Today’s “Disneyland Photo Tip of the Day” runs somewhat parallel to the discussion we had a little bit ago about making a HDR image out of one photo. For today’s post, I wanted to show you a very common problem we face when we are taking pictures of something in the late afternoon sun. The extreme variances in light can cause all kinds of dark shadows and blown out highlights, even if shooting a bracketed exposure for a HDR.
Big Thunder Mountain is the perfect example of extreme lighting differences. I set up my Gorillapod on the railing of the wooden bridge to shoot this set of photos. It was about 5:30 in the evening and the sun was illuminating part of the mountain just beautifully, but the top of it was completely white from the direct sun. Here are the original 3 exposures. These are after I lowered the Highlights slider as far as it would go.
The first one is at -1/3 exposure compensation.
This is at -2 2/3rds.
This one is at +1 2/3rds.
As you can see, the top of the mountain is completely blown out in the first and third shots. I knew it would be a failure but out of curiosity, I tried making the HDR out of the 3 images as they were and this is what I ended up with. It’s still too overexposed to work.
First I tried layer masking the -2 1/3 image on topof the HDR and brushing in the mountain but the processing of the HDR gave it a different looking texture, so that didn’t work.
The trick is to layer mask and brush in the mountain from the under exposed image onto both of the other two, then making the HDR out of those. Since we’ve covered Layer Masking previously I won’t go into all that here. However I will say that once you do one of the images with the layer mask and brush in the mountain, all you do is delete the background layer and then place the other image in its spot, click back on the layer mask layer and hit Control +G. That will reengage the layer mask and all the work you did on the previous one will instantly transfer to this shot.
Here are the two images after the layer masking.
I set the opacity of the layer mask to 50% for the overexposed image.
Now here is the final HDR image after processing and a few other edits like lightening shadows and sharpening.
When I was shooting these brackets, I also flicked the camera to Shutter Priority, sped up the shutter to 1/640 and took a shot of the train as it went by so I could layer that into the final HDR image. Here is my final image all put together.
I hope this little trick can help you save some of those shots where the light was so bright that the detail was lost in two of the exposures but useable in the underexposed one.
© Michael Greening 2011
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