Hawaii HDR Panorama

O’ahu Island Sunrise Hiking (Hawaii)

This photo is from my last trip to Hawaii. Everything was challenging about this photo, from the location, the weather, and the processing. All in all, it took three days and 12 shots to produce the final image.

Travel Photography Blog - Hawaii. O'ahu. Lanikai Beach
Hawaii. O’ahu. Lanikai Beach
Loc: 21.387108, -157.717731


I read about the Lanikai Pillbox Trail while preparing for my first visit to Hawaii, and it was high on my list of the locations I wanted to photograph. It is located on the eastern shore of O’ahu Island, facing the ocean and is one of the best spots for photographing sunrises on the island.

First, I checked the location in the middle of the day to identify a few spots from where I wanted to shoot.

I also recognized that the scene was too wide and, even with 10mm lens, it would not be possible to include two islands on the left and the sandy bay on the right side into one composition. This is when I decided to use the panoramic technique.


My first attempt to photograph this location was unsuccessful. After waking up at 4am, driving from Honolulu and hiking in the dark on a muddy trail, I realized that early morning rain and dark, thick clouds canceled the sunrise and that I would have to try my luck the following morning.

The next day my persistence was rewarded with a beautiful sunrise.

I shot 4 series of bracketed shots (see image below) with 3 shots in each series (-2EV, 0EV, +2EV). I used L-bracket plate to mount the Sony a6000 camera to my FEISOL Tournament tripod vertically.


Step 1 – HDR Merge in Lightroom

Before merging images to HDR I applied the following edits to all 12 images:

I merged 4 series of bracketed shots, producing 4 HDR images in DNG format. I used HDR Merge module of Lightroom. I outlined the technique in the following tutorial: Lightroom HDR – Natural Looking HDR In Lightroom.

Step 2 – Panorama Merge in Lightroom

In step two, I used the Panorama Merge tool in Lightroom to stitch 4 HDR images into a panorama. Check the screenshot for the settings.

Step 2 – Cropping

I used the Crop Tool in Lightroom to produce a balanced composition with 3×2 aspect ratio.

Step 3 – Lightroom Rapid Editing

The last step in Lightroom was to use Rapid Editing System for Landscapes to create an interesting LOOK.

I used Point Lobos preset from Lightroom Preset Collection first and later added some TOOLKIT adjustments.

Lightroom Editing Formula: PointLobos (4, 9, 21, 31, 40)

Step 4 – Final Touches in Photoshop

The first step of Photoshop editing was to fill up the gaps in the corners of the image. I used the Spot Healing Brush Tool and painted over the empty areas. Photoshop did the rest by filling empty areas with the right texture.

I finished processing in Photoshop (cleaning, color correction, contrast).

Deconstructing Featured Photo

Processing: HDR Processed in Photoshop HDR Pro

Lightroom: import, tagging, HDR Merge, Panorama Merge, cropping,  Rapid Editing System for Landscapes, Lightroom Editing Formula: PointLobos (4, 9, 21, 31, 40)
Photoshop: cleaning, color correction, contrast

Photoshop Plugins:

by Viktor Elizarov
I am a travel photographer and educator from Montreal, Canada, and a founder of PhotoTraces. I travel around the world and share my experiences here. Feel free to check my Travel Portfolio and download Free Lightroom Presets.