Cameras are not like the human eye. We can see a landscape at sunset, with really bright skies and a foreground in shadows, and perceive the whole scene. It looks good.

But if we point a camera at the same scene, its sensor can really only see one or the other. If it reads off the shadows, it gives a long exposure and blows out the bright sky. If it reads off the sky, it gives a nice sky and underexposes the foreground.

What to do?

You can use a graduated neutral density filter over your lens and this little piece of glass darkens just the sky 2 or 3 stops to bring the image into balance. In some situations you can expose for the sky and light up the foreground with flash.

But sometimes the range is just too extreme and the only option left is to photograph the scene with multiple images at different exposures and combine them together later, digitally.  This is called HDR, for the “high dynamic range” this technique allows you to bring out of your image (i.e. show both the dark shadows and bright highlights).

That is what I did here. My 3 stop graduated neutral density filter was just too little (and stacking multiple filters can really create some bad color casts). So I shot it it multiple images and back home, with a nice cup of coffee, I sat in front of my computer and combined them together with Lightroom’s brand new HDR Merge feature. Voilà.

If you overdo HDR processing, you get a sort of fluorescent, unnatural looking image. Some people like that, I don’t. I am still experimenting with Lightroom’s built in HDR Merge, but so far I like it. These are literally my first attempts. They still need a little work, but not a bad start.

 

Wooly paperflower wildflowers and Chisos Mountains, Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA.

Wooly paperflower wildflowers and Chisos Mountains, Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA.

 

Wooly paperflower wildflowers and Chisos Mountains, Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA.

Wooly paperflower wildflowers and Chisos Mountains, Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA.

Canon 1DX. 18mm. ISO 1600. f/10. Shutter speeds varied through 4 images by one stop, from 1/50 sec. to 1/1250 second).