Edited by James Morrissey
This article is Copyright 2007, Roman Johnston, and may not, in part or in whole, be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author. The images in this article are copyright 2007 by Roman Johnston. They are licensed to James Morrissey and the Nature, Wildlife and Pet Photography Forum for the purpose of this article.
We often find, especially in landscape photography, that there are often scenes that extend beyond the camera’s dynamic range capabilities. There are 2 approaches to this. If the DR is mildly above the capabilities, then 2 files from 1 RAW file will usually do the trick. If the DR is much more than a RAW file can be pushed, you will need to capture 2 frames. The reason I prefer the 1 RAW capture method is because the resulting 2 shots from that RAW file are PERFECT matches…right down to the last pixel.
Ok…without further ado, here is how you do it. (Using the 2 shots from 1 RAW approach)
Here is the shot as taken in the RAW converter in Photoshop.
(1) My first conversion will be to expose the highlights properly (this will create the base darker shot).
(2) Ignore the shadow information, just pay attention to the highlights. If they are clipping, adjust the curves to get the proper mood. As best as you can, try to remember the scene when you shot it. I adjusted it like this:
As you can see, the mountain top is just starting to clip and the clouds are bright to middle grey near the bottom. I made the choice to sacrifice the tiniest amount of detail in the mountain to get the clouds right.
(3) Adjust for the foreground and just avoid clipping the shadows:
(4) Now with the Lighter shot selected, click-hold and drag the lighter shot OVER the darker shot.
(5) Delete the lighter image and and keep the stacked shot. Your layers pallet should look like this:
(6) Now…go into the “Select” menu and choose the “Color Range” tool. It should look like this (note that the “Invert” box is checked)
Above is what it should look like if you clicked your dropper on the sky. The Fuzziness slider will fan out your selection. If you need more selected, hold the shift key while you click your eyedropper on more highlighted places then adjust the Fuzziness slider to fine tune your selection. If you select too much, just let go of the shift button and click again to make the original selection. This and the feathering you choose after word will make or break your blend….so be patient and play with it….get to know it well.
When you say “OK” to your selection you will see the usual marching ants in your selection.
(7) Now, go back into the select menu and choose “Feather.” I like to start at 175 pixels for generic blends…..more detail between light and dark will take less or more feathering…but 175 will give you a great starting point.
(8) Now is where the magic happens….First insure you have Layer 1 selected like in the picture below, and click on the little grey box with a white circle on it on the bottom of your layer pallet. This will make a layer mask on layer 1 using the selection you just made with the Color Range and Feather tools….and your layers pallet will shot the nifty layer mask to the right of your layer 1 normal window as seen below.
(9) Now you can click on each layer AND the layer mask and hit CTRL+M to bring up a curves dialogue to fine tune each layer and the mask.
Once you are confident you have it as you want it, you can then flatten the entire shot as seen below we were able to convert this shot in 11 moves. Once you become proficient in how to do this (practice, practice, practice), it took me only 30 minutes to do this including typing the tutorial. It took about 7-10 min of actual work to get this blend done.
Here is the final image.
Now just PP as you normally would in your usual workflow.
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