There’s a lot things that needed to be addressed in this image. For one, it was taken on a dock, that was floating w/ the waves of the lake as boats drove by, so forget tack sharpness. Secondly, it was directly into the sun, and this was taken in 2012, before I knew to drop the exposure bracketing down to -3 or -4 for direct sun shots. The mountain range on the right needed some drastic shadow and exposure increases to be brought back into shape. There was also a nasty lens flare that had to be dealt with. The result was an image that is quite gorgeous, but lacks the clarity and sharpness that I could achieve today.
That’s because you are always learning things! One of the most fun processes I go through is looking back at old pictures and remembering how proud I was when i posted or shared them 4 years ago, and how I would hit delete immediately if that was my final product today! Whenever you feel like your talents or abilities are plateauing just remember to look back at where you came from –
Don’t focus on how far you have to go, focus on how far you have come!
Above you can see the result of my efforts in Photomatix Pro 5 – which combines multiple exposures into a single image. This took a -2, 0, and +2 image and combined them into this. I love the sky in this image – it really came to life. The sky was awesome the whole weekend we were there really; an HDR Pro tip – clouds look fantastic when you process them!
The settings I have set up in Photoshop allow me to directly open any .TIFF files into the Camera Raw application. I save all my Photomatix files as 16 Bit .Tiff files and when I’m ready to begin working on them I click them and open directly to Camera Raw. This is always my jumping off point. Think of Photomatix as the grocery store, here you get the ingredients you need. Camera Raw is the baking dish – all the ingredients come together and theoretically you can eat it I suppose, but you should probably bake it – in the Photoshop oven.
In Camera Raw, i made some color adjustments (see the blue in the sky, green of the trees, and yellow color cast removed from the water on the right) and some light level adjustments (shadows of the tree line and clouds).
Its really hard to tell that there has been any noise reduction or sharpening when the images are this small, but believe me there was. Also, did some clone stamp work.. notice anything missing in this image?
Next I made some selective curves adjustments to the highlights and shadows using Select>color range>Highlights/shadows/mid-tones and adjusting the figures to select certain parts of the image. This is so much better than a general overall curves adjustment and allows you to selectively play with it rather than affecting the entire picture!
The next step was to run the Nik Color EFX 4 program to bring back some of the sunset glow that was missing. It helped pop the sunset yellow throughout the image while maintaining those blues and aquas of the sky.
The second to last step was an overall image sharpening to help bring back some of that sharpness that was lost due to the rocking of the dock I was standing on. In the end I’m kind of disappointed with the overall blur that exists on the tree line, but there isn’t anything I know to do – give me 4 more years!!