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Last week I was in the Sudeten Mountains on the Polish Czech Border. When I say on the border, at the top of one of the mountains you can stand with one leg in one country and one in the other. When reaching the top of a mountain you most definitely want to take a picture of the amazing views you can see are the rewards for climbing to the top. Of course to capture the view you need a panorama and unless your camera does this itself you will need the magic of a photo editor.
With this particular view I was facing a few issues; I was shooting into the sun which left the clouds blown out and the foreground under exposed or the other way around. There was also a haze over the mountains that my polarizer couldn’t cut through since I was shooting into the sun and not at a 45 degree angle from the sun. Lastly it was very windy and my wife was getting cold, therefore I didn’t have much time to take the shot.
My solution was to create a HDR or to be more precise a fusion exposed image. This requires for bracketed exposures to be processed in Photomatix and then stitched together in Photoshop.
My first step is to take all of the shots being used and reduce the noise and apply lens corrections. I reduce the noise as the HDR process is going to add more noise and I want to limit how much will be in the final image. I also make lens corrections to help smooth out the stitching of the panorama.
I took one set of exposures and process them in Photomatix. I do this to create a preset to be used on all the other sets of exposures to ensure they are all processed the same. Using Photomatix’s batch process option I converted all the files to HDR images and had a coffee while the computer did the hard work.
Once the HDR images are were ready I used Photoshop’s merge to panorama function.
I convert the final merged image to a smart object and then apply the camera raw filter to correct the perspective of the merged panorama as well as make some minor adjustments to the overall image. I then cropped the image.
While in Photoshop I also cleaned the image, removing lens flares and spots as well as other people climbing the mountain. I used a mixture of the heal tool with content aware as well as the clone tool.
In Lightroom I applied some basic adjustments to lighten the highlights and apply some more contrast and saturation.
I also applied a slight warming to the foreground using the gradient tool to add depth to the image as the background is has cool tones. I also added a slight darkening of the highlights and warmth to the haze of the mountains to the left.
The final image is exactly what I wanted; this is how I remember the view, with the incoming clouds, bright sun shining with rays of light slicing through the haze down to the valley below.
On those mountains in the background is the Polish Czech border.
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