This is a high chaparral country. In 2018 I visited this park while my honey was off to Paris. I had back issues that would have caused me to make the plane ride an excruciating experience for everyone else on the flight, so I stayed home. I could; however, last several hours driving with frequent breaks, so I headed for the Pinnacles for a couple of days and then Yosemite. That first trip with a camera was with my film camera, a Nikon F5. I posted those images a while back, so you've perhaps seen them and remember they were grainy and not well exposed all the time. That was for several reasons. Your film controls ISO in a film camera, so if you don't have the perfect film for the shoot, you're in trouble. I had a mixed bag of films with me but did not always make the right choice. The day started cloudy, then quickly turned sunny, then depending on where I was on the trails, I might be in the shade or blazing sun. I might be shooting into the sun or with the sun at ninety degrees to my camera lens and occasionally behind me. It was challenging, and I wasn't pleased with the results when I got the negatives back. After scanning and converting them to digital images I could post-process on my PC, I had to doctor the heck out of them. The biggest problem with film cameras, especially for a rookie, is that you can not tell how bad or good you're shooting.
There is no display on the back of a film camera to check your work. You can't see the results until several days later when you develop the film. I was a true rookie then too. The first time I traveled to the Pinnacles, I came in from the east. The trails were long and arduous treks uphill with switchbacks and all. By the time I made it halfway up in altitude, I'd walked what seemed like several miles and was exhausted. I stopped there, with the ridgeline still a mile away on the trails and perhaps 500 feet higher. I vowed to return when my back wasn't an issue (if ever) and try again.
Fast forward to March of 2019. By then, I had purchased my Nikon D850 and was in full Digital mode. I also had more than one full-frame lens to shoot with. This time I came in from the west, and it was an entirely different experience. First and foremost, I started virtually a the base of the ridgeline where I parked the car. No long uphill hike involved. The main trail winds through natural canyons without any real altitude change. The end of that trail does rise about 500 feet to a pass that overlooks the entry from the east. It was the end for me, that is. The trail continued and probably joined one of the trails I had followed from the east in 2018. From the west, side trails rose towards the ridgeline, but they looked steeply tricky at best. I passed them up. The views were spectacular from the canyon floor. I had much the same problems with light. I arrived in the park at 6 am. The light was perfect. No sun to contend with. By 8:30-ish, the sun was getting ready to crest the ridgeline and was already shining on some of the higher peaks. The bottom of some images was in dark shade, and the tops, where the peaks are, were lit brilliantly to a golden hue. Then the sun came over the ridgeline, and most of my images were washed out or silhouettes because my subject invariably was in front of me where the sun was or to the side. The sun was either directly in front of me or out to 90 degrees of me left or right (this will cause sun glare, those rainbow-colored spots across your images).
At this point, I could see I wasn't going to be able to defeat the sun with different ISO settings, so I put an ND (neutral density) filter on to limit the sun's effect. This is a variable filter that I could set the amount of darkness I wanted to add. This resulted in dark pictures I would have to doctor in post-processing when I got home. That I thought was okay because I would still have usable images. The images in the middle to the near end of this set you'll see have a very dark sky and are darker still below the horizon. It turns out I used too much ND. I should have dialed it back a bit. Still, the effect, I think, is rather pleasing. However, you wouldn't know that those images were made between 8:30 and 9:00 am in super bright sun. As I stated in 2018, The Pinnacles are for exploring. Come along with me on my expedition.
Nikon D850 DSLR
AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, SP 24-70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD G2