This is another photo that was challenging to take and even more challenging to edit. Below is the outline of my workflow.
I am an Android user (Nexus 5) and I use app called Exsate Golden Hour to calculate astronomical conditions for every location I am planning to shoot. It calculates Golden Hour, Blue Hour, Dusk, Down plus it graphically displays the directions of the sunsets and the sunrises overlayed over Google Maps. It is priceless app for any travel and landscape photographer. It is absolutely free.
I used Exsate Golden Hour to plan this shot, I knew in advance where exactly sun would be setting and what time.
I was shooting on a tripod (FEISOL Tournament CT-3442) pointing camera directly into the sun. I was not sure if 5 bracketed shots would be enough to cover the entire dynamic range of the scene. I took test shot of 7 brackets first and I could see that +1EV and +2EV were way too overexposed and all I needed was 5 shot only.
Also, I wanted to achieve “starburst effect” around the sun so I set aperture to F20.
Originally, I was planning to tone map this image to HDR using Photoshop HDR Pro (check my tutorial Natural Looking HDR Photography Guide) but it did not work out the way I expected. The area around the sun looked very unnatural and dull so I jumped to Photomatix. In Photomatix I had different problem; the transition from golden tones of sunset to blue colors of the sky looked muddy and way too contrasted. After wasting another 20-25 min in Photomatix I decided to try something different.
First, I edited 3 brackets (-1, 0, +1) in Lightroom (see image below), using standard workflow (check my tutorial here) and then I loaded 3 images to Photoshop and blended them together using luminosity masks.
Deconstructing Featured Photo
Processing: Digital Blending with Lminosity Masks
Lightroom: import, tagging, contrast, color correction. I produced 3 separate images and exported them to Photoshop.
I opened 3 bracketed photos directly in Photoshop and placed each image on separate layer. Then, I used luminosity masking techniques to create final image.
- Topaz DeNoise was used to reduce digital noise (mostly sky sky).
- I used Perfect Effects 9 from onOne Software enhance details and contrast (foreground elements). I used following filetes: Dynamic Contrast, Color Enhancer.