The National Park Service in the United States is a treasure filled with discoveries to be made and adventure to be had for all ages. With scenic byways, historic sites and parks in every state, millions of Americans spend at least a few days each year in a national park.
One of my favorite places to spend a few days exploring is Zion National Park in Utah. Some of the highlights of my visit included an incredible hiking opportunity in The Narrows, a slot canyon cut by the Virgin River that can be as narrow as 20 to 30 feet with walls rising some 1,000 feet above the river. Another memorable moment was a sunset creating this dramatic view of The Watchman.
Rising 2,600 feet above the Zion Canyon floor, according to the National Park Service, The Watchman is a favorite for hikers and photographers alike.
On clear days, the sunset dramatically lights the western facing wall. The foreground, however, is in the shade by this time of day as a mountain blocks the sunlight from the canyon floor and river. Having two areas of any subject with such different lighting creates a challenge in capturing the scene correctly. For this image, I exposed for the brightest part of the image and the sky. I knew I faced a challenge to recover detail in the shadow.
In full disclosure, this is an image I shot a few years ago, and I was never happy with how the light varied so much from the foreground to The Watchman. I decided to revisit this image and reprocess with Adobe Bridge and Adobe Photoshop to see how the newer algorithms would handle the variance from light to dark.
The new high dynamic range, or HDR, aspects of the software really improved the image from the first time I processed it about 10 years ago. Shooting in raw format and processing that file with any of the upper-end image editing applications allow you to derive more detail from the highlights and shadows.
I look forward to shooting this scene again one day — not only to see how nature has changed it but also to see how newer camera gear captures it.
To find out more about the National Park Service, please visit nps.gov or download the NPS smartphone app to begin planning your next trip.