One of my favorite places to visit in eastern Washington is Palouse Falls State Park. The scenery leading to the park is actually quite mundane with a few cattle grazing on land that doesn’t appear to have much grass. When you make the final descent into the park the vista that opens up in front of you is quite amazing with the deep canyon walls and of course the falls.
As much as I like to visit this area, it is one of the most difficult spots to photograph. You need to be there when the sun is high overhead so the the falls will be in light. At this time of day the light is very harsh and the canyon walls are still in shadows.
I have tried to create an HDR image in Photomatix to capture this high contrast scene but for me it never is quite right mainly because of the breezes that constantly move the mist around the falls and the slight movement in the grasses.
The image at the top of this post was processed with a few adjustments that I will describe to you. I feel it gives the best representation of the view that I see when I visit this area. Below is the image that I captured in camera as I exposed for the waterfall to retain the highlights.
The processing I used was very minimal but it did open up the necessary areas. I opened up the shadows a bit in Aperture to start with. Next I went to Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 and used the tonal contrast filter. This gave the image a little bit more pop and created for me the image that I had seen. I have shown the finished image again below so that you can see the comparison of before and after.
Visiting Palouse Falls is a must side trip if you are in the Palouse region. Just remember to go when the sun is high and plan your post processing as you capture your images.