My previous posting of the Box Canyon HDR image, along with comments and reactions to a print of the image, resulted in a general sense that people are confused and distracted by the image. Maybe that’s a good thing but it is generally not what I’m after. Personally, I still love the image and it will remain in my list of favorites so far for 2010. The image below is a more popular view of Box Canyon and one that I saw about 50 people take while they visited the area during the time I was there.
While this image gives you a more clear idea of the setting, the flowing water is still highly blurred due to the combination of long exposure images. Why long exposures? It is really dark in the canyon and if I showed you a “true” image it would be pretty black and without detail. The combination of 9 files in an HDR product allows us to see detail across the range of luminance values in the scene. Your eye and brain can make this work while on-site… if you allow yourself enough time to let your eyes adjust to the darkness. That’s really challenging in reality since the slopes at the top of the canyon were extremely bright.
This shot has all sorts of issues for me. First, there’s the bright spot on the rocks on the left hand side of the canyon near the top of the image. I waited for about 20 minutes for the sun to move enough to eliminate that spot since I knew it would be impossible to expose for it and the dark shadows of the lower canyon walls. That range of luminance is what started me taking images to produce HDR composites rather than trying to catch it all in one frame. I ran out of patience and I resorted to HDR creation. I know that the spot would have disappeared sometime but I was not willing to wait it out.
Next issue is the cedar branch in the foreground. The long exposures of the shots produced movement in the branches and blur in the final image. That just can’t be helped unless you happen to be there on the truly rare day when there is no breeze. And the branches are masses of clutter in the image. The result was to use a longer focal length to shoot beyond the branches and into the canyon itself. That leads to my final approach of shooting straight down from the opposite side of the bridge and incorporating the debris to break up the flow of the water.
The evolution of my thought process, such as it was, lead me to try to find a composition that did away with the clutter, provided high level of detail in the water-worn rocks and showed extreme blur in the flowing water. The image in the previous post is absolutely tack sharp except for the water. While it lacks the context of the canyon walls and riparian vegetation that give viewers clues as to what they are looking at, I think the abstract nature fits my reaction to the scene much better than the shot above. Yeah, I’m going to keep the previous, confusing image in my collection of favorites. Say what you will.