Photo Realistic HDR
The 5 (-2, -1, 0, +1, +2) exposures used to achieve a subtle High Dynamic Range through AEB mode (Auto Exposure Bracketing) with Canon gear. My preferred software either Photoshop or Photomatix but now a days post processing work has become less painful with Adobe’s much improved Photoshop CS5. Do refer to the supplied DSLR manual on how to set AEB.
Put the DSLR on a sturdy tripod and attach the remote shutter release. Best results if your DSLR have live view-saving a stiff neck and a trip to the masseuse. To make this technique less painful use AV mode and dial in an f-stop of 6.3. Auto focus on an object near the location of the setting sun. After achieving focus switch the lens focus mode to MF (manual focus)-to prevent lens from focusing on another object throughout the 2 sets of AEB exposures.
Two sets of AEB’s must be achieved. Since Canons can only do 3 consecutive exposures (AEB -,0,+) the first set of 3: -1, 0, +1 should be shot first. Then the next 3 exposures at -2,0,+2 will require you to dial in manually through the menu. Do this as quick as possible while keeping the DSLR on the tripod. Colors change every second as the sun sets further into the horizon faster than selecting a song on the iPod.
Once the initial 6 exposures are captured try the same process again after a few minutes to get different colors in the sky. Or just to do some practice runs in getting used to fiddling around with the AEB settings.
Upload the images unto your comp and start the HDR process. Use 5 out of the 6 exposures and since there are 2 identical -/+0 exposures in the 2 sets just choose one. Process the five exposures in HDR software and save as TIF. Don’t get trigger happy on the sliders in the HDR software. HDR brings out the high light and shadow details but keep it as realistic as possible. Open another window with -/+0 exposure to make sure the adjustments aren’t too far from the original (use artistic judgement here. There is no right or wrong just too much and too subtle)
Have fun and the best part is when your viewers don’t know a photo is actually an HDR. Twilight at 5:45 pm captured on Canon EOS 50D, EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM, ISO 125 with Benro tripod and Canon RS-80N3 Remote Switch.