A shot like this doesn’t come along without some post processing help. Even with the best slide film of the day and ideal conditions a shot like this straight out of camera is difficult if not impossible to achieve. I thought for this edition of Behind the Shot, I would show some steps along the way. You can get a feel for what I mean when I say half of all photography takes place after the shutter is pressed. (The other half takes place before. In between is a little movement of your thumb and a click.)
Halfway through the photograph, I arrive at the first exposure. I have carefully calculated the mid point of the metering. Though the conditions were changing quickly, I was adapting quickly. I knew the tonal range with the sun lighting up those clouds was going to be too great for a conventional exposure so I switched to bracketing and captured this base exposure.
The camera calculated for me a two-stop under exposed image to hold the disk of the sun and the brightest highlights.
Then the camera, (a Canon 5DMKII for those keeping score at home) fired a two-stop over exposure to capture the shadow details and fill in the colors. Half of the photography was complete. It was time for the other half. Ansel Adams would have called it Print Making. I call it Post Processing.
I strip off all pre-processing in Lightroom to get as close to an original files as possible before sending the images out to be merged. I tend to prefer Photomatix for my HDR Processing. I can achieve the same look in Merge to HDR Pro in Photoshop but I still prefer the presets I’ve created in Photomatix. This preset is called Badlands Sunset and was developed for my many shots in the Badlands. The file returned from Photomatix is dull and flat-the way I like it. When I process a tone-mapped HDR image, I want it too look as much like a Raw file as possible-to start.
When the finished file is returned to Lightroom, I process it as I would any other original file: adding in the contrast and saturation, tweaking areas and prepping the image for final touchup in Photoshop.
Final retouching in Photoshop cleans up some debris from the scene and strengthens the image by boosting contrast and selective-color saturation in specific areas. Special work to tone-down the bright sun completes the image.
Making an artistic piece is a combination of artistic vision, good technical skills and quality post processing. The picture I saw when I looked at the scene is pretty close to where I ended up-not what the camera captured.
Now, who wants a copy?
12×18 Signed Metallic Print: $ 49.95
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Rikk Flohr © 2011