This past Sunday, October 27th, I made an early morning visit to the Great Falls National Park located in Virginia. The falls are able to be seen from both the Maryland side of the Potomac River but the Virginia is much more photogenic. I woke up around 4:00 AM and headed out hoping to arrive 30 minutes before the sun was suppose to rise at 7:30 AM. There was hardly any traffic on the roads at this time which made the trip there pretty easy. I had plenty of coffee running through my veins by the time I got there and was ready to start shooting. I arrived right around 7:00 AM and there were already a few other photographers there. The nice thing about this park is that each of the three overlooks are all within a five minute walk from the visitor’s center parking lot. I started out at overlook 1 and made my way to the other two spots before leaving around 8:30 AM when the sun began to get a little too harsh. I made it back home in Pennsylvania right around 11:00 AM with plenty of time to take care of family things like cleaning the house and exercising the dogs. All through the day I couldn’t wait to load up my images and start processing them to see what I was able to get.
The above image is my top pick from this trip. The view is from the second overlook slightly after the sun broke over the top of the tree line. I shot 4 horizontally oriented brackets of -2, 0 and +2. I first took the far right set of three exposures into Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 to combine them into a HDR image. I wanted to start with the sun instead of the other side so I could base my recipe off of the area with the most dynamic range of light. I then applied this saved recipe to the other three sets of exposures. After I had all of my images merged together I took them into Photoshop and created the panoramic image. I unfortanely did not have enough of scene from my four shots as you can see below (Pano-1). I had to clone in some rocks from another part of the image to clean up the blank area (Pano-2). Then after I felt the rocks looked presentable I started the tedious work of cleaning up a ugly tree which broke up the water at the lower center of the image (Pano-3). This process of removing the tree branches was easily the most time consuming of my workflow. After the tree branches and other various ugly specks were cleaned up I finally took the resulting image into Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and added a tonal contrast to the tree line above the rocks. I also added some sharpening by using Nik Sharpener Pro 3 again mainly focusing on the tree line. Lastly I darkened some of the rocks on the bottom of the image and the bright yellow tree on the left side of the frame by using the burn tool in Photoshop (Pano-4 or the image at the top of this post). All in all I probably spent a good 6-8 hours working on this image, but I totally feel it all paid off.
Two more photos from my trip are below. Both of these were taken from first overlook.