Week of Dec 10 - Photo of the Week, Gorge Waterfall

December 10, 2023  |  Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
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Canon R5 - EF 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 34mm - f/16 - 1/4 of a second - ISO 400 (2 frame blend for dynamic range)

Like many families, we are busy; time can easily slip by before we realize there's been a longer gap than we intend for a trip or break, even a short one, to recharge as a couple or a family. This photo comes from one of those outings. In fall 2022, while my wife had a week off during a transition to a new job, we got out together, especially while we had some favorable weather for outdoor excursions.

One of the hikes we did brought us to Wahclella Falls. Given it was during the week, the trail was pretty quiet, which is excellent for a place like this. On a busy summer or weekend day, you might be hard-pressed to take an expansive view of this scene without people in it. Of course, summer is my least favorite time in the Gorge photographically, so I am glad that is when it's usually the busiest. This was also my first visit to Wahclella since the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire. I thought I had been back once since then, yet I do not see any photos in my inventory, so it's possible it was a hike in and out with nothing catching my eye type of outing. I do have those on occasion.

As for the photo, it took a little more work to get something out of it that I was happy with. The final master file has 14 layers with different processing changes throughout the frame. Almost all the processing for this file was done on the layers in Photoshop with hardly anything in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). One comparison worth calling out is how much the right colors, and in this case, warmth, make a notable difference to what the viewer will feel.

Take the photo below on the left. The viewer would see it with processing only focused on light (levels, burning, dodging, etc). The photo on the right is with the four layers I used encompassing color, a combination of the Color Balance and Color Grading tools. I would say those are my two most utilized tools in Photoshop to isolate areas in a photo to adjust the color. Can you see the warmth that comes through in the photo on the right? That is how I felt on this bright, sunny fall day and what I wanted to bring out in the viewing experience. Similar to luminosity, the colors in a raw file are rarely what I envision for my work, which means processing is needed to get the colors how I want them to look.

The warm yellow/orange and the cool blue/teal work well together. They complement each other. While not on completely opposite sides of the color wheel, they are further apart than what is in the first photo. Even though I don't subscribe to any "rules" (even with color), I tend to look for and process in a way where the differing colors complement each other. They can also be referred to as opposite colors. For example, you can see in standard processing tools that include a color wheel that yellow and blue are opposite each other. In the case of this photo, I prefer the warm vs cool color combo, which comes full circle to why I processed it to look how it does on the right.

The yellow and warmth in the final photo isn't over the top and likely something a viewer wouldn't have even thought was changed much in the process. When comparing to the colors from the raw file, you can see how it changed during development. For now, this piece is "complete," yet like any work, a visit to the file in the future could result in a different piece. Often, an artist's work is never finished, only paused at the point all feels complete in the moment.

"Each step forward is more difficult and I feel less and less free...until I finally conclude there's nothing left to do" - Gerhard Richter