I've always been on the fence when it came to the argument of using RAW capture vs. in-camera JPEG for my images. 99% of my images have been JPEG straight from the camera with minor adjustments made using some flavor of photo editing software (first GIMP then iPhoto and more recently, Aperture) to arrive at my final images. I've tried to adhere to the philosophy of capturing my images in camera as close as possible to my final visions for those pictures. Basically, I'd rather be outdoors capturing images than sitting in front of my computer for hours on end editing pictures to get them looking good.
Up to now, my "in-camera JPEG" strategy has worked well for me. But, lately I've ran into a couple situations where my attempt at an image using in-camera JPEG failed, mostly due to my cameras inability to capture the necessary dynamic range for some lighting situations. I know I'm not alone in this arena, since all cameras have limited dynamic range. Struggling with those images made me think that using RAW capture could help in being able to pull detail from both shadows and highlights better than I can using an in-camera JPEG. I know that HDR photography is an option, but I've yet to jump on that bandwagon, simply because too many HDR images I see are processed "over the top" and look fake. Plus, I do not have the necessary software to pull off HDR the way I would like if I ever decided to try. Another option is to use a graduated ND filter, but that's something that's still on my "wish list" to purchase.
With that, my last few outings into the field I've forced myself to switch from JPEG to RAW capture. Fortunately, it hasn't been as big of a change as I thought it might be. Also, it hasn't changed my workflow all that much and, so far, processing and editing RAW files in Aperture is pretty darn close to editing JPEG images.
The image above is an example where I don't think I could have arrived at the same final image if I used in-camera JPEG. The dynamic range was quite large and editing the RAW image, I was easily able to pull some detail from the foreground shadows (corn field, trees, and barn). I also played around with adjusting the highlights and am quite pleased with the results I came up with in the sky/cloud area. I also noticed an advantage with RAW concerning the overall sharpness and detail of the image. I was probably 200 feet or more from the barn and trees, yet the detail and sharpness in the tree branches is pretty good. This barn is less than 1/2 mile from my house and I've taken many pictures of it. But, this is the first image I've captured that I've been very pleased with.