Imaging the Bass Harbor Lighthouse - Acadia National Park
Photograph 1: Bass Harbor Light House - Bass Harbor, Acadia National Park
Copyright: Dennis Howe
Preparation for the Shoot
Bass Harbor Light House has always been a high priority shoot that I wanted to undertake. Last July, I traveled to Acadia National Park to accomplish that goal. My plan was to photograph the Lighthouse during the “golden hour” which would allow me to capture a picture that included warm, sun rimmed clouds and high drama.
The day was overcast with periodic grey clouds throughout the day. When I arrived, the clouds seemed to be breaking up. Despite the characteristics of that day, I traveled to the location (coordinates: 44.222316 -68.337334) around 6 pm to expect the worst and hope for the best. To prepare for all sorts of conditions, I brought my entire camera bag that included my Canon 5d Mark III and 6d Mark II and all associated lenses and filters.
When I arrived, to get to the rocks, featured in the photograph 1 (above), there is a long wooden staircase that had to be negotiated to get to the bottom. Once at the bottom of the stairs, large and small jagged boulders lined the shore which had to be negotiated to get to a good vantage point for the best composition. I expected to see several other people there, like myself, hoping to get an epic picture of the lighthouse. My expectations were exceeded as there were at least two dozen photographers and casual vacationers cautiously moving about the rocks for a vantage point.
I carefully traversed the boulders and made my way to a point that positioned me for an unobstructed view of the subject. However, other people were on the rocks to my left and right. One thing to point out here is that it’s important to get there an hour or so before the golden hour to obtain an acceptable view of the lighthouse.
I set my camera up on a sturdy tripod over uneven terrain and framed my subject, the lighthouse, in such a way to position it in the upper and right third of my viewfinder. This exposed the boulders and sea on the left side of the frame. At approximately 7:40 pm, the clouds had begun to break up, and sun had set behind the hill. This exposed all objects in my viewfinder lit by ambient light which is how I wanted it. However, the sunlit clouds and the dark shadows of the rocks left me with a very large dynamic range exposure.
Since I didn’t want to take any chances with my camera exposure, I decided to program my camera to bracket 7 images, one stop apart, to squeeze every bit of data from the scene that I could. My camera was set on aperture priority at f9, and my shutter speed ranged from 1/40 second to 1.6 seconds. For landscape images, f9 and f11 has alway produce sharp images when I focused on objects (the foreground boulders) approximately 1/3 up from the bottom of the frame. The median exposure was f9 and 1/5 second, which is displayed below at photograph 2. This image is the best averaged exposure of the seven images and looks just like it did when I downloaded it from the camera. This median image has the appearance of a blown out sky and black shadows in the rocks.
Photograph 2: High Dynamic Range of Median LIghthouse Image
Processing the Images
After capturing two sets of seven bracketed images, I packed up my camera and returned to my Lightroom to develop the images.
After processing the best set of seven stacked images in Lightroom, it produced a high dynamic range (HDR) image of evenly distributed light into one compact image. To render the final image, I tweaked the Lightroom controls (sliders) by:
1. Pushing “highlight” all the way left
2. Pushing “shadow” all the way right
3. Adjusting the “white” and “black” to maximize dynamic range
4. Adjusting “Temp” to slightly warm up the image
5. Tweaked “texture”, “clarity”, “dehaze”, “vibrance”, and “saturation” to taste, and
6. Employed selective dodging and burning using the “paintbrush”.
To satisfy my curiosity about how the Canon camera captured dynamic range in a single image, I processed the image (Photograph 2) without the aid of HDR. I was quite pleased to see the results (Photograph 3) of how wide the camera processor captures a wide dynamic range of light. This is a testament to the quality build of this line of cameras.
Photograph 3: Single Processed Image without HDR
Although both images are similar, I think the HDR version (Photograph 1) has a bit more detail. Let me know what you think. Leave me a comment using my contact information below:
Have fun shooting and thanks for looking.