Occasionally, when I have photos posing a processing challenge, I resort to using DxO OpticsPro 11. The program is excellent at post-processing photos, but I seldom use it because it is more time consuming than other software I have. In part, this is because DxO is a subtle and sensitive manipulator of RAW images. It’s what makes it such a capable post-processor.
The above is the as-shot RAW file from my July 16th foray into capturing some of the sights and scenes of Saddle Road. Before I talk about Saddle Road, let me point out the difficulty of the above shot. Sunny sky, bright clouds, backlit subject in the shade, and lava.
I typically spot-meter the bright portion but do so close to the darker area. I do that because it’s easier to bring out detail from underexposed areas than coax any details from blown-out highlights. Lighting the underexposed areas usually produces artifacts (noise) that while controllable, degrades the details of the photos. DxO does a great job of bringing out the details and managing the noise. It almost makes me look like a capable photographer.
The following is the end result after processing the original with DxO, adding the frame (dark line) using OnOne, and gently tweaking the final product using lightroom.
All of the photos in this post were processed with DxO before anything else was done to them, like, for instance, stitching them into panoramas using Photoshop. It’s not that all the photos required it, but since I was doing a number of them in DxO, I did them all.
As usual, you can click on individual photos and a larger version will open up in a new tab or window. To see the original size photo, go to the SmugMug Gallery HERE. Be aware that while I usually post photos in the order they were taken, some of these are out of order to fit the narrative and for clarity.
So, here we go . . . Saddle Road.
My first exposure to Saddle Road was when we first visited the Big Island on our own and picked up the rental car. The rental agreement had the usual legalese that no one reads but it also contained restrictions the clerk made sure I saw. Along with the usual (eg. don’t drive naked unless you put down a towel; don’t sleep while driving; don’t use the car as a boat; don’t use the car to carry livestock), there was this:
Have you ever seen a bullfight? They wave this red cape in front of the bull, goading it to attack. It works the same way when people tell me I can’t do something. I, naturally and all innocent-like, asked “Why the heck not? They are roads, right?”
“They are dangerous roads accessible only to experienced and fearless drivers.”
Like I said, red cape, bull.
Here’s the thing . . . I had good maps. I could see there were roads shooting off from those roads. Also, the Internet was already a thing by then, and although crude, I did have access to satellite photos of the areas. People lived off those roads.
Having experienced first hand the skill of local drivers (over twenty years later, I’m still not impressed), I figured that if they could drive those roads, well, by golly, being a driver extraordinaire, so could I.
And, drivable they were, offering interesting vistas and experiences I still treasure. Those roads are now greatly improved, and the restriction on Saddle Road has been lifted (they still want rental cars to stay off South Point Road, something that everyone cheerfully ignores). Since we’ve been here, we must have traveled on Saddle Road some twenty times or more, and each time, I promise myself I will make a specific trip just to shoot some photos. On July 26th, I did just that.
There is a particular area I wanted to get to. Mind you, there are many areas on that road that will merit their own posts, but for now, this area . . .
Wait . . . that is the unaltered RAW file. Here is the processed file.
This area is particularly amazing after a rain as the lava appears much darker when wet and the contrast to the vegetation is stark. Still, this was a pretty good day, if a bit too bright. Where are we? Here:
That scenic area is little more than a slightly wider shoulder and you can see the little tree that I show in the opening photo. This tree:
Notice all that red groundcover.
If you climb the little mound and stand next to the tree, this is what you see:
If you then snap about eleven photos and stitch them all together, you get this 270º panorama view.
If you have a fast Internet hookup, you can click HERE to get the full-size version of the file (18 MB).
Saddle road passes between Mana Loa (on the left in the above photo) and Mana Kea (on the right in the above photo).
This is what the groundcover looks like.
Did you see the bee? I’ll get back to that. Right now, I want to show these tiny, very tiny, flowers.
When I say tiny, I mean maybe three to four millimeters across. Very easy to miss unless you get down there to photograph a bee.
The bee is also easy to miss unless you get down there to photograph these pink flowers.
By the way, I looked at a number of resources and have found neither of these flowers. I’m tempted to name them as new species, but I’m betting someone has already claimed credit.
Here’s the bee . . .
Here are both the flower and the even smaller bud . . .
And here’s what I think is a pretty good sequence of bee photos . . .
A bit up the road (heading back toward Kona) one passes by the Mauna Kea Access Road. If one turns on that road, as one did, one could go up to the Visitor Information Station. The station is at the 9,200 ft. elevation and it serves as a place to acclimate visitors to the high altitude before heading up to the summit at 14,000 ft. or just shy of Pikes Peak’s elevation.
Mauna Kea used to have weekly escorted tours, but those are on hold indefinitely . . . but, you can still get a tour if you are a resident (which we now are). You need to make reservations and one needs to be quick to call as soon as the reservation time-window opens at the beginning of each month. We’ll be doing that one of these months.
We just drove up to the visitor center. On the way down, if someone pulls off here:
. . . one could get these shots . . .
These were taken at around 8,858 feet in elevation. And, if one chooses to do so, one could take a number of shots to get a panorama . . .
If you have a fast Internet hookup, you can click HERE to get the full-size version of the file (15 MB). That’s Mana Loa in the background.
This photo . . .
Did not turn out very well and I could not salvage it . . . so I turned into a B&W offering.
Just before getting back to Saddle Road, we passed an abandoned post. The disrepair of the structures offered what I thought were decent photo opportunities.
By the way, here’s another example of the original file . . .
. . . with its sun-washed colors and nearly-blown highlights, and the DxO processed version . . .
Here are the rest of the photos of that series . . .
Once back on Saddle Road, I kept going toward two trees I’ve had my eye on. But, before we got there, I snapped a couple of more photos.
Yes, even here, garbage lines the road. Not as much as other places, probably because the strong winds blow it into the surrounding lava fields. The second of the above shots was interesting for the play of light and shadow, grass and rocks, and because it amused me.
So, here’s the first of the trees that caught my eye.
And, this is the second tree.
Both these trees can be seen from the street view in Google Maps or Google Earth. The only change is that rather than the temporary fence one sees in the 2011 photos, they now have a metal fence lining the road.
Of the two, the second tree held more of my interest, mostly because the first was backlit and difficult to photograph.
I’m not sure if the rest of the wood on the ground is part of the same tree or if it’s a separate tree, or if it’s a system of roots, now dead. Here’s a panorama to show what it looks like.
If you have a fast Internet hookup, you can click HERE to get the full-size version of the file (15 MB).
The right-most photo forming that sequence shows the Pu’u Huluhulu Cinder Cone (the one on Saddle Road, not the cone by the same name in Volcano National Park)
That’s a subject for another post.
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