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Crystal Cove Sunset HDR – How We Shot It

By Matthew Saville on April 1st 2013

I captured this image on my birthday in January of 2007, during a relaxing, “lone wolf” type solo adventure to Crystal Cove State Park here in Southern California.  Back then in 2007, I was shooting on a Nikon D70.  (This was before Nikon had even announced their first full-frame camera, the $5,500 D3, let alone the more affordable D700!)

The Photo

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The Equipment and Settings

The Shooting Conditions

At the time I was very much into shooting with graduated neutral density filters, because I was also very much into shooting slide film.  However in this shot, I opted for a quick two-shot HDR instead. The horizon was simple enough, so I was hoping that the blending would be easy.

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I started with a 1/4 sec. exposure at f/8 for the highlights in the sky, (Seen on the right, above) however when I went to increase my exposure for the foreground I found that f/8 was not giving me the foreground sharpness that I really wanted, so I had to stop down my aperture all the way to f/16 and increase my exposure to 15 seconds.  (Seen on the left.)  This finally gave me the sharpness and exposure I wanted in all areas of the image, with two images that had a 5-stop difference overall.  (By the way, that old Tokina 17mm f/3.5, although not the most incredible lens on full-frame, was a PERFECT wide-angle prime for my old crop-sensor D70!  In fact to this day, the Tokina 17mm f/3.5 series lens is the only 17mm prime lens available for both full-frame and crop-sensor cameras!  Of course Nikon does have an 18mm f/2.8 AF and an 18mm f/4 manual focus, but neither of them have much better corners and are far more pricey than the Tokina.)

The Post-Processing

I merged the image in Photoshop using a simple layer mask; for a video demonstration of this technique please click HERE!  Before the merge however, I started by applying the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 preset “Vivid Landscape” to both images, and then tweaking just the exposure and contrast to my taste for each image.

Even though I had a hunch that my final image would be in B&W, I merged the exposures in color just in case.  The resulting color HDR image looked like this:

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Finally, I converted the image to B&W and did a small amount of burning, dodging, and other local contrast boosting using the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 Preset system‘s “Sky, Cloud, Ocean” enhancement brush.  Voila!

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Thank you all so much for reading, and until next time happy clicking and take care!
=Matthew Saville=

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Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

Follow his personal wilderness adventures: Astro-Landscapes.com

See some of his latest wedding photography featured on: LinandJirsa.com

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Thanks for sharing.

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