Starved Rock State Park, Illinois: Ottawa Canyon Autumn – Focus Bracketing

This the next to the last in a series of posts on Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois. The park is about 2 hours away from Chicago.

It’s almost time to explore another place in depth. Death Valley National Park California is one of my choices. I have lots of images to choose from. Finding time to write that’s the issue.

I took these image the first week in last week of October of 2017. They are from Ottawa Canyon.

Feature Image Details

HDR Explanation

This is a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image. I blended the image manually using tools first in Lightroom, then Photoshop. Here is a vertical of the same scene.

In the second image, I am literally just a few inches away from the large foreground. Even at F16, a second issue comes into play: The foreground and the background will not both be extremely sharp. I took several images of the foreground using focus-bracketing (focused on different spots with the same exposure), and another set of images of the background at various exposures.

I have had better luck doing many of these types of composites myself rather than using HDR merge in Lightroom or Photoshop.

I typically strive to use two images. The fewer images one needs the less problematic things are, especially when there is anything in the image that may move. In this case, I am talking about trees blowing in the wind. The rocks don’t move, and I did use only one exposure of the distant background.

Focus Bracketing Technique 

The primary difficulty with focus-bracketing is the image magnification changes as you change focus. You can have too few images but you cannot have too many.  I used three of the focus-bracketed images.

One of the focus-bracketed images was on the far rim of the overhang which is also where the background focus was placed. That way edges line up.

I had to do some playing around with the foreground to get the merge to work.


If you visit the area, I highly recommend staying at the park lodge. The loge fills up way in advance in Autumn and may be full other times as well. Many other hotels are nearby.


Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

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Starved Rock State Park Articles

I have one more Starved Rock Autumn post to make, then it will be time to move on. I will return later for frozen waterfalls.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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