The whole base ISO dynamic range thing

Started Jun 11, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Lee Jay
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The whole base ISO dynamic range thing
Jun 11, 2012

I've shot about 200,000 shots since 2004 on various digital cameras from compacts to the 5D. When the whole base ISO dynamic range thing started to come up a lot, I took a careful look back at those images to see what all the hoopla was about.

What I found was a very small number of images where I was pushing the base ISO dynamic range in raw of my best cameras right to the limit, and maybe just a shade beyond forcing me to put in a little more noise reduction than I wanted to in the shadows, but I was always able to produce the shot I wanted to from the available data nonetheless.

That was, until a few weeks ago during the eclipse. The peak of the eclipse was as the sun was setting behind the Rocky Mountains for me, given my location. The shot I had in my head was having the sun set behind the mountains and still keeping the mountains (which were obviously in shadow with the sun behind them) out of the black, while also not blowing out the sun's surface. Couldn't do it. What I did get looked a bit like the image below. If I boost the shadows enough, they become a noisy mess. I just didn't have enough base ISO dynamic range.

Okay, but that's a pretty extreme situation - shooting literally the surface of the sun without blowing it out and simultaneously keeping some pretty deep shadows in the scene. That was quite literally the first time in 8 years and 200,000 shots where I didn't get the shot I wanted. Or did I?

When I looked back through the images I shot, I found the one below. Maybe it's not what I originally intended but I like it anyway, and since what I really intended was an exceptional case to say the least, I'm just not that worried about the whole base ISO dynamic range thing. If I get more somehow, then great, but it just doesn't seem worth worrying about to me, unlike high-ISO dynamic range, which I push to the limits all the time.

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Lee Jay
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Canon ELPH 500 HS Canon PowerShot SX260 HS Canon EOS 5D Canon EOS 20D Canon EOS 550D +23 more
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