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How best to expose a sunset without a graduated filter?

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  • How best to expose a sunset without a graduated filter?

    Shot this last night and at the time just couldn't decide how best to expose it so I shot a few options. Here are a couple in jpg original form and then subsequently as a jpg similarly processed from the corresponding raw file in each case. I'd be very interested in your opinions on what's the best way to expose such a shot and on the quality of the final images I got in each case. I'll post my own thoughts later but I have to say I'm somewhat undecided as to which way is best.

    So firstly the initial jpg shot with an exposure chosen to try and show details in both dark and light areas.


    and the subsequent jpg from the corresponding raw file tweaked in Lightroom.


    Second here is a jpg shot deliberately underexposed on the ground but better for the sky.


    and the subsequent jpg from the corresponding raw file tweaked in Lightroom. I used the same LR settings as the shot before but then removed the graduated filter I'd added on the sky and boosted the shadows and tweaked the highlights and white clipping a bit.


    Thoughts?, comments?, any critique, all welcome.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/flip_photo_flickr/

  • #2
    Mark Johnson

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    • #3
      Re: How best to expose a sunset without a graduated filter?

      It's a nice shot either way Phill. Although I'm viewing on a phone screen so not seeing all the detail at the moment.

      For one shot with no filters , my default would be to protect the highlights, and lighten the shadows afterwards. But I find this creates more noise in the shadows.

      But in reality I'd use ND grad's, or bracket the exposures and blend together afterwards. In fact at the weekend on Bamford Edge even a 3 stop ND grad wasn't enough so did both! Haven't processed them yet though.
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      • #4
        Re: How best to expose a sunset without a graduated filter?

        I like #2 as well. It seems to be the right balance.

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        • #5
          Re: How best to expose a sunset without a graduated filter?

          I agree with the rest that #2 is best in this situation

          which technique works best does I think depend on the situation. if I wanted the foreground I would do as the top. if I wanted silhouettes or there was more brightness in the foreground still I may use some in camera -ev and even then a graduated filter

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          • #6
            Re: How best to expose a sunset without a graduated filter?

            With the sun right on the horizon a reverse graduated filter would be useful. I have a 3 stop reverse grad for such scenes. The reverse grad has the darkest part towards the bottom of the graduated part rather than at the top.

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            • #7
              Re: How best to expose a sunset without a graduated filter?

              Hi

              Are you shooting in raw or jpg as you refer to original. If you shoot in raw you have a lot more flexibility to pull highlights down and shadows up.

              Personally I would use bracket exposure to get three raw images 1 stop apart and then merge together in photoshop. A graduated mask can be simulated quite nicely with a photoshop layer mask.

              Gary

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              • #8
                Re: How best to expose a sunset without a graduated filter?

                Gary I shoot in raw plus jpg and was showing the comparison of the original jpg files unedited with Lightroom processed raw files which were saved as jpgs. Probably didn't explain what I did very well I'm afraid. I've never tried to merge a bracketed set of exposures in processing but wouldn't that just be like doing an HDR shot via the camera?
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                • #9
                  Re: How best to expose a sunset without a graduated filter?

                  #2 looks to have all the detail so your processing was spot on. I agree with others that, without any filters to hand, bracket and merge in post is the way to go.
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                  • #10
                    Re: How best to expose a sunset without a graduated filter?

                    Looks like I'm going to have to Google a few tutorials on merging images then. Thanks everyone.
                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/flip_photo_flickr/

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                    • #11
                      Re: How best to expose a sunset without a graduated filter?

                      Originally posted by Phill D View Post
                      Gary I shoot in raw plus jpg and was showing the comparison of the original jpg files unedited with Lightroom processed raw files which were saved as jpgs. Probably didn't explain what I did very well I'm afraid.


                      I can't tell much difference between 2 and 4 - 4 is perhaps a little more natural because you haven't used a Lightroom grad on the sky.
                      I don't mind a slightly accentuated gradient in the sky - it may not be "real" but I find it visually appealing.

                      They're both great shots


                      Originally posted by Phill D View Post
                      I've never tried to merge a bracketed set of exposures in processing but wouldn't that just be like doing an HDR shot via the camera?

                      I don't know which version of Lightroom you're using? In LR6 (standalone) in Develop, select both images in the strip on the bottom and right click and choose "Photo Merge>HDR"
                      It won't produce that horrible HDR image you may have seen and hated elsewhere

                      I did a few experiments with LR and Aurora HDR on this image from last December in similarly tricky lighting.
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                      • #12
                        Re: How best to expose a sunset without a graduated filter?

                        Thanks AMc I'll give it a try, if it's that simple even I've got no excuse
                        http://www.flickr.com/photos/flip_photo_flickr/

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                        • #13
                          Re: How best to expose a sunset without a graduated filter?

                          Hi Phil

                          OK, understood.

                          With regards overlaying in Photoshop vs HDR, yes the result would be different. For example the sky could be graduated to be even darker at top. You could brighten just the field and leave the hedgerow darker. This is more like dodging and burning in a darkroom.

                          While HDR would be applied equally over entire picture.


                          Gary

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                          • #14
                            Re: How best to expose a sunset without a graduated filter?

                            Originally posted by Phill D View Post
                            Thanks AMc I'll give it a try, if it's that simple even I've got no excuse

                            There aren't many controls -

                            - Auto Align is pretty obvious and helps if you've not used a tripod
                            - Auto Tone - have a play but I think you need it on based on a quick experiment.
                            - Deghost amount - how much LR attempts to deal with things that moved between the exposures.


                            Have fun!
                            https://www.flickr.com/photos/amcuk/

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                            • #15
                              Re: How best to expose a sunset without a graduated filter?

                              Originally posted by Invicta View Post
                              With the sun right on the horizon a reverse graduated filter would be useful. I have a 3 stop reverse grad for such scenes. The reverse grad has the darkest part towards the bottom of the graduated part rather than at the top.
                              I've been looking for a good reversed grad for a while but they all seem to be really expensive, do you have any recommendations?
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