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.


2 Responses to “3/23/2010”

  1. 1 Wendy Hollands
    03/23/2010 at 8:39 am

    wow this is awesome what an amazing shot!!

  2. 03/23/2010 at 3:35 pm

    It’s always fun to constantly go back to a place and see the different moods and lighting. I have a short section of dirt road into a gravel pit that I’ve worked for years. Since I started shooting a lot of macro, I never fail to get surprised!

    I’ll have to go read your bit about silky water. It’s not my preference.

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