Road Trip 2010 – Day 3

The ongoing series about a photographer’s journey through many of the Western National Parks. This short clip stands as an intermediate post about the space between.

Days one and two were spent in Redding for a wedding then driving across the desolate landscape that is Eastern Oregon; sage brush as far as the eye can see. We nearly ran out of gas, just landing in the town (one building) of Riley, where we filled up.

Below are three images captured yesterday that highlight the challenge of shooting scenes of high dynamic range. The term Dynamic Range refers to the maximum range and degrees of light that an image plane can capture. Image plane being that of film, our retina, or the CCD within your digital camera.

An example worth considering is when photographing an outdoor scene where there is a vast amount of bright light, i.e. snow, clouds, and or vast amounts of shadow, i.e. under trees, rocks etc. Due to the broad range of light, and the limitations of camera equipment you will find it difficult to capture detail in both the shadows and the extreme highlights. The broader the dynamic range of the recording device, the more detail you will capture at the extreme ends of the exposure.

Digital cameras have a relatively narrow dynamic range. To compensate for this limitation, you can capture multiple shots of the exact same scene (tripod required). Two very good tutorials on creating an HDR image with multiple shots can be found on the Backing Winds & Feature Pics web sites.

I prefer to create my images using a single shot and perform as much in-camera technique as possible. Below are three images, the first shows how blown out the sky can become when metering off the shadows. The final two images display the results of overcoming the broad dynamic range of the scene through the use of fill flash.

I use Canon’s 580EX Speed Lite. This flash is very powerful and provides fast refresh rates and plenty of versatility for shooting both in-doors and out. To create the final two images I point my camera at the sky, press the < * > (AE Lock), re-compose the shot, focus and fire. This performs a fill-flash function, allowing me to meter off the highlights. The flash fills the foreground and results in a detailed exposure of the sky. For more information on using flash photography, specifically the 580EX visit NK Guy’s web site,

Next stop Stanley, Idaho

~ John Trefethen


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