Take a look at the workflow I used to process this photograph from Eagle Creek in Oregon.
Take a look at the RAW image above on the left – the trees look just right, but there are some blown highlights in the water. This is a typical problem when shooting water. The solution is simple. I process the same image again – this time for the highlights in the water. I blend the two images using layers and masks in Photoshop. The result looks like the image on the right. Both the trees and the water are properly exposed, and we can see details in highlights as well as shadows.
The next step is to make some minor adjustments to restore contrast in the image. I use a stylus to draw selections with my Wacom graphics tablet and create masks to make adjustments that are targeted to specific areas. A little bit more contrast at the river’s edge, some softer contrast in the water… and so on. The image below shows the layers and masks I used to make those adjustments.