Video: HDR Workflow Tutorial – Golden Falls

Tutorial by Michael Murphy

I had the opportunity to go to Iceland earlier this year; it’s a place where, like many photographers, I had wanted to visit for some time.

You can plan a lot in advance; where you wish to go, where you may sleep, the car you will hire, etc.  The one thing you can’t plan for, however, is the weather. We were fortunate with the weather in that it wasn’t raining quite as much as the weather app on my phone had predicted.  We did manage to get a couple of days of threatening clouds and a tiny bit of blue sky before the rain really hit us.

And so it was after four days of driving and very little sleep that we were making our way back to Reykjavik for the flight home.  The rain had been lashing all day, and the warning we received when hiring the van of ‘be careful of the direction you park when opening the doors, as the wind will take the doors straight off’ was never truer on this night.  With the rain and such ferocious wind came a lot of clouds, and some were pretty amazing and dramatic.  We were chasing one such cloud waiting for a suitable place to park and find some sort of cover for the wind; at the same time we were trying to head towards Geyser to see one of those in action.  I looked at the map and noted Gullfoss waterfall was a 10 minute drive from where Geyser was – plus it was in the direction of this awesome cloud we were looking at, and so we headed up there, and I’m very pleased that we did.

It was around midnight by the time we got there, and there was still some light in the sky.  We huddled beside a building attempting to take photos of the stormclouds, but even beside a wall that was supposedly blocking the wind we still couldn’t get a steady shot.  Attempting to bracket when any exposure was more than 1/10 of a second was just not happening.   Still, we went to check out the falls and were left with the awesome sight of powerful mother-nature.  The water cascading down these falls was immense and for a moment I stood beside the falls and simply watched it, mesmerised, as the spray and wind stung my exposed flesh.

Moving back to a suitable viewing point I set up the tripod and attempted to fire off brackets, the majority unusable due to the conditions we were in.  I placed the tripod beside a fence post and put my body in between it and the wind attempting to act as a breaker.  The wind still came too strong and actually moved the tripod several inches per gust at times.  I had to persevere, and just carried on firing off brackets hoping to have the exposures start and end during one of the infrequent lapses in the assault.  Eventually I managed to get some shots taken where the wind was at an acceptable level.

Iceland is a wonderful place with some amazing scenery, and am looking to return there next year with – I hope – better weather conditions.

The Workflow video in this post will give you an actual run through of my processing for this image, but a summary of the applications used and the purpose of them are as follows:

Video Tutorial

HDR Workflow Video – Golden Falls from Mike Murphy on Vimeo.

Camera Gear & Setup

Canon 5D Mark II on a tripod

Exposure time: 4/10

F/Stop: 6.3

ISO: 100

Focal length: 32mm using the Canon 24-70mm 2.8

Processing:

Lightroom 

Images from the Iceland trip were imported into Lightroom as this acts as my catalogue and organiser.  Having to use just one RAW file for the shot led me to making two virtual copies of that file in Lightroom, and changing the exposure of these copies to +2 and -2 respectively.  I then exported the three exposures into Photomatix Pro.

Photomatix Pro

Initial tonemapping of the exposures; no ghost reduction or alignment was needed as I was essentially using one exposure only.

Photoshop

Sharpening using Lab Color mode > Lightness Channel and the Unsharp Mask.

Cropping and the straightening of the horizon line.

Removal of a halo by way of a layer mask, clone brush and the ‘darken’ blending modes.

Cloning out of foreground grass which I found to be a distraction.

Photoshop Plugins:

Nik Color Efex Pro

Pro Contrast filter over whole image

Tonal Contrast filter over whole image

Low Key filter brushed in place

Perfect Effects 4.0 by OnOne Software

Velvet Green filter applied over whole image but at reduced opacity

Topaz Denoise by Topaz Labs

Applied to remove noise, primarily in the sky, and then brushed out where not required using a layer mask.

Bio

Mike Murphy is based in London, England and has been a hobbyist photographer for a few years.  HDR is the reason he fell for this hobby, and 95% of the images produced are done so using this technique.  Being based in London Mike is spoilt for choice when it comes to architecture; however a nice landscape and an Urbex trip are always a high priority for getting out of bed.  More so than a sunrise which he will only see if on a photo holiday.  You can find him at www.murphyz.co.uk or on Twitter @murphyz