Mission San Juan Capistrano Hallway

This image, made in June 2000 and included in the quintessential gallery on my website, is part of a group of the most important photographs of my career. Looking backward, the more things change, ​the more things stay the same.

My son, Dylan, was ten at the time, and now he is 27. Even at ten he knew this was an important image; he made great efforts to clear the image from tourists and school groups in the morning but to no avail. We had to wait until near closing time in the late afternoon when we arrived back at the Mission at about 4:45. The people were gone, but the contrast range of the image was immense. Contrast is defined as the difference between important shadows and highlights areas, and is measured in "stops". I estimated that we had about a 9 to 10 stop range in the image. The film Fuji Velvia was in its heyday in those years, but it still only recorded a stop range between 3 1/2 and 5. There was no HDR, and combining images really had not occurred to me. The solution was to carefully consider the images, decide where the most important areas were located on the contrast scale, and make a series of bracketed exposures based on experience.

Here is where things stay the same. The contrast range of this scene is still right at the edges of current technology. A photographer needs to realize this idea before exposure. If the range fits your histogram, the exposure will work in Lightroom, but the image will be very dark in the review mode. You could plan on HDR​ - it might work with one-stop intervals - or you could combine multiple images later in Photoshop. For me, this latter idea would be difficult, and after all these years I am still not all that interested in it. The key to this image was to plan ahead and make all possible captures. This was a once-in-a-lifetime moment for me. When your moment comes, be prepared.

Our new website is close to being live. We will let you know.

I have had requests for a private flower workshop here in the Eastern Sierra; it promises to be an amazing Spring. Let me know if you might like to join us.

All the best,

Margaret and Vern