Landscape photography sometimes requires two shots to capture the drama of a single scene.
Here in the woodlands of Will County, this afternoon landscape of bluebells along the stream would have been impossible to convey with just one photograph.
Those who are familiar with HDR (High Dynamic Range) will take several shots, separated by one stop (maybe two), then blend them using their favorite HDR software.
Photomatix is the most popular product, but it’s very hard to achieve a realistic look without a lot of time and experimenting with the various sliders. Instead, I’ve moved to Photoshop’s HDR Pro and their 32-bit workflow, which allows for two powerful passes of Adobe Camera Raw. Because Photoshop is a photography program, it defaults to producing a realistic look, plus I’m already familiar with the intuitive functions and sliders of ACR. Still, even the best software cannot account for motion—those small positional shifts that happen between shots as subjects blow in the wind. But, do not fear. There’s a much easier approach that gives near perfect results!
Most landscape photographs only require two pictures: one exposed for the dark land and a second exposed for the bright sky. Simply open up those two those images in Photoshop (or Photoshop Elements), drag one picture onto the other, then blend the layers using selections and masks. There are no alignment issues with this method and no need for HDR software.
Digitally captured photographs can provide a truer experience than film, but it takes more work. Just be smart about it. It’s all about choosing the best methods and tools. And it all begins with taking the picture. Plan your shot by evaluating the light and determining if you need one shot or two. Carefully take your shot(s) and check the histogram. That’s it.
Now you can enjoy yourself knowing that you won’t have a lot of work or disappointment later on. After all, landscape photography should be fun.
So, get out into the great outdoors and shoot those landscapes. And remember, two shots are probably all you’re ever going to need to communicate nature’s majesty.