The base problem in a sunset or sunshine shot is that the dynamic range of any photographic camera is not able to pick all.. you can see the lights or the shadows.. if you want the sun to be warming you have to underexpose, and then the landscape becomes a sihouette (sometimes this effect can be wanted, sometimes not..), if you want to pick up the light caressing the landscape you have to overexpose, and then you will completely loose the sky, that will result poor.
How can we reach then an unerexposed sky and a colored ground? The possible solutions are two:
1) to merge two images, one underexposed and one overexposed, with a graphic software like photoshop (layering)
2) to create an HDR, which is the acronym of High Dynamic Range. To create an HDR means to merge 3 or more images (underexposed and overexposed) with a special software (like photomatix, or photoshop), that will create an image in which both the shadows and the light are preserved. If you use Photomatix the controls are more and you can reach great results, even if it is often useful to take the resulting file and pass it through photoshop, in order to give some contrast and sharpening.
Pros and cons of one and the other method: the layering is for me a little bit more complicated, because you have to now well how to use layer masks and succeed in merging two images in a manner that the sovrapposition won’t be seen, while for the HDR it is simpler because it is only necessary to give the software the three or more RAW files and it will be all automatic, we will have only to move some values in order to obtain the image we want. The problem of the HDR technique is that the risk to obtain a fake, false, image is very high.. the web is full of examples of this type.. try yourself to write HDR on any search engines like Google and you’ll find examples of great HDRs near other examples very fake (I underline however that the first HDRs one makes are always fake.. it is a long period to learn to make them realistic.. I think that I am still in the “fake” phase, but I hope to improve in the next future).
Said this, I will publish here some images I shot yesterday evening in the farms: one of a tractor in the sunset, and one of the same sunset half an hour later on a hill.
In the first case, the one of the tractor, I made 3 shots, one underexposed -2, one at 0, and one overexposed +2, and I merged them in an HDR (with at the end some contrast and sharpening in photoshop).
A little excursus on the tractor.. I saw it abandoned in a field, so I went to make photos of it and the farmer immediatly arrives to ask me what I am doing.. I explain to him that I only want to make a photo, and he asks me if I am of some journals.. I say that i make photos only for personal pleasure and at this point he asks me if I want him to move the tractor in a more suitable place!! FANTASTIC!! I make him move a little bit in order to obtain a photo with the tractor exactly parallel to the sunshine.. in fact I wanted to represent the calm when the works end at the end of the day, so the parallel position was better in my mind..
anyway the farmer has been very kind, and he told me that the tractor is of 1966.. more than 40 years of work!!
p.s. the conversation with the farmer has been made all in dialect, that I always recommend all to learn!!
Here are the three shots for the HDR:
The two base shots are:
In my opinion, I prefer the second result, i.e. the layering, but it is also true that sometimes it is difficult to use this technique.. in this case there was only the division line hill-sky, but on the tractor it would have been much more complicated. Then it is not true that one method is better than the other.. they are simply different, and one has to master both.. and one has to learn how to make HDRs which are not so fake (e.g. in the shot of the tractor I’m still not satisfied under this point of view, because the plants in front of the tractor are still a little bit fake.. what to say.. I will improve!)
I hope this little article will be useful to comeone, and if you want to tell me what you think about this topic simply write me an email, and I will be very happy to read it and perhaps to publish it!!