Friday, November 23, 2012

Elowah Falls

Elowah Falls is a stunning waterfall on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. Even though it is pretty easy to get to, and one of the more beautiful waterfalls in the area, it is relatively uncrowded. Most of the tourists are captured by the larger Multnomah Falls, and old US 30 funnels you back onto the interstate before you pass the trailhead for Elowah Falls. It's really only found by those looking for it. On this late August afternoon, I was the only person there. This falls is both intimate and majestic at the same time, falling 228 feet off sheer cliffs. On this day, the wind was ripping through the clearing, causing the waterfall to take some cool shapes. Most of the shots of Elowah are taken from further down the creek, shrouding the waterfall in foliage and making it look forested. I was downright shocked when I saw how wide open it was, and attempted to capture that aspect of its character here.

This image is a three image stitch, which was necessary because of the height of the waterfall and my closeness to the foreground. However, I had to approach the stitching differently than usual. Photoshop's panorama automerge feature kept trying to use pieces from the top and bottom photos for the majority of the waterfall. However, it was the middle photo in which the waterfall took on the awesome, wind-swept ribbon look. Try as I might, I couldn't get Photoshop to automatically sample the middle photo for the waterfall. So I had to a different route.

What I did was create a new image with each of the three photos as separate layers. Then, I did Edit > Auto-Align layers. This lines them up as best as possible, but makes no attempt to blend them smoothly. All of each layer is still in tact and visible. Then, I completely deleted the waterfall portion from both the top and bottom photos. Finally, I did Edit > Auto-Blend layers. This forces it to sample the waterfall portion I wanted. This is a useful method to ride herd on Photoshop's automerge function, when it's just not quite doing what you want. Sometimes there are little portions that don't line up quite perfectly, so make sure you check carefully. You might have to hand paint or clone stamp some portions to make it perfectly fluid. Still, it can save lots of time in getting the image you envisioned.

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