I love to shoot Glen Canyon Recreational area around Paige Arizona, but this is a challenging place to get a good composition. To create an interesting composition for this shot, I used a small puddle of water to catch the reflection in the sky. As you can imagine, this was not an easy shot to process.
Field Work: As soon as I looked at the histogram on the back of the camera for the test image, I knew that I needed to bracket the shot. The question was, how much bracketing was necessary? For this photograph, I took a series of three bracketed test shots – then adjusted the bracketing amount based on the histogram for each of the three exposures. My objective was to capture enough details in the highlights and shadows to be able to successful blend the exposures in Photoshop.
Processing: I started by processing the the RAW files, and blending them using our iHDR manual blending workflow. Then, I processed the +1.3 EV RAW file a second time to bring out the details in the reflections on the puddle of water. I created an additional blending layer for the “portal” using the mask shown below.
The mask allowed me to make adjustments only to the reflected surface, leaving the rest of the image unaffected. I adjusted the edges of the mask to create a smooth blend between the textures of the rock and the puddle.
My final task was to make minor targeted adjustment for the image. I used my Wacom Intuos 5 tablet and stylus to adjust the overall contrast, and to make small corrections to the sky and the portal as seen in the image below.
How do you blend images? Do you use a special tone mapping program like Photomatix or HDR EFex Pro? Do you do it manually like we do? Or do you rely on a combination of both these techniques?