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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Karma, Statistics, Repetition and God’s Plan or, Even More Eagle Creek Images

This is Yolanta (not her real name). She’s from Kazakhstan (No, she isn’t). I know what you’re thinking. “Poor girl!” you worry, “With looks like that, how will she ever acquire a husband?” Fortunately for Yolanta, they still have arranged marriages where she comes from. 

When my car engine blew up, Yolanta was kind enough to give me a ride to and from work until I was able to get it fixed (we work at the same company). She refused to take money for gas but eventually agreed to take one of my photographs instead.

This was the photograph she originally chose. It’s the punchbowl at Eagle Creek at the end of January in 2010.

I immediately had an enlargement made. But when I picked up the enlargement, I found the image to be unacceptably grainy.

In the figure below, the image on the left shows how the picture looked straight out of the camera. The image on the right shows how the picture (the one that Yolanta chose) looked after selective brightening and color saturation (I liked how brightening the water revealed details of the rocky river-bed). Since I typically use small-file-size/low resolution images for web content, this kind of picture manipulation didn’t appear to be causing any obvious degradation in quality… at least for web use. However, ordering a 12 x 18 inch enlargement showcased the ‘quality compromise’ I had not been aware I was making.

Click on image to view larger version

The enlargement (below) shows how ‘grain’ became much more noticeable in the brightened image.

And so began my quest to procure the ‘definitive picture’ of the Eagle Creek punch bowl for Yolanta lest the scales of Karma be irretrievably unbalanced.

In August of 2010, I took another hike up the Eagle Creek Trail, certain I could capture an image that Yolanta would like. I presented her with the following options: 

Option 1.  Tried to recreate the same picture as before but with more attention to the rocky riverbed. Used a longer exposure to cut down on distracting ripples. The reflection of the sky is distracting. 

Option 2. Tried to compose a shot without the distracting reflection in the foreground. Kind of felt like this angle creates an inviting sense of mystery…to wonder what is around the corner. Picked up on some emerald greens in the deep water and tried to emphasize them while post processing. 

Option 3. Tried to show the waterfall in its greater context.

Option 4.  Post processed this one to match the warm brown colors from the original January picture. 

Option 5. A slightly different angle revealing more canyon features.

She didn’t like any of them.

So I went back the following weekend to give it another shot. This time I was accompanied by fellow photo enthusiast Mr. T. 

Mr. T. displaying his bionic calves. 

Give an infinite number of cameras to an infinite number of monkeys, and pretty soon, one of them has got to take a decent picture of this waterfall. But that’s a pretty expensive way to do photography. 

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Tried some vertical compositions 

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                                          Scott-O-vision                   Mr. T

I find it very interesting to see how different people approach the same subject. 

 Photo credit: Mr. T.

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Photo credit: Mr. T. 

Mr. T. reviewed my pictures using the LCD screen on the back of my camera. “Why don’t you have any close-ups of the waterfall?” He asked. “After all, that’s what you came to take a picture of.”  He showed me his pictures which included this close-up (I find the blue tint un-natural so tried to eliminate it).

I didn’t really have an answer so I probably just stood there gasping like a fish for a while, wondering why it really didn’t even occur to me.

In retrospect, I guess it’s because I’ve taken quite a few waterfall pictures, and up close, it’s always the same idea – that is – without their context, they all look alike to me.

This time when I showed Yolanta all the pictures I’d taken, she picked this one -
just a throw-away shot of some un-named stream flowing into the creek.

I guess there’s a sermon in there somewhere – something about beauty arriving from unexpected directions.

click on image to view larger version
 Something about seeing every day with new eyes.

 Something about getting up early and taking that trail again…

 …because …


  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE the forth photo from the bottom.

  2. Now that I have some context, I can appreciate these pictures more. Plus I can say "I was there!".


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