A few days ago, I visited an area in west central Arkansas called Natural Dam. The dam traverses the width of Mountain Fork Creek and is so perfectly formed that it appears to be man-made. However, as the name implies, it is a completely natural dam. Unfortunately, this part of the state hasn’t gotten a lot of rain this year, so when I got to the dam, the falls were not flowing as strongly as I had seen in other photographs. But I didn’t let that deter me. Of course, the nice weather had also encouraged other people to come out to enjoy a swim in the creek and play in the falls. There were several instances where I either had to wait for them to move out of my shot or try to find shooting angles that let me hide the swimmers and get the shot I wanted. Since patience has never been one of my virtues, I quickly became annoyed. But I persevered and came away with a number of nice photographs of the dam and waterfalls.
The image above is one of my favorite shots from my visit. What I like about the image is the contrast between the cool blue tones in the water and the warmer yellow of the sunlight on the trees in the background. However, capturing an image with this kind of contrast can be tricky. In this situation, a choice has to be made: expose for the shaded area of the falls or exposed for the sunlit trees. The decision comes down to what is the most important part of the scene you want to capture.
In this case, my subject was the dam and falls, but I knew the brighter trees would influence the meter to underexpose my subject. This was fine because I knew that would help keep the trees from being overexposed, and, because I shoot in RAW mode, I could lighten the foreground in Lightroom. And that’s exactly what I had to do by moving the shadows slider to the right. The trees were still slightly overexposed, but I was able to bring back the detail by moving the highlights slider to the left and using the graduated filter feature. I then boosted the vibrance and saturation slightly.
Settings: Canon 5D Mk II, 105mm, 1/5 sec, f/22