“A return to splendor”
I really had to restrain myself from titling this one “Where the sun don’t shine.” This is the (in)famous Mossy Grotto Falls on Ruckel Creek (Columbia River Gorge, Oreegon), and this was during my first visit, which happened to be solo. This is one of the more verdant areas I’ve been to, and I can’t help but think my springtime visited was well-timed, with really amazing moss, some great-looking ferns, and very little visual evidence that others had recently visited.
Finding my way there wasn’t something I’d classify as “easy,” despite directions from photographers (I’m looking at you, Terence Lee) such as “take the trail that goes to the right” where there’s absolutely no obvious trail.
This off-trail portion didn’t so much require a willingness for adventure as much as a willingness to embrace poison oak with open arms. And ticks. Anyway, after I descended a fairly steep rocky chute with a bunch of loose rocks, downed trees and branches, and some vines, I made my way back to the creek, which I followed to this falls.
By this time it was mid-morning, so there was a fair amount of harsh lighting streaming in from the sun. This required two exposures–one that captured most of the dynamic range and another that was about three stops lower to re-collect the exceptionally bright highlights. After a couple of attempts, blending the exposures with luminosity masks proved to be too difficult, so I manually blended the exposures. Further post-processing mostly involved extensive contrast adjustments using luminosity masks. Finally I pulled out an unused and fairly underexposed frame so that I could mask in non-moving ferns in a couple of places, although for the most part this little grotto was breeze-free.