Work those images!
Sometimes (often?) you travel to a location for a sunset photo, but the weather just doesn’t co-operate! On my recent UK vacation, we were driving back from visiting friends in Snowdonia National Park and I thought a detour to take a sunset image of the Vale of Llangollen would be nice! The roads up to Panorama Walk are really narrow and steep, but once you are there it all opens up and you get a great overview of the vale, the Dinas Castell Bran ruins and complex cliff structure on the adjacent hills. But the light just didn’t look right. I was not really thinking about the power of Raw images though! The end result:
But what did my first “record” shot look like? Basically, this is the image out of the camera:
I had put my 70-200mm lens on the camera as the ruins were quite some way away, but I thought this view at 70mm was a bit tight. So I ended up turning the camera through 90 degrees and taking six vertical shots while panning across the view. But I also realized that the sky was pretty bright and the ground quite dark and so I took 5 shots with 1 stop difference in each of the positions, ending up with 30 raw files of this one scene. I’d no idea what it would actually look like when I got home!
Lightroom has improved so much over the years and it had no difficulty converting each of my 5 shot sequences into a natural looking HDR image. Here is just one of them, again without any processing apart from shifting the white balance to Cloudy:
This is now a 32 bit raw file with loads of detail in both the sky and the ground. I then selected my 6 HDR shots and stitched them into a panorama. Again, no issues, even though all the shots were hand held and I just rotated where I stood. Now I could add graduated filters to the sky and bring out the colors and contrast that existed there, and increase the clarity and vibrance to bring some (hopefully realistic) colors into the image. Finally, I didn’t really like the way I was seeing a light edge to the hills (an artifact of HDR) and so I went into Photoshop and added a curves adjustment just to the distant hills to darken them a bit.
I’m tempted to redo the image using Luminosity masks instead of HDR – if it makes a significant difference, I’ll report on the differences! Finally, I know some of my readers will think this should have gone more into RM/higher priced agencies. As I’ve been mentioning, I’m much less sure that there is a financial benefit to doing that, and so I just uploaded this to all sites as I normally do. We will have to wait to see if it sells!
Finally, to pick up the point Alex makes in a comment below. This it the shot I would have made if only I could have been bothered to get my tripod out of the car!