Archive for March 22nd, 2010



Balson River, Emmons Preserve, Kennebunkport ME

I have attempted to photograph this stream in every season over the past 12 years. It is on a little pocket preserve tucked in between the homes on two back roads…gifted to the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust some years ago, and developed just enough for easy access…once you know it is there. The stream, or river, depending, goes from a trickle at mid summer to a full raging torrent during the storms of spring and fall. Or it can be an icy cascade in winter, with every willow wand along the bank hung with ice bells. I have seen it in every light.

And it is always a bear to photograph. The range of light, from deep shadow to bright sun on the foaming water of the falls, from the incredible dark green of the moss in the shade, to the pure silver light reflected off leaves, is just way beyond any sensor’s ability. I even wrote a whole Point and Shoot Landscape piece on exposing for post-processing based on my trials here: the only way to come close to capturing the range is to expose so that both shadow and highlight detail can be restored in post-processing. Of course, that means that the images, out of camera, can look pretty strange.

So…with a new camera and all, I had to try again…or at least make a beginning in the process of learning how to use this camera to capture an image in Emmon’s Preserve…since no two cameras have the same range of possibility when it comes to that (or anything else).

All the shots taken that day were experiments. I found that with previous cameras you could not use exposure compensation to save the highlights. That left the shadows too dark, and post-processing added to much noise. Still, I know that photographically, exposure compensation is the right solution here, so I was trying what the Canon could do. This exposure was at –1 EV, and, with processing in Lightrroom, it is one of the most successful shots of the Balson that I have ever taken. The highlights and sunny bank areas are just within range (having applied some Recovery in Lightroom), and the shadows opened up well with just enough Fill Light not to produce much noise. Granted, it will get worse when the leaves come out and the shadows deepen…but for now, I am really liking this rendering. The dynamic range is very natural…both shadows and highlights are much as the eye would see them in real time: and that, ultimately, is my goal.

(By the way, I am not an advocate of the silky water school of stream photography. I have another P&S Landscape piece on that. I prefer to let the shutter freeze some of the water motion…since, in real time, I see something closer to the detail of frozen water, than I do to the silky blur. I find the patterns of swirl and bubble infinitely fascinating.)

Canon SX20IS at just under 60mm equivalent. F4 @ 1/200 @ ISO 80. Landscape preset. (Landscape preset, by the way, does better, somehow, for color balance than regular Program does on auto. It handled the open shade here just fine.)

In Lightroom, as mentioned, Recovery for highlights, Fill Light for shadows (but not much). Blackpoint just slightly right. Added Clarity and just a tiny amount of Vibrance. Sharpen landscape preset.

From Around Home 2010.



Walker’s Point, Kennebunkport ME

(This is going to be a story of second thoughts, so do read all the way to bottom.)

For those in the know this shot will be instantly recognizable. It is the summer home of George W. Bush senior in Kennebunkport ME. We were out enjoying some after-supper sun, which, of course, we have not seen in many months in Maine. The sea was still running heavy from last week’s storms. The light was just this side of golden. This looks like a 28mm shot, but it actually cropped from top and bottom from a shot taken at closer to  35mm.

It was a particularly difficult exposure problem, since the foreground, which had already fallen partially into shadow in the late sun, was so dark and the midground and sky so very bright. Exposing for the foreground would have given me a white sky. I struck the best balance I could in-camera, and hoped to recover some of the range in Lightroom.

This is another shot that improves as you enlarge it. I really recommend clicking to open it a larger size.

Canon SX20IS at about 35mm equivalent. F4 @ 1/320th @ ISO 80. Landscape program.

Some Recovery in Lightroom for the sky. Quite a bit of Fill Light to open the deep foreground shadows. Blackpoint to the right. Added Clarity and just a touch of Vibrance. Sharpen landscapes preset. Cropped from the bottom to eliminate deeper shadow, and then from the top for composition.

And that is good as far as it goes.

Of course…as I looked at this image all set for posting, it occurred to me that it might be improved. Surprising how often that happens. I suddenly saw that dueling Graduated Filter effects might scrub some exposure from the sky and point, while picking up some more detail in the foreground.  So I opened Lightroom once more, made a virtual copy of the image so I didn’t mess up the original edits, and took that into the Develop module. I rolled back the Tone edits I did on the original so I could work from something more like the file as it came from the camera. Then I opened the Graduated Filter Effects panel and pulled down a GFE from the top of the image all the way to the bottom. I used that to reduce Exposure quite a bit and Brightness just a bit. Then I added Clarity and Sharpness to that filter. Next I pulled up a GFE from the bottom to mid image. I used this one to increase Exposure and Brightness and add considerable Clarity and Sharpness, plus a bit of Saturation and Contrast. Finally, I exited the GFE panel, used a touch of Recovery on the whole image to darken the sky even more and some Fill Light for the foreground shadows. The Fill Light was mostly so that I could slide the Blackpoint slightly right to increase overall intensity. And this is what I got.

And that, folks, if memory serves, is much closer to the scene as it appeared to the naked eye on the evening I took it. It is certainly much closer to my mind’s-eye-view of what it ought to look like.