In the HDR section I’ll discuss technique, camera settings, Auto Exposure Bracketing, adjusting exposure manually and then move on to processing, using both Photoshop and Photomatix Pro3
Hi John – I’m curious about the software you used for this and how long the exposures were. I normally use photomatix. Is there a particular process you like to follow doing post-work in photoshop? Do you use any plug-in software like Nik Color Efex or Topaz?
When I first saw this on Flickr, I thought it was one of your long exposure pictures because of the drift in the clouds. Were the brackets at a long exposure time or were the clouds just drifty that day? This is a beautiful photo, by the way.
Congrats and a big thank you for being the first contributor to the blog! 🙂
For this photo I used the ‘Merge to HDR Pro’ function in Photoshop CS5. I’ve got a copy of Photomatix but haven’t experimented with it too much yet. I think you’re probably the guy to chip in on that one 😉
Exposures were 1/400, 1/200, 1/100, 1/50, 1/25, f8, 10mm focal length on a Canon 1.6 crop sensor.
I altered shutter speed manually which would account for the slightly odd cloud formation i.e. I’m not as quick as the camera’s in-built AEB 😉
The default settings in ‘Merge to HDR’ were pretty close to the final thing, prior to opening in PS. I increased detail by a small amount and pulled the highlights back a touch.
Re plugins… I use Nik Software’s Dfine2 and Sharpener Pro3 on almost everything I shoot.
Dfine makes a nice job of removing low level noise without affecting image sharpness. I find anything that’s well exposed has very little noise in it anyway (using my default setting of ISO 100). Even the majority of my full moon night photos have low levels of noise. As long as the skies are clear and I use long enough exposure times, Nik’s plugins have no problem keeping everything crisp and clear.
Re workflow on this particular HDR image, I ran a pass with with Dfine. Next I made a duplicate layer. Then used the Tonal Contrast filter in Nik’s Color Efex Pro, making a very subtle increase to the shadows and midtones (+7 & +5 respectively, with saturation of +14). Highlight contrast stayed at zero. Next I added a layer mask, limiting the tonal adjustments to everything below the skyline – I wanted to keep the clouds soft.
Finished off by applying Sharpener Pro – the last filter applied in the workflow.
I’ll get more into plugins and workflow in subsequent posts.
Thanks for your great detailed description. I’m going to have to try the sharpener product. I’ve never used a sharpening software beyond a high pass filter. I use tonal contrast as well – I need to play with the settings more to understand it better. Thanks for the great info. I look forward to reading more.
When I first started using Photoshop, using a plugin seemed like a quick shortcut to achieving the desired result, especially if you weren’t sure how to use high pass filters, unsharpen masks etc etc.
I was watching a Scott Kelby tutorial the other day. My ears pricked up when he mentioned his ‘must have’ plugin was Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro and in particular, the Tonal Contrast filter. It’s kind of reassuring when you discover a top level pro is using the same software 😉
Nik’s Dfine, Sharpener and Color Efex Pro are highly recommended.
You might also find Nik’s Viveza useful for making localised adjustments to brightness, contrast and saturation. I’ve got it but don’t use it that often.
Nik Silver Efex Pro is a a great tool for carrying out black and white conversions.
Someone with a good knowledge of Photoshop can no doubt achieve all these effects without having to splash the extra cash for a plugin but for the rest of us, they don’t half make life a lot easier.
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