Superior Falls

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Superior Falls

The approach to Superior Falls is hardly auspicious. It’s on the site of an hydroelectric dam so you’ll see the inevitable trappings of a modest industrial site as you arrive. An upper viewing area is somewhat obscured by a tall chain link fence–understandably so since a misstep would send you over a precipice. A very rough, steep, and slippery concrete path leads down to the Montreal River below the falls, just a few yards from Lake Superior. You have to backtrack upstream a few hundred yards past the dam’s powerhouse to see the falls.

What awaits is truly a stunningly beautiful sight. Superior Falls flows over the lower lip of an immense stone amphitheater. You’ve got to shimmy around a narrow stone ledge to enter the amphitheater itself, but it is worth the effort.

I arrived on a bright fall afternoon. The left half of the scene was in full sun and the right in deep shadow. I knew I would not be able to capture the vast brightness range in a single exposure, so I took a series. I set my camera on manual, the aperture at f/8, and then took five shots varying the shutter speed from 1/20 to 1/160 second.

Back in my studio I found that the middle shot of this series, an exposure of f/8 at 1/50 second, was a good base for working with this image. By adjusting the shadows and highlights in Adobe Camera Raw, I was able to accomplish most of what was needed to make the image express itself to it’s full potential. But the sky remained somewhat washed out, and I wanted more detail.

I found that the sky in the last photo in the series, f/8 at 1/160 second, was perfect for my purposes. So I opened the two shots in Adobe Photoshop, and dragged the photo that was my base onto the photo exposed for the sky, to create a layered image. I then used Photoshop’s eraser tool to erase portions of the overlying image and let the darker sky show through. I used a large 1000 px eraser, set to a hardness of only 50%, and an opacity of just 25%, so that the edges of erased portion would be soft and I could build up the effect with multiple passes. I fully erased the portion over the sky, and partially erased the portion over the sunlit bluff to darken it just a bit.

Here are the two images I combined to create the final image above:

Superior Falls Fall ExposureSuperior Falls Sky Exposure


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