Oak lined drive to Wormsloe Plantation
During my recent visit to Georgia and South Carolina, I knew I had to capture a quintessential southern style shot of a road lined with Oaks, dripping in Spanish Moss. After a bit of research I found Wormsloe Plantation, right in Savannah Georgia. This drive is right near the main gate and there is a $10 fee per person, even if you just want to take photos of the road.

To shoot this photo I used a Nikon D800, with a 16-35mm f/4 lens @35mm, f/8, ISO 100, 1/6 sec, on a tripod. It was taken on a fairly overcast day closer to sunset so conditions weren’t necessarily ideal. Sadly the plantation opens after sunrise and closes before sunset so you have to work around this schedule. As with most photos, it’s best to shoot at sunset or sunrise but an overcast day actually proves advantageous as you avoid the harsh highlights on the leaves that sunlight creates and you also get more saturation out of the moss. The key to most shots of tree lined roads is to use a mid-wide to mid-telephoto focal length (35mm+ but around 70mm is typically best) even though the initial inclination is towards a wide angle. For this photo I took 5 exposures, 1 stop apart and processed it gently in Photomatix 4.1 using Tone Mapping in Tone Compressor mode. I later took a similar shot at a different location and simply hand blended two exposures in Photoshop so 5 stop bracketing, or even HDR for that matter isn’t really necessary for achieving an effective image. Once the image came out of Photomatix, I brought it into Lightroom 4, did some perspective correction and cropping, then off to Photoshop CS6. In Photoshop, the key things that were done include a levels and curves adjustment, sharpening with Smart Sharpen, color adjustment via Selective Color to bring back some of the original color and finally a whole lot of dodging and burning. To demonstrate how integral the dodge and burn was to the final image, see the pre dodge/burn image below:

As you can see the mood of the image is completely changed when compared to the final image above by toning down the brightness of the surrounding forest and punching up the highlights in the moss. The downside is that the dodge and burn took over an hour and requires a fair bit of precision and patience. The photo was then finished off using the Pro Contrast and Tonal Contrast filters in Color Efex Pro 4 and sent back to Lightroom.

If you’re in the area and the conditions are right, I highly recommend visiting this quintessential Southern spot.