1,000 Words (or less): Dells of the Eau Claire, Wisconsin

5-image panoramic of the dells of the eau claire river.

I've lived in central Wisconsin for about 7 months now, and just a few days ago learned about the Dells of the Eau Claire Park. The park, located about 25 miles east of Wausau, covers 190 acres of forested land split by the Eau Claire River. The river is dammed, with swimming holes upstream and turbulent rapids below. 

I set my alarm for 4:03 AM, slept in until 4:30 or so, and was on the road by 4:50. On the drive to the park I witnessed the lovely pinks and oranges of a spring time sunrise, which of course faded away right as I pulled into the parking lot. The past month or so has been very wet, with more rain expected in the morning. Low, gray clouds rolled in, blanketing the park with not-so-photogenic light. I, however, had a secret trick up my sleeve: my infrared-converted Canon T3i. It was the first DSLR I owned, and after buying a fancier model (7D Mark II), I decided to ship off my trusty old T3i to be converted to take photos in infrared. The result, as I've found, is that when conditions are gray, overcast, and otherwise not conducive to bright, vibrant colors, the infrared camera picks up contrast and can be used to create outstanding black and white photography.

Clambering up and down the wet, slippery rocks to find the perfect spot, I eventually settled on a rocky outcrop about ten feet above the rapids looking downstream as the river bends out of sight. Wanting to capture the breadth of the rapids and the numerous islands and rocks poking through the water, I grabbed my widest angled lens - a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8. The Tokina is a truly fantastic lens; it's wide aperture is ideal for nighttime and astrophotography, and at 11mm you can get very close to a subject while still being able to photograph it. Set at 11mm, f/16, and with a 1/4 second exposure, I took a series of five pictures (with plenty of overlap for accurate stitching later) which covered the scene from riverbank to riverbank. 

One problem that I did not consider at the time, and didn't even notice until I stitched the images together, was that water moves. And when water moves and you stitch images together, you get very noticeable lines where said images were stitched. Whoops. I typically try to keep my editing to a bare minimum - I strongly believe in creating photography that showcases the scene as it was; no adding in fake sunrises to compensate for a poor sunrise, no compositing in features that otherwise aren't present. However, in this case I felt safe using Photoshop's clone stamp tool (the first time I had ever used it, actually), in order to blend the water from separate images to make those nasty seams disappear. Try to find where the photos were stitched!

The Dells of the Eau Claire is really an amazing park, and if you're ever in central Wisconsin you should absolutely go to see it, especially when the water is high and the rapids are flowing powerfully over the many rocks that dot the river. 

In a few days I'll be heading off for a 5 day trip to Isle Royale National Park to hike the Minong Trail and, hopefully, capture some fun and exciting photographs. Stay tuned for more!


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