Just wanted to share with you my photograph that was recently published on the cover of a UK magazine (Digital Photographer, issue #67). The main theme of the issue is: "Pro Secrets: Landscape Masterclass". The link to their website: http://www.dphotographer.co.uk/
Here is the original photo and a little story about it. I took the photo during my 2007 family trip to the Acadia National Park. When we arrived to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse for sunset, literally busloads of tourists and quite a number of photographers with carbon-fiber tripods were already there, occupying every vantage point imaginable. The sky, unfortunately, did not look particularly promising (to me, at least). I decided to wait until after the sunset, hoping the afterglow might be less contrasty and more pleasing. My wife, however, did not buy into my "audacity of hope" and decided that a warm cup of tea in a four-mile away fishing village is a more appropriate use of our time.
When I came back half an hour later, not only the hordes of tourists disappeared as soon as the sun dipped behind the clouds on the horizon, but also all the photographers but one left, to my surprise. Now the two of us had the whole rocky shore at our disposal, without getting in each other's way. I noticed a small tide pool on the rocks, reflecting the top of the lighthouse, and decided to make it a part of the composition. The contrast was still quite strong, and I had to bracket. The picture here is a result of just two extreme exposures, +2 and -2 f/stops, blended manually. I tried a CS3 HDR with all three exposures, but the result looked funny and artificial, at least to me. I guess I am not that familiar with all the possible HDR tweaks, but no matter what I try, the results are not looking natural. Good, old mask and a soft brush to the rescue.