Pinnacle Peak Hike: High Dynamic Range

Author: David Huffman
Photos Copyright David Huffman


Pinnacle Peak, a part of the McDowell Mountain Preserve in the north of Scottsdale, AZ, is a wonderful hike.  Located only minutes from the main part of Scottsdale, it is easily accessible and fun.  The trail is well-maintained, and you can choose to go the full distance for approximately one hour, or only go part way to the top.  On the way you will likely encounter many other hikers, and exercise-seekers, so if you’re taking pictures prepare for some interruptions.  I don’t let this deter you from a wonderful walk, as you will be getting significant elevation and a terrific view of the entire McDowell Mountain range in Northern Scottsdale around every bend.

On this particular day in late November, I chose to hike the trail because the weather was a little cooler and there were some clouds and overcast in the sky.  It may sound strange, but living in Arizona, plain blue skies all the time can be a little boring.  So the hike this morning caused some interesting landscapes and greater variety and modulation of the sky which I really appreciated.  I knew the contrast range could be quite high, from the bright sun and clouds to the deep shadows of the rocks, so for this particular image I chose to shoot three images at bracketed exposures from plus to minus 2 stops.

I shot the images in raw format, and upon returning home, I combined them using Photomatix Essentials software.  There are many controls in the software, yet it is easy to use. I decided to push the reality just a little bit over the edge, to make this seem a little more interesting. I hope you agree with me that the final image was worth the effort.  (The equipment was Nikon D810 camera, Nikkor 28-300 mm lens, no filter, normal exposure ISO 100, f/8, at 1/250th second, handheld with VR on.)

I encourage you to try new things, including high dynamic range imaging (HDR) to expand your photographic horizons.  You’ll also enjoy learning more at the Arizona Highways Photo Workshops, visit  My website also offers inspiration and instruction,

Happy shooting!