Another trip to photograph on the Oregon Coast is on the horizon, and I am sitting at my computer reviewing some of the images from my trip last month. The image above was actually taken on my way home. We drove the McKenzie Highway for the first time last month, as it has always been closed on my other return trips. It is a very interesting drive, and if taken early morning or late evening I can imagine some spectacular photographs could be made. Photography is all about the light, and in the middle of the day in most places, the light is not ideal.
One stop that we made in the morning was at Proxy Falls. We arrived at the lower falls just before the sun made its way over the ridge, giving us great light for about thirty minutes. I did make some great images, which will be posted another day, but what I want to discuss today is the image above. As Christeena and I made our way from the lower falls to the upper falls, we hiked through this small area of thick trees, and the light seemed to be bouncing around and reflecting off trees and rocks in such a way as to create this nice golden color, something that I don’t see very often. Just a few minutes later and the angle of the light would be too high to create this look. It would become harsh and unattractive. Learning to recognize the subtle changes in light quality is a must for a successful photographer. Once able to recognize, we must then master our equipment so as to be able to capture the quality of light in our photographs. Often I will be set up beside other photographers who I notice have cameras set on auto and then bracket their exposures like crazy, hoping to get the image that they see in their minds eye. I, on the other hand, take my time, feeling the scene, setting the camera and making just a few exposures, knowing that I have what I need.
Light is what we work with. Light strikes a subject and bounces back to my lens and is focused on the camera sensor. Understanding the properties and physics of light cannot be over-emphasized. Without that knowledge, I never would have recognized what was happening on the hike to Proxy Falls, let alone know how to capture it. Due to the high contrast in the scene, this was a very difficult photograph to make. Sure, I could have just settled for what the camera thought would be good, but then the shadows would have been so dark that the nice detail in them would be lost. Rendered any brighter and the highlights would be so overpowering that the rich golden glow would become lost. Only a perfect exposure would capture what I needed in the file to make the perfect print. And perfect is what I got!