I took this image yesterday evening, on my way back from swimming. This is one of the three or four possible roads, one avoiding the highway.
I know this place. This is a sundown place. I don’t use it very often, but yesterday I didn’t have anything compelling, so I tried my luck. The Tokina 11-16 was still mounted and two test images confirmed, that I best would use a sequence of bracketed images, or otherwise I would have to choose between detail in the sky and detail in the landscape.
My soft edge split neutral density filters would not have helped me here. Through this ultra-wide lens, the transition would have been much too soft. They would at most have darkend the top too much, doing almost nothing to the sun. The right traditional tool for the job are Singh-Ray’s reverse graduated ND filters. Maybe I should get one, I suppose it would have worked very well.
With no filter available, I resorted to HDR. This is an image made of four out of a sequence of nine exposures. I tried Essential HDR first, and when it had problems aligning the images, I switched to Photomatix Pro. Both are excellent programs, none is perfect, but normally one of the two works fine. I don’t care that much which it is, I go to Photoshop anyway. Of the two tone mapping modes in Photomatix Pro, this is the more conservative, called “Tone Compressor”.
In fact I can imagine very different ways to process the image, with this one just one possibility. The “Detail Enhancer” tone mapping made the scene much less peaceful, more dramatic, and even in Photoshop there are so many different ways to go. There is no single right way and on another day I probably would have produced a very different result.