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Palouse Falls Night

Palouse Falls is a well known landmark in eastern Washington state, often photographed at sunset. I tried to photograph these falls in their natural amphitheate...
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Palouse Falls is a well known landmark in eastern Washington state, often photographed at sunset. I tried to photograph these falls in their natural amphitheater in a different light. I used a long exposure and painted the scene with a spotlight at night to highlight the falls and tone down the surrounding amphitheater.
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5 Comments | Report
andrevondeling January 05, 2019
Outstanding image! Well thought trough and very wel executed. To use Ansel Adams' words: you don't make a photograph you create one!
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billsisson January 05, 2019
thank you
MrJBond PRO+
MrJBond January 05, 2019
Stunning capture
tskye PRO+
tskye January 06, 2019
I recognized it right away. Great night shot!
ethanrighter February 10, 2019
Great shot!
Hood October 22, 2019

Behind The Lens

I took this photo at Palouse Falls State Park in eastern Washington State while on a cross-country photography trip. In order to get this image, I camped overnight at the state park. There were several other photographers also camping there overnight. Before I set out to do some night photography with light painting, I checked with the other photographers to make sure I would not be interfering with any photography they might be doing.
I captured this image a couple hours after sunset on an early May, moonless night. Palouse Falls plummets 200 feet in an enormous natural amphitheater with vertical rock walls. Especially because I am afraid of heights, during the afternoon I scouted a position at the top edge of the amphitheater to take photos. I mentally marked the exact location I wanted to place my tripod that evening, so that I could be as far back from the cliff edge as possible and still be able to capture good images. I also memorized the path to and from the location so I wouldn’t get lost in the dark. After dark I carefully walked by headlamp and set up at the predetermined spot. I took multiple images but spent as little time there as I could, since frankly I was scared working in that position.
I used a spotlight to light paint the falls and adjacent amphitheater walls. I envisioned an image that would highlight the white water and make the rock walls recede in comparison. Since it was very dark, the lighting was dependent completely on how well I light painted. I tried multiple times to get the lighting I wanted. For each image I took, I mentally counted how many seconds I painted each part of the scene and then adjusted the timing for each part as I captured more images. I also used a long exposure (30 seconds at ISO 800, f4.5) to give myself ample time to paint different parts of the scene. The long exposure also helped give a very soft feel to the plummeting water and spray. This was the best exposure in terms of light painting and shape of the white water and spray.
I used a Pentax K-1, Pentax 28-105 lens set at 28 mm, a Slik tripod, and a hand-held spotlight. And a lot of concentration on the work at hand to overcome my fear of heights.
I had been trying to develop my night photography skills, and had experimented with some light painting in my home state of Pennsylvania, including light painting several waterfalls in a similar fashion to this. I had also seen images of Palouse Falls on line, so I decided to visit there on my next cross-country trip. Although in a fairly remote location, Palouse Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the northwestern U.S. When I saw internet images of Palouse Falls, I also thought that this waterfall could be a good candidate for light painting at night. I envisioned this image months before I made this first visit to Palouse Falls.
In post-processing I burned and dodged the white water and rock walls to help highlight the water in contrast with the amphitheater walls. I also burned and dodged to even out some of the spot lighting I did. Overall, however, most of the look of this image was done in camera and with the spot light.
In my camera bag
I have one camera body, a Pentax K-1, three lenses (28-105, 150-450, and 14 mm lenses), a tripod and two ND filters. I purposely have kept my equipment to a minimum as I continually try to learn how to take better photos with the equipment I have rather than buying more equipment to possibly take better photos.
Keep trying to expand your photographic skills and horizons. Also do as much research as possible before you come to a landscape image. For this image I researched images and the topography of the falls as well as the sunset/moon timing before I set out on my trip. I kept track of the weather forecast as I neared my destination. I very carefully scouted a precise location, especially because safety was a big concern. I had practiced light painting before to better understand how to do it. And I pushed past my fear of heights to capture this image.

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