Earlier this week, a friend and I drove to Swan Falls, Idaho, for a short day-trip and photographic expedition.
This gave me a chance to try out my newly-acquired Nikon D7000 (bought used from a friend), taking its first photographs as the new owner. My previous camera, a Nikon D5100 was donated to my daughter's newly-found hobby.
First, some humor from the trip:
|Typical Speed Limit Sign in Rural Idaho|
|Someone was probably going faster than 55|
Now, onto more serious work.
I took two sets of HDR photographs. With HDR, I like to take five bracketed photographs with a -2ev, -1, 0ev, +1, and +2ev exposure compensation spread. Then, with a photo editor, blend them into one image.
Because of the wind, I knew the clouds were moving and they would cause artifacts in the final image and there would not be enough time to make all of the exposures. Hoping for the best, I settled for a smaller three-image spread, using +/-1ev. (See this Keyliner article for a discussion of HDR techniques: Stanley Forest Burn.)
|+/- 1ev HDR, looking West|
Click for a larger view
(0ev) f11 1/25sec ISO 125 18-200 Nikon DX at 18mm, with polarizer and HDR
For reference, this is the picture taken at +0ev, non-HDR, before cropping and before editing:
Note vignetting caused by the polarizer at 18mm
Nikon Cameras are capable of taking a three-shot-spread using a "Bracket" control, but being unfamiliar with the camera, I could not get the control to work. Instead, I bracketed manually, using exposure compensation. This meant about 20 seconds between exposures, while I fiddled with the controls. This was enough for the clouds to ghost, which they promptly did.
This is not visible in the camera's preview (I do not use the camera's internal HDR), but I was confident of the failure as I was taking the photographs -- and this is why I only took 2 HDR series that day.
HDR Horizontal View
As expected, the second HDR, taken about 5 meters down the cliff side, had the same problem.
I decided to fix the problem. At home, with the editor, I cut the sky from the +0ev, overlaying on top of the HDR. This meant the bottom-half of the photo was HDR while the top-half was not. This gave reasonably-good results and I might revisit and repair the first picture sometime this winter.
|+/- 1ev HDR|
Click for larger view
(0ev) f11 1/30 ISO 125 18-200 DX at 18mm, HDR
Colorized Black and White Version
Using a technique that Randal Davis, of Boise, Idaho, taught me, I thought it would be fun to make a black and white version of the photograph, then put the blue back into the river. It seemed a shame not to colorize the beautiful sky. The final picture was sad because if you didn't know better, the picture looks perfectly natural:
|Colorized black and white|
Click for larger view
Here were the assembly steps:
1. HDR the original three images
2. Cut and paste the sky from +0ev image; blended horizon
3. Duplicated base layer
4. Converted top-layer to B&W
5. Erased the river and sky, letting the colors bleed through the layers
6. Added a slight Neutral Density Graduation on the sky
Snake River Canyon and Swan Falls
The Swan Falls Dam and Power Plant, 40 miles South of Boise, Idaho, was built in 1901 to power the silver mines further south, in the Owhyee mountains and then later powered Caldwell and Pierce Park, west of Boise. The site is now a museum, and picnic area. The museum is open Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., between April 15 and Labor Day, or by appointment. Year-round, you can walk across the dam and hike various trails.
Several years ago, my brother and I jet-boated from Celebration Park, in Caldwell, Idaho, to the base of the dam. The area is popular for bass and sturgeon fishing. Reportedly, some Jet-boaters like to hit submerged rocks and sink their ships while making this journey.
|The Idaho Power "Swan Falls" power plant, seen from the rim|
This area hosts the Snake River Birds of Prey Wildlife Conservation Area, which is where most of these photos were taken. Seven miles before the dam you will find a short, well-marked trail that takes you to the rim, overlooking the river. The trail is only a few hundred yards long and is accessible year-round. Expect wind. If you go, please find and recover my black baseball cap, somewhere over the edge of the cliffs.
In good weather, you can stand at the top of the canyon and look down at soaring raptors as they ride the updrafts.
From Boise, drive west on I84, taking the Meridian and Kuna exit, 44.
At the interchange, drive South on highway 69. As you approach downtown Kuna, Idaho, note the Visitor Center and swing left, onto Swan Falls Road. Drive South for approximately 12 miles to reach the dam. The paved road is accessible year-round and the drive down the canyon is unusually steep. If the weather is nice, consider climbing the dirt trail to the top of Initial Point, which is about mid-way there.
Keyliner HDR techniques: Stanley Forest Burn