Date Taken: 09/28/2014
Location: Graveyard Fields (milepost 418)
An early autumn scene taken on the Yellowstone Prong of the Pigeon River, inside Graveyard Fields, Milepost 418
Camera: Nikon D70s
Lens: Tokina AT-X Pro 12-24
Focal Length: 12mm (equivalent to 18mm full frame)
Shutter: 1/4 second
Filters: circular polarizer
Exposure: Aperture Priority
How I Got This Shot: I was presented with a few challenges as I headed out to check out the early fall color at Graveyard Fields: first, the battery in my main camera died as I shot images at the lower falls, but thankfully I had a backup, an ancient Nikon D70s (a ten year old, 6.1 megapixel camera, but megapixels aren’t everything!). Secondly, I had accidentally left my graduated neutral density filters at a nearby overlook on the Parkway (fortunately they were still there when I returned). Next, the cloud cover that had made shooting the lower falls fairly easy had begun to break up, meaning the overall lighting would be a bit tougher to harness as I set up on the river.
I wanted to try a different take on the Yellowstone Prong than the usual shots I’ve seen, so I set up close to the top of the lower falls, facing the foot bridge and the already colorful foliage that surrounded the river. I set up my tripod and camera on a dry spot, rotating the circular polarizer on my lens to remove the glare from the water. I shot at the widest focal length my lens would allow – 12mm, which allowed me to stand closer and frame the boulders on either side of the river, using them as leading lines. The distortion of the 12mm focal length elongated the boulders and “pulled” them towards the focal point of the image, the foliage surrounding the river.
I generally don’t shoot landscape images past f/11 unless there’s a long exposure with water involved – lens diffraction tends to creep in at shorter apertures, reducing image sharpness – but my choice to shoot at f/22 didn’t hurt me here fortunately. I wanted to capture the movement of the water at right center, which shows up well in the full resolution image.
In the original RAW image, the sky was slightly blown (this is where the graduated neutral density filter would have been helpful had I not left it at the overlook), but I was able to pull back the highlights in post-processing using the adjustment brush in Lightroom. A luminance and saturation boost also helped the colors I saw emerge from the RAW file.
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