Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Oak Alley Plantation

Earlier this month the assignment for the Bay Area Photo Club was “Breaking Photographic Rules,” and I have to say I wish I had taken this shot in time for that night. This is Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana. Kim and I made a trip over to Louisiana this past weekend, touring a couple of plantations and gardens, and of course taking photos along the way. I found myself standing on the grounds of these majestic homes taking this same shot over and over. Honestly, how else can you say you’ve visited Oak Alley without taking this shot? I’m sure a fine art photographer would find some unique angle; but for me, straight in, locked down tight on a tripod was the rule for the day. There’s been much talk about HDR – high dynamic range – photography lately, many thinking it creates surreal imagery – for good and bad. Well, this is HDR – controlled to blending exposures only, no hyper-realism here. Trey Ratcliff, over on his Stuck in Customs blog, has a book about HDR coming out soon, and an excerpt he has on his site mentions that often greens are oversaturated in HDR. I’ve run into this a lot lately – especially in my shots of Virginia and Louisiana. So after merging my five frames in Photomatix here, I desaturated the greens in the foreground grass and increased the pink tones in the building and walkway. I also learned a valuable lesson about lens sharpness on this trip. I shot these frames at f/22 thinking I needed the added depth of field, but after comparing my f/8 shots with these, the f/8 shots were actually sharper. I had to do some extra sharpening to the plantation to get an acceptably sharp building. So, here it is – two weeks late – my breaking of photographic rules. Oak Alley the way every tourist shoots it – bullseyed right down the middle.


  1. And it is the perfect composition for the scene --- there is an exception to every rule, right? Very nice light here too. The HDR doesn't look too surreal, that must be why I like it. Interesting about the greens and whatever you did, it all works. What lens did you use? I would never think f8 was enough for the sharp mansion, I would think at least f16 so that is surprising also.

  2. Well done Steve!

    If I were at this location I wouldn't spend a single minute looking for a different angle to shoot from..this is THE shot at this location!

    Nice job on the HDR conversion!


  3. Lens was my 24-85 at 85mm. I would let it focus on the house, then turn off the autofocus and compose. So the differences in sharpness at f/22 vs f/8 I think are pretty real. The reason I used this f/22 shot was because it was done with cloud cover. Most of my other (f/8) shots were in full sun and had distracting shadows across the front lawn and path.

  4. I love the composition, lighting and not overly done HDR. This is a good example of what I like in a well done HDR.

    You might have tried to shoot this on a diagonal, but I don't think it would have the same impact as this one.

    Nice job.


  5. You did well. I like the image and the HDR was a good approach.

  6. The more I think about "breaking the rules", the more I think that there really are not many rules in photography. Here, I am like Barry, you could have tried 1,000 different positions for your camera, but, in the final analysis, there was only one place to put it--where you placed it.