This was an interesting project - and by far the most time I've ever put into any photo. For the most part, I generally go with what comes out of Photomatix. Call me lazy, but the software is getting so good, that the halos that are generally associated with HDR are almost non-existent. But they are still there to the somewhat trained eye. In this close up of a B-17 engine, the contrast between the sky and the engine cowling was great enough to halo a bit when applying effects of HDR. It just didn't look right. So what to do?
I liked the sky off of the original enough - with a little darkening. The engine needed a lot of work. The cylinders were not so visible. The propellers and the propeller hub are also a bit washed out. Last and least, the light tower is a bit distracting, that had to go.
I am using Photomatix and On One's Perfect Suite 9.5.
Here is the original photo. (The original format is RAW - that explains the washed out colors.)
The first step was to remove the sky from the photo. I did this with PS Layers.
Once the sky was removed, I sent this image through Photomatix. My main goal was to bring out the cylinders, and to add a little jazz that suits me. I would up choosing the preset VIBRANT.
When pushing this through Photomtix, it doesn't treat the transparent space that used to be the sky well. Photomatix adds back the space as part of the image as almost white space. Not a big issue, but it is removing that part of the image for a second time. I hate double work! So, after pulling the image back into PS into the original file with layers, I used some enhancement tricks to darken the propellers.
From here, I worked on the original image as a whole - I needed to get the sky correct. I used a clone tool to remove the light.
So I have the sky where I want it. So I added the engine back into the original, and this is the final Image.
There is the final image. Before I put out here on the web, I crop to a 5x7 format. I have a layer with borders and and my signature block.
Focal Length 18mm
Focal Length (35 mm) 27 mm