Picture of the week

May 31, 2015

Smith Rock overlook

Smith Rock overlook

A sunset view of the Smith Rock gorge as carved by the Crooked River.  This state park is located in central Oregon and is a popular location with rock climbers that frequent these near vertical peaks. As with most of this region, the area is dominated by volcanic rock, with this location being especially majestic.  I camped at the bivouac camp geared for climbers inside the park, enabling more convenient photography for both sunset and sunrise.  Initially the clouds started to thicken up to the west about an hour before sunset, causing some concen that I would lose the good light.  But deciding to just wait it out, the clouds started to part enough to enable some ideal lighting for the last 20~30 minutes.

I passed through Smith Rock State Park as part of a 6 day trip through central Oregon and as far north as Portland, using the excuse of a 20 year reunion of the Intel P6 (aka Pentium Pro (tm)) processor staff and architecture team. Taking my Westfalia camper van, I camped most nights, and along the way I also hit the Painted Hills within the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Trillium Lake and the nearby Ramona Falls, a number of waterfalls within the Columbia River Gorge, and lastly the Lava Beds National Monument on the way home.  In addition to catching up and reminiscing with coworkers from the past, the trip was quite fruitful for photography, with many of the locations yielding some pleasing results with enough exploration and thought.

This picture above was captured with my Canon EOS 5D mark III with the EF 24-105mm f/4 lens at f/10, 1/25th second, at ISO 800.  Despite the use of my tripod, I decided to increase the ISO from what I normally shoot at (200 ~ 400) because of some wind that was causing some movement of the sulfur flowers in the foreground. I also used a polarizer to help better accentuate the colors, foregoing the use of my grad ND filters.  I ended up adjusting the exposure in Lightroom to better balance the exposure between the sky and the foreground that was in shadow.  Despite capturing a bracket of 3 different exposures, I was able to utilize just the nominal exposed shot for this processing. The dynamic range of the 5Dmk3 continues to impress me with the amount of detail I can bring out during the raw conversion under such lighting conditions.

Some select additional images shot at Smith Rock State Park are shown below.  The second image was one of the more difficult of this set to capture given the extreme differences in the lighting.  The irregular horizon did not lend itself for a grad ND filter, so I used a 3 bracket exposure in the capture.  But after not being happy with the HDR results as processed in Photomatix Pro, I decided to merge the three manually in Photoshop CS5, using masks to blend in the three different exposure levels.  I find this technique for me yields more realistic looking results that don't exhibit that more garish HDR look (see the Smith Rock State Park brochure image, ugh!).

The next morning I was met with a clear sky, so the photography was not as dramatic.  After shooting along the rivers edge and capturing some reflections of the pinnacles along the Crooked River, I noticed an Osprey hunting for fish as perched at the top of one of the adjacent pines.  Using my  go-to wildlife lens, the EF 100-400L f/4.5-5.6, I was able to capture a few images of the bird diving into the water.  Unfortunately for the osprey, he or she missed capturing any fish in the three different tries during my observations.  Eventually the eagle raised the ire of some red-winged blackbirds that decided to gang up and try to drive it away, evidently viewing it as a threat to their nesting environment.