Friday, January 20, 2023

Post Processing for Deep, Wide & High Dynamic Landscapes

In the last post I discussed a few rules of thumb that I use to capture wide angle landscape images, that require multiple brackets for focus and dynamic range. 

Rather than capture exposure brackets at each focus station, my prefered approach is to focus bracket for the foreground at a single exposure and then, when I'm focused at infinity, capture one or two exposures for the sky.

In this short post I'll discuss how I post process the resultant bracket set.

The following is a test capture that I did in my garden. I used a Canon M3, at an 11mm focal length, with an f/6.3 aperture, at ISO 100. As I was using my M3, I also used my auto bracketing Lua script to capture the required image set from the minimum focus distance through to infinity:

As can be seen, the script took seven focus brackets for the foreground at 1/15s, out to around three times the hyperfocal, ie infinity; and one infinity exposure for the sky at 1/100s.

The post processing workflow that I use as my base approach, eg I won't necessarily follow every step, every time, goes like this:

  • Ingest the image set into lightroom
  • Pre-porocess with  DXO PureRaw 2 (or another RAW processor, eg Lightroom) if required
  • Adjust one of the foreground images, ready for focus bracketing, and sync with the other foreground images
  • Export the foreground images to your focus stacking software, eg Helicon Focus, Zerene Stacker or Photoshop
  • Focus blend the foreground images and, if required, export to Photoshop
  • Back in Lightroom, adjust the sky bracket ready for exposure blending with the focus stacked foreground image
  • Export to Photoshop
  • Bring the focus stacked forground image and the sky image together into a two layer document
  • Align the images if required
  • Adjust the exposure of the two images if required, ie so they will blend together well
  • Place a simple gradient mask on one of the images and increase the feathering of the mask to achieve a perfect blend. That is, there is no need to play around with luminosity masks etc
  • Flattern and clean up the image as required, eg cloning etc
  • Return to Lightroom and finish off the image as required, eg toning, dodging and burning
  • Process with Topaz Photo AI (or another such app or in Lightroom) to ensure noise and sharpness is covered, once again, if required

The resultant focus and exposure blended image, with a little bit of toning, looks like this. In this case I did all the focus stacking and exposure blending in Photoshop. Note the image is far from complete ;-)

Hopefully this post, together with the previous posts, has convinced the reader that capturing and processing deep focus and high dynamic range scenes is easy: at least with a wide angle lens.

As usual I welcome any comments on this post or any of my posts.

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