Improving My Dynamic Range

Reflecting on the year: This year is drawing to a close and as part of a retrospective look on the year I am finishing and publishing several blog posts that at one point I started and never completed.

While in Philadelphia I sent some time playing around with High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography. For me to create images containing a larger dynamic range than my camera is able to capture I took several exposures with different EV values, to capture highlights, mid-tones, and shadows in detail and then composited the images together to create on image with a larger dynamic range than I would normally be able to capture.


Philadelphia Museum of Art at night with HDR


Left is the HDR composited image and on the right is a single exposure


Who Turned Out the Lights?

As mentioned in my previous post I had the opportunity to go down to Oregon to see the total solar eclipse. It was well worth the trip down and the traffic up as seeing the entirety of the eclipse was very different than the 93% in Seattle or the 99% in Portland. Though stock was scarce I managed to get a solar filter for my camera and setup with a tripod and a telephoto lens to capture this astronomical oddity.


Just after C1 first photo I was able to capture as I was formatting my camera card as first contact was made to make room for all the eclipse photos.


About half an hour latter the moon is nearing the half way point. Around this time it starts getting noticeably cooler.


Through the camera or eclipse glasses the sun is now a sliver behind the moon. Without the glasses the only noticeable change is that sun light seems dimmer. This is about as much of the eclipse would have been seen in Seattle.


The sun gets smaller and smaller. This is about the extent of the eclipse that would have been seen from Portland.


An interesting phenomenon know as Bailey’s Beads. The last rays of sunlight are sneaking through the mountains and valleys of the moon, making the appearance of a string of beads. 


Totality. Now the glasses and solar filters can come off as the sun is completely eclipsed by the moon for 1 minute and 44 seconds. In the sky there is a black circle surrounded by white rays which is the sun corona, only visible to the human eye during a total eclipse. Stars are visible and the entire horizon looks like a sunrise. 


As C3 passes the total eclipse ends I sneak a picture of the ‘Diamond Ring’ before putting the solar filter back on the camera. 


The sun is back to being a sliver, and the entire process reverses its self. Around this point we did notice some light Shadow bands snaking across the ground.

Mountain Goats

Our last day in Zion we booked an adventure to go into the wilderness for some rock climbing and canyoneering.  Climbing in the morning until our arms were to sore to go up the rock walls, we then headed into the canyons, learn how to rapel and squeeze through tight places. After the adventure there was just enough sunlight left to back into Zion proper and do the easy Emerald Pools trail getting one last look at the beautiful landscape before we leave the next morning.

Through the Narrows

Second day in Zion we got up early to rent some dry pants and wet shoes, to keep up warm and grippy for Zion’s most unique hike. The Narrows is a ‘trail’ which is really just hiking up the Virgin river with 1000 ft rock walls on either side. At any time of the year this is a difficult and dangerous hike, as its mostly wading through freezing cold water hopping to avoid a flash flood. In October the waters are low and the chance of a flood is near zero, the journey through the river was still fantastic.

We wrapped our feet in insulating neoprene socks, to insulate our feet even tough the will be submerged in cold water for a few hours. We put on our dry pants to keep our legs dry and warm. We wrapped up phones and cameras, hopping to keep them dry and unharmed. Grabbed our walking sticks and headed out.

The Narrows is unlike any hike, there was no mountain to climb and no overlook points to reach. The trail was almost completely flat and there was less to see the deeper you go. The ‘trail’ goes for 20 miles, but the farther bits need a permit. I recommend going as far as you can as its spectacular. We were sharing the river with many other people at the beginning, but miles upstream people turn around or stop and when we reached Wall Street we almost were alone.


Fording the river


Not very narrow yet


Jonny, surrounded by virgins (river)


Knee deep in fresh mountain spring water


No more banks to stand on


Looks like its getting deeper


Emerging from the waters


Action shot with our dry pants and wet shoes


Continuing up the river


I can’t count the number of time we crossed this river


Jonny is getting a little far ahead


We were not the only ones in the water


Jonny, be careful the water is deep


Ohh no, they are drowning


Feeling like hobbits with our walking sticks


Still some dry land to walk on


This canyon has been in the making for millions of years


The walls are getting so tall its hard to find sunlight


A little grotto off to the side


Climbing over rocks


Trying out a long exposure


Stay very still guys


Its get difficult to capture how deep this canyon is



Jonathan waiting for us slow pokes


Justin seem to be avoiding the easier route


Stop for lunch and more long exposures


Its like painting with water colors


A big rock, and a decent place to turn around


A small bank for a little rest



Hanging gardens with a little water fall


The neon shoes that kept us from slipping on the wet rocks


A sign of civilization


The river is widening up again


We can now go from bank to bank again


Group photo


My favorite of the long exposures



The waters are very low, but some places still have a bit of current


Justin’s in the deep end