-bit TIFF, then reopened it in Adobe Camera Raw (via Adobe Bridge) and processed as I would any other image. As expected, I did have some noise in the highlight of the water itself, but I used Nik Dfine and the brush tool to paint it out.

I did take some creative liberties in eliminating a house that sits directly above the falls (how dare they build a house there)! I simply selected a loose outline around the house, then using Photoshop CS5's Content Aware tool, I zapped it into oblivion (total time - 20 seconds)! Wow - do I love digital!

To read more about how this image was created, as well as other tips for improving your landscape photography, please read my new article Three Ideas for Improving Your Compositions

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III F/23.0 ISO 200 130 mm

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