Although it was an overcast morning when I was photographing these rapids, an HDR was necessary to capture the whole dynamic range of the scene. Of course an overcast sky is easy to blow out but you’ll find that whitewater reflects so much light that it’s often completely blown out also. Or, if you’re letting your camera choose your exposure and your subject is anything other than the whitewater, your subject will likely be way underexposed. There are still a few tiny portions of my image which are blown out but it wasn’t my goal to prevent that — it was just to present the image in a way which more represented what the eye could see as opposed to what the camera could capture in a single frame.
Note that this image was shot at ISO 320. There’s nothing magical about 320 per se but when you’re shooting fast-moving water, you’ll find a certain shutter speed which gives the “look” you want. If you’re shutter speed is too long, the water is simply a blur. If it’s too short, you lose some sense of the motion. Of course freezing motion or completely blurred water may very well be the “look” you want but in this case I wanted somewhere in the middle. I chose f/11 as my aperture because it’s in the sweet spot of the lens yet gives reasonable depth of field when the focus distance is relatively long. With the aperture fixed, ISO became my main lever for setting the range of shutter speeds I’d capture in my brackets. I shot brackets from ISO 100 up to 1600 and chose this ISO 320 value for the final image based on how the water looked. This allowed me to keep some detail in the water such as what you see in the water pouring over the smallish rock outcropping near the center of the image.
Friends, food, hiking in God’s beautiful creation, relaxation, card games — good times! I recently spent a 4-day weekend in Nye, MT with my wife and friends. What a great time. One afternoon we hiked up the trail along the Stillwater River toward Sioux Charley Lake and took the group portrait above. Located in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, this little hike is a tiny portion of a 700-mile network of trails — amazing.
We did this hike together a couple years ago and got the standard mid-day, harsh facial shadows group photo. I didn’t plan to take many photos in the mid-day light so I decided not to lug the tripod up the trail just for the group shot. However, knowing ahead of time that the one shot we did want was a group photo from this hike, I’d brought my flash along (a friend was kind enough to keep it in his pack). Without flash, I had the choice between blowing out half of the scenery in order to properly expose the group or underexpose the group in order to properly expose the scenery. I didn’t ever consider HDR for this. Maybe I should have clicked off some brackets and just tried it, but I didn’t want any hint of that “HDR look” for our shot. I found some rocks to prop the camera on and framed the shot in such a way to maximize the amount of scenery captured while not making the group so small as to be unrecognizable.
I put the camera in manual mode and chose an exposure which didn’t blow out the sky. I may have blown out a tiny section here and there but I also wanted some detail in the portions of the mountains which were in shadow. I used the on-camera flash (Canon 580 EXii) in E-TTL mode with -1/2 stop flash compensation…seemed about right based on a test shot. Post processing was a series of curves to selectively adjust portions of the image.
I’m pretty happy with it. I wasn’t trying to make the *best* shot (wouldn’t have used on-camera flash of course) but I was trying to get a shot in which people and scenery were reasonably balanced with a minimum amount of gear and I think I accomplished that.