Athabasca Falls, Jasper NP, Alberta, Canada by Randall Bresee

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Picture Story

Summer melt from glaciers in the Columbia Icefield fill the Athabasca River and fuel this waterfall into a powerful torrent of whitewater. This region was once inhabited by Athabasca Indians and rocks surrounding the falls seem to depict Indian faces keeping watch. To me, the rocks had a quiet, spiritual feeling that contrasted greatly with the powerful avalanche of water pouring over the falls.

Technically, this scene was challenging to photograph. The sun was located behind the falls and the water reflected bright light toward me. The reflected light was extremely bright compared to the shadowed rocks yet both areas needed much detail in the photograph. That is, details were necessary in the rocks to depict a calm, spiritual feeling whereas details were necessary in the water to depict the powerful rush of cascading whitewater. When I placed the shadowed rock areas on Zone III (dark gray with plenty of details), the brightest water areas fell on Zones IX-X (light gray with slight details - pure white with no details).

The strong contrast of the scene required an approach which avoided inadequate detail in dark areas, bright areas or both so I reduced image contrast two ways. First, I reduced contrast on the film by substantially decreasing the film's development time. Second, this image was recorded several years ago when I used orthochromatic film as well as panchromatic film. Ortho film is sensitive only to blue and green light whereas pan film is sensitive to red, blue and green. Since the bright water contained nearly equal amounts of red, blue and green but shadows contained more blue than red or green, ortho film was used to reduce the brightness of water reflections more than shadowed rock.


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