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Author Topic: Light sky, dark tress at sunrise  (Read 1272 times)


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Light sky, dark tress at sunrise
« on: January 18, 2012, 10:26:40 am »

This I know is an elementary question but every time I try to take this shot, I fail.

The scene is sunrise without light diffusing weather such as fog or snow, looking down over verdant forested hills. The tress and ground are in deep shadow, the sky is pale with with pink and orange. What is the best way o bring up the shadows without blowing out the sky or overexposing it so much that the colors lose saturation?


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Re: Light sky, dark tress at sunrise
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2012, 11:50:05 am »

It depends on how much dynamic range is in the image. One way is to expose for the highlights and then use either a linier dodge or screen dodge to bring back some of the detail in the shadows. This isn’t perfect but works pretty well in many cases.

Another approach is to bracket the exposure into 2 to 4 (or more) images. Expose the first for the shadows, the 2nd for the mid brightness tones and the 3rd (and/or 4th) for the highlights. Some cameras have a bracket function that will do this for you. You will need a tripod when using this approach.

What I do is to use the camera’s light meter and get a reading for the darkest area and the brightest area and then shoot in 1 stop increments until I've covered the range I'm after.

After capturing the images I use Photoshop which has a HDR merge function. The end results using bracketing are fabulous.


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    • - photography by Terry McDonald
Re: Light sky, dark tress at sunrise
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2012, 04:27:28 pm »

Justan is on the mark. But you need to nail down the tonal range first. If it is near or beyond the capability of your sensor (using good expose-to-the-right techniques) then HDR is the way to go. Having said that, the result of full HDR is often too obvious. Consider using HDR to partially raise the shadows alongside your usual techniques for lifting shadows.

Another alternative (one that I've never been entirely happy with) is using a split ND filter in front of the lens. While it is often successful, too often the dividing line between clear and ND is too apparent for my tastes, but given the right conditions and proper technique, it might just solve the problem.
Terry McDonald -
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