This was shot in Dead Horse Point State Park, near Moab, Utah. This image was shot as a five image series to create an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image using Photomatix and Photoshop. The huge difference in dynamic range between the bright evening sky and the deeply shadowed valleys are exactly the type of situation where shooting for an HDR makes since to capture details in both the highlights and the shadows. The series was processed using Photomatix to create two versions of the image, a “details enhancer (DE)” tone map, and a “tone compressor (TC)” tone map. The tone mapped images from Photomatix were then brought into Photoshop with the DE image layered over the TC image, using multiply and a 50% opacity for the DE Layer. I know that all sounds complicated, but it is really a pretty quick and straight forward process once you have done it a few times, and are familiar with Photomatix. The images were shot at 1 stop increments from 1/8 to 1/125 at ISO 200 and an aperture of f8 with a Canon 1DMkIII and a Tamron 17-35mm lens at 17mm. An Expoimaging ExpoAperture2 Depth-of-Field Guide was used to calculate the hyperfocal distance and appropriate f-stop .
My Hyperfocal What?! I mentioned above that I used a cool little gadget to calculate the hyperfocal distance for this shot. The Hyperfocal Distance is the point in the scene you are shooting from which everything on all the way out to infinity is in focus. The reason we want to know what this is because in most cases is it allows you to get as much in focus in your scene as possible. For example, say you’re on the beach, and you want a sweeping image with the seashells at your feet in sharp focus, as well as the rest of the scene extending out over the surf to the horizon. By knowing the hyperfocal distance for your particular combination of lens, camera, and distance to your nearest subject, you can get all of this in sharp focus. There is a pretty complex set of equations to use to figure out the exact hyperfocal point for your particular combination of lens, focal distance, and aperture, usually photographers use a couple of different tricks instead of trying to figure this out on the fly. One way is to carry around printed charts listing all of your lenses at different distances. Another old trick many photographers use, and with pretty good results, is to focus about 1/3 into the scene, which is pretty close in a lot of cases to where the hyperfocal point will be. But you may lose sharpness in the foreground using this trick, this is where using a tool like the “Depth of Field Guide” comes in handy to really nail the settings and get the sharpness you want throughout your image. With this tool you just spin the three dials built into to it your settings and it shows you where to set your f-stop and focal distance, no math in your head required.
Don’t Overdo it! As I have mentioned in other articles on HDR images, it is very easy to overdo things in the post production and end up with an image that looks like, well, an HDR. To me a good HDR is subtle, where it has the viewer wondering how the image was done, without slapping them in the face screaming “HDR!”. I like to use one of the images in my original series as the “foundation”, and layer the Photomatix file(s) over it, changing the layer blend to multiply, lighten or darken (depending on the image), and using the opacity slider to get just the effect I want. Also be careful of noise and over-saturation, the very nature of HDRs intensify both. Shoot at a low ISO, usually 200 or less, and be careful not to over intensify the saturation in Photoshop.