I found this picture, taken from the base of Niagara Falls on the Canada side, that I hadn’t processed before. I think I tried in the past but couldn’t get it to come together. It did take a lot of time masking in different photos and adjusting contrasts to get it looking like this. Swirling mist doesn’t make for the best shooting conditions.
Niagara is a bit of an odd place. It’s an unashamed, huge, neon tourist trap stuck on the landscape next to a natural wonder. It’s definitely a different experience than that of visiting Victoria Falls. At Victoria, I watched a taxi driver aggressively chase away an angry looking baboon that had crashed down on the hood of his car and blocked my path. At the same time though, there is some sort of charm to Niagara’s dated gaudiness.
If you’re interested in finding this “secret” viewpoint, I provide a few clues as to its location in Niagara Skyline. It’s a pretty cool spot to find, even if you’re not looking to photograph the area. It’s definitely a different view compared to what most visitors to the falls get to see. Once up there I decided I had to try to capture the whole scene. So, I framed up four different shots and bracketed each for HDR. I wasn’t positive at the time how I’d go about stitching them together.
It turned out it was pretty involved. I had a total of 28 photographs to work with. These 28 images could have produced 4 HDR photographs to then stitch together. This approach caused me all sorts of problems with ghosting. Another significant problem was setting the sliders in Photomatix so that they’d be optimized for all four images. I kept ending up with dark areas in the final result. So, I changed my tactic.
In order to get this to work, I wound up grouping the exposures for each image together – meaning that i had seven sets of four images ranging from -3 stops to +3 stops. I stitched each of these together to create 7 huge images that I could then run through Photomatix. Unfortunately, this pushed the limits of my computer’s capabilities and I kept encountering error messages due to insufficient memory. I had been trying to use Photomatix’s deghosting tool to clean up people and vehicles that had moved through the frame. Eventually, I decided I’d have to do this in Photoshop after producing the tone mapped image. This reduced workload appeased my computer, and I had an HDR image to work with!
I went into Photoshop and layered the seven original exposures under the tone mapped image and masked away any ghosting I could find. It was pretty time-consuming and I’ve spent ages trying to figure out how to do it, but I’m happy with the results. I’ll be producing more stitched panoramic images going forward. I’ve got an idea for another shot at the top of Horseshoe Bay using this technique. I’ll give it a try once the weather decides to behave itself again.
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I saw a great photo of the falls lit up at night and decided to come back to take advantage of this opportunity. When I got there I discovered that the spray that had drenched my camera, when I was at the base of the falls, was so thick that the spotlights couldn’t reach the falls. It still looked pretty cool watching the lights in the swirling mist and I enjoyed finding ways to photograph them. The Skylon was positioned pretty perfectly for me to get a shot of these spots with it in the background.
Before going to Toronto I wondered how my experience at Niagara Falls would compare to visiting the Victoria Falls in Zambia. It’s definitely different. The falls are equally impressive, but there’s much more concrete around them… and safety rails. There were a few that I desperately wanted to climb over but decided I didn’t feel like getting arrested. The whole place is very cheesy with its tourist attractions, replica CN tower and casino. But I kind of liked it. It was so over the top it was interesting, and I probably would have liked to spend more time there.
There was a lot of luck involved in this shot. The limitations on access to the falls (that safety stuff) was frustrating me as I was searching out an angle on the falls that would allow for a shot a bit out of the ordinary. As part of this attempt I was taking a photo of a section of the falls through a vine-covered doorway. I’m not sure that photo will ever see the light of day as the concept may have been a bit better than the reality. But, as I fiddled with my tripod trying to find the right angle a man I later found out was named Jay started chatting with me. Then, he told me about a somewhat secret viewpoint on the balcony of the hotel restaurant behind me. At this point I realized Jay was wearing chef whites and asked if he worked there. Sure enough he did. 5 minutes later I was stood on a tiny balcony outside the restaurant with this view in front of me. Then, I saw these five puffy white clouds drifting across the sky into a perfect position.