The Making of "Mossbrae Falls"

How the winning photo of the "Water" contest was made

By mikeSF in Photo Contests on Mar 25, 2022

"Mossbrae Falls"

Thank you so much for your nominations and votes in the February “Water” contest. When I saw the theme, I immediately recalled a trip I took years ago to Mossbrae Falls on the southern slope of Mount Shasta, California. This spot has a magical feel and is especially enchanting during the spring/summer snow melt from the mountain.

It was a 4.5 hour drive due north from my home. After a tricky hike along a dangerous active railroad track (not advised), I began to hear the increasing roar of rushing water, and dropped down into the valley to look for the falls. I found myself completely alone for several hours in the presence of this massive wall of greenery and water. It is really a sight to behold. Here is a short video showing how wide the falls are: 

 I first treated myself to a morning swim in the freezing cold water. Then, unpacked the Pentax K-5 and got down to business. Walking the scene, I shot a few test comps (click images to enlarge):

I decided on my smc Pentax-FA 31mm Limited and framed up just a portion of the scene to extract a tight composition, contrasting the smooth moving water against a textured field of moss and lichen covered rock. A 3-sec shutter was enough to blur the water sufficiently to coax a dreamy quality from the scene. I captured two exposures, 0EV (spot metered for the foliage), and a -1.5 EV to ensure the brighter water streams were not overexposed.

In post, I combined both images as an HDR tone map using Photoshop, pulling down the brighter water values and pushing up the darks. I had captured my frames using AUTO white balance, which was not ideal for shady nor overly green scenes; the camera shifted the white point toward red/yellow. I manually corrected this and then further pushed the overall white balance cooler to enhance the deep greens that I experienced. Other final adjustments included a saturation increase to further enhance the mystical feel. That's it!

- Mike (mikeSF)

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