Every once in a while it all comes together. Dianne and I had been to Mt. Rainier National Park about 4 years ago and haven’t been back since. We stopped at one site and hiked into see the sights but I was not at all sure about where the place was when we got home after our trip. But the setting and my feeble attempts to photograph it stuck in my mind… vividly. The setting is a small stream flowing through a deep and highly constrained canyon. I remembered a short hike to the site, a bridge over the canyon and shooting downstream into the canyon. I know the picture from our first visit disappointed me due to branches on trees moving in the wind, bright spots on the left top of the canyon and inadequate sharpness overall. Bummer.
I took much of yesterday to explore the park again enroute to a job on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. My primary goals were to find the creek again and to do a better job of photographing the canyon. I enjoyed the scenery with thousands of others visiting the park as I worked my way to Stevens Canyon where I thought the stream and canyon were. Beautiful day although I wished for a few more puffy white clouds. I ate lunch by Reflection Lakes and thought about how fortunate I am to be able to sit there with time to spend and enjoy the sight. Soon I was on the road again and stopped whenever a scene yelled at me…”OVER HERE”. I was not relishing the thought of driving through Seattle at rush hour so I dallied along. Felt good.
I finally got to Box Canyon and pulled into the first parking area. Wrong. I had a nice hike through a picnic area and quickly found myself back at my car wondering about what others thought about the goofy guy with a camera and tripod wandering through the area. Whatever. I drove a bit further and found what I remembered from our previous trip. I grabbed the camera, tripod, 16-35 lens and a couple of filters and headed out. When I got to the bridge my first shots confirmed that I had the wrong lens. The bright light on the top of the canyon and the deep shadows 115 below were just too much for the wide angle. I needed to see into the canyon. I turned around and went back to the car and fitted the 70-200 on the camera and returned to the bridge. My first few shots didn’t stir me too much. What the heck? Hmmm. Bummer.
I walked over to the upstream side of the bridge and peered down into the depths. Man, it was dark down there but there was an interesting deposit of some wood and as my eyes adjusted I saw some really nice patterns in the rocks. I grabbed the tripod and set it up so the camera hung vertically over the stream and about 6 inches beyond the bridge rail. Yeah, I hung onto things pretty tightly until I got the balance and leg positions worked out. Amazingly, I was able to grab focus in the dark depths. Cool. I started composing and testing exposures. When I got the exposure set for a single shot I set the camera for a 7 shot HDR exposure bracket, caught focus, turned the camera to manual focus and got ready to shoot. As I was about to shoot I saw about 50 people from a tour bus descending on me. I knew that the exposure sequence would take about 2 minutes to get through so I went in a smiling, defensive mode. Protect your camera Bruce. Be nice to the people, Bruce. They’ll go away soon Bruce. Chat ’em up, Bruce. Make nice, Bruce. Yaddda, yadda, yadda.
When they left I waited a few seconds for the bridge to stabilize and pushed the cable release. After I counted 7 frames I relaxed, recomposed and did the whole thing again. The image below is the result from one sequence of shots processed in Photomatix Pro and Lightroom.
What do I love about this image? Well, most will scratch their heads about the image but I think it is marvelous. Perhaps I’m biased by the amount of work I know is behind the image. But I really like the stripes on the rocks and the soft flow of the water. I love the texture and clarity of the image. I love that I can see detail in the darkest shadow areas and in the brightest areas of the flow. I also love that you can rotate this image through a 360 degree circle and it looks just fine no matter what. The image below is actually rotated 90 degrees clockwise from the original capture. I did that to show the maximum size in this post. I’m just guessing that tomorrow I’ll see it printed at 13×19″. That is if I quit tinkering around with “pictures within the picture”, black and white and other variations.