Great Skies Make the Difference

February 20, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

I'd like to think that every time I am out shooting I'll get great shooting conditions, but more often than not something's just not right.  It's one thing when a photographer has the luxury of shooting amazing scenery within easy reach of his or her home, but it's an entirely different situation when one travels serious distances to shoot.

In September I flew to Utah to shoot a wedding (Yes, a wedding!  Go figure.) and 9 of Utah's state parks.  The temperatures were perfect and there was lots of sun, but several days it was very hazy, and when I was in the Vernal area, shooting 3 state parks and the Utah Field House Museum of Natural History, the sky was clear and brilliantly blue.  Great weather if I were playing golf.  BORING for landscapes.  So, the first thing was to make sure I shot very early and very late to get great shadows and to take advantage of the golden light that only happens at the beginning and the end of the day.  But beyond that, it became necessary to get creative in the studio. 

I've written before about the benefits of using HDR techniques to squeeze all the drama out of a scene and pull details out of shadows while holding detail in the highlights.  Well, sometimes it takes even more, and in this image I used some blending modes in Photoshop to get a great sky and a great image.

Here's the middle exposure of the 9 that I shot of the image

When I tonemapped all 9 exposures, you'll note that the detail and depth improves, but the sky is so boring, the photo simply isn't happening.

Red Fleet Sunrise, tonemappedkidsnov-81 So things are looking up, but the sky needs to be replaced.  But not completely.  I have a great collection of skies I can use for replacements when needed, but the sunrise sky I wanted to use didn't have that great hot spot that the original had.  Enter Blending Mode in Photoshop CS6, and Voila!

There was a bit more than simply using blending mode that needed to be done to bring this image to life, but the result was well worth the effort!


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