One of the first photos I've taken that interested me in making photography a hobby - and dumping more $$$s into equipment and software - is a photo of Route 381 running through Rolling Rock Farms in Pennsylvania. The original image was taken in October of 2009. At that time, I knew about the science of taking photos - but didn't know how to use it. So I have a good subject photo - with a blown sky. The all around image is good, but there are two elements of the photo that keep it from being great.
The original image:
Focal Length 32mm
Focal Length (35 mm) 48 mm
At least the trees are relatively straight.
There are two issues with this photo, that is the sky is flat as can be and on the left side there is a layer of blown sky leaking to a row of trees.
In 2009, I started post-processing with HDR. I favored the grunge look. With that amount of alteration, the sky would look OK - or at least passable. This is the image I favored.
Heavy on the grunge and it did something to the sky. And so at the time, I liked it. I didn't know any better.
Times change. These days I'm favoring less of the grunge - but still the detail enhancement. And the software is getting so much better I should be able to do something with the sky.
So in the 2015 version of this image using Photomatix, instead of going grunge I went with one of the Painterly selections. To start with I am looking for help on everything but the sky. In order for this to work as I have envisioned - the sky will have to go. All of it.
This is what I now have after HDR to start with.
I still have the detail in the trees - but a little less saturation in the foliage. I usually like it a bit more detailed all around, but I can add it at the end.
I needed to find a sky - just a stock photo. Anything too blue wouldn't look right to me. so I was looking for a nice diffused sunrise or sunset. Not only was the sky important, but I have to sell the left row of trees. And this is what I found.
This helps on many levels. Not only does it have a nice dark gradient from top to bottom, but also right to left. It should sell the trees on the left. Adding this to the trees, this is what I get.
And finally I'll add back in some detail work. And I also darkend the road a bit, call that personal preference. So the final product will look like this:
I think the trees are a bit more color realistic than in the grunge version. The leaves lack a little saturation and I'm OK with that change. The sky is a big improvement and fits quite well.
A little history of where I started - taking something straight out of the HDR process pre-sets to actually trying to improve on it a bit.