And so we close our visit to Custer State Park with a rock formation under a little smear of clouds and a gibbous moon – the exact same moon that produced the recent solar eclipse, as hard as that may be to believe.
I’ll use this image to illustrate a basic trait of photography: photos always have increased contrast over what our eyes see at the time, which is why it’s important to pay attention to how bright and sharp the light is. See that dark cave in the rock face? If your monitor is adjusted properly, you should be able to just make out that it’s not a cave at all, only a shadow of the boulder to the immediate right, but there’s a good chance all you see is blackness there (especially if you’re viewing this on a phone or some other piece of shit that doesn’t allow you to adjust the dynamic range usefully.) Standing where Jim stood, you would likely have been able to see that it was just a shadow, but the darkness was increased within the photo – not by anything that Jim did, but just by being a photo with a limited range of light available. Looking into the real sky would probably also make you squint a bit, but the photo doesn’t hit you that hard, does it?
If it helps, here’s an inset of that same shadow, brightened considerably – proof not only of the lack of caves, but that the scene managed not to exceed the range of the camera, even when it got damn close. It can be easy to lose detail within shadows in such light conditions, and for brighter areas to bleach out to pure white as well. Which is why I always say that, with high-contrast light (bright with distinct shadows,) look for low-contrast subjects – in other words, not brilliant flowers, and not zebras. And not people, on the whole – the shadows makes faces almost into caricatures. Plus there’s the squinting.