I have mentioned in a few of my more recent posts that I am using a different process to create some of my images. Specifically, the high dynamic range (HDR) images. In the past I have used tools such as Photomatix and even the newer versions of Lightroom or Photoshop CC. All these programs work their magic wonderfully but they do not always allow for the fine control sometimes needed.
If you search for HDR or even digital blending you will be overwhelmed with options and selecting any of the links will get you started. I found a few photographers (artists) that have helped me with a manual method or blending to allow more control over the final image. Check out Blake Rudis or Jimmy McIntyre for great information about creating an image.
Both of these photographers have opened my eyes to the use of luminosity masks in my image creation process. I will not attempt to duplicate either of these artist’s lessons but I will try to show you a little of the power of this methodology.
I know that it is mid December but we have been spoiled here in Upstate NY with great weather so when it was overcast and dreary I went looking through my summer images for color. I found a bracket of images I captured down at the barge canal just as the sun was setting. These images will work great for my attempt to show off this process.
Here are the three original images…
I start by making a few adjustments in Lightroom, correcting white balance, noise reduction, etc. and then bring all three images into Photoshop as separate layers. I set the normal exposure layer as the background layer as I will be painting in the information I need from the other two exposures.
I have already created the luminosity masks and you can see some of them in the Channels panel on the middle right of the images. These channels are various portions of the image with different brightness values. I use a panel created by Jimmy McIntyre to easily create these masks.
The first area I wish to enhance are the edges of the canal. In the normal exposure the trees lining the canal are dark due to the back lighting of the setting sun. I will paint in the trees from the overexposed image by creating a layer mask on that layer, selecting the appropriate mask (Darks 6) and using the brush tools to add portions of the image to my normal exposure. By using the brush tool you can control the amount of the image that gets added. Painting over an area more than once will enhance the effect. The area in red has been painted in.
I repeat this process with the underexposed image to add in detail and color to the sky and its reflection on the water. I do not need as much of this information so I select Brights 2 and lightly paint those areas.
What I end up with at the end of this blending is an image that has a greater dynamic range than I was able to capture with a single exposure. I can then then use that image to start my normal post-processing and create my final image.
This particular image was finished off with a few of the Topaz Labs filters such as Clarity and Adjust. I ended with a High Pass filter in Photoshop to sharpen the mid-tones. This was accomplished by using another of the luminosity masks and only applying the filter to those areas of the image. This way I could add detail to the trees but not overly sharpen the sky and reflection.
The final image…
I am in no way an expert in post-processing but I do have fun learning new techniques. Not every image needs this type of work but it is nice to have a different trick up my sleeve to create the view I remember when I was out exploring with my camera. If you are interested in exploring more about digital blending I would definitely recommend either or both sites for Blake Rudis and/or Jimmy McIntyre.