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This week’s image was supposed to be of crocuses, but I was misled in believing they had flowered by the city’s Instagram feed; posting a picture from last year. Not to be disappointed I found snowdrops and thought, when you have snowdrops you can make a cool HDR.
I had always envisioned a flower close in the foreground with something in the background to give some scale to the picture. I choose a wide angle lens, for me 18mm, and got down as close as I could. I had no tripod but wouldn’t need one as I could just place the camera on the floor. I also added to my lens a Polarizer. Many people like to use a digital polarizer filter to make their colours punchier; I however like to use a glass polarizer as I believe the effect really can’t be replicated.
For the HDR I would need 7 exposures at one stop intervals from +3 to -3. I did this by setting my camera to bracket two stops. Once I had taken my first three photos I under exposed the scene by one stop and again over exposed the scene by one stop. This gave me 0 +2 -2, -1 -3 +1, +1 -1 +3. Although I had shots of the same exposure, when creating the HDR I can ignore those duplicated.
I bundled together my exposures and in Lightroom set the camera calibration to landscape and removed all sharpening and noise reduction. I exported the pictures to Photomatix to create my HDR. I choose to use Exposure fusion as I feel this gives a more realistic tone than normal HDR processing.
The first thing I did back in Lightroom was to apply my lens corrections, capture sharpening and noise reduction.
I really wanted the house in the background to be blurry and out of focus, this would bring the viewer’s focus to the flowers. I added a gradient blur and reduced the sharpening to -100. This minuses the effect of the sharpening I applied in the last step and then a bit more. The building was soft but I wanted it to be softer. I duplicated this gradient 3 times until there was no change in the blur of the building.
This technique creates a similar effect to a lens blur and works best with high frequency images like landscapes.
I created another gradient to increase the saturation and added it to the sky.
I made some global adjustments to try and balance the whole image. I increased the contrast to give the image some more punch. The shadows were feeling a bit hard after the HDR process and brightened them. The snowdrops had some really nice tones but the white tones were to strong, I reduced the white clipping hoping to protect the whites in the petals.
I also added a curves adjustment to brighten the midtones and lift the image slightly.
Using the adjustment brush I increased sharpening and selectively applied this to the snowdrops.
There was quite a bit of Chromatic Aberration around the Snowdrops. I carefully tried to select this in lens correction. I reduced it as much as I could, but the more aggressive I was the more it removed colours in the grass and surrounding areas.
While removing the Chromatic Abreactions I noticed some ghosting in the petals from the HDR processing. I opened the picture in Photoshop and used the pen tool to select the ghost area. Using the heal tool I selected similar areas to replace the ghosting. While I was in Photoshop I used a hue and saturation layer reducing magenta, red, blue and green. I inverted the mask to hide all and using a brush painted away the more tricky Chromatic Aberrations.
The overall look and style of the picture is what I envisioned at the beginning when heading out to the park, except without crocuses. I like the colours that I got with the original exposures, which were emphasised more when they were combined to make the HDR image. I like the softening applied to the background and although the snowdrops are quite small in the frame there is no doubt that they are the focus.
What do you think of the image, is there anything you would have done differently? Let me know in the comments below.
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