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.