Lake Tekapo in New Zealand is a fantastic place. There is the great big lake, that due to sediments in the lake, has got the weirdest awesome blue color. Then you have the mountain range with snow on top, the largest observatory in New Zealand lies on top of Mount John, with awesome views. And then there is the Church of the Good Shepard. It must be one of the most photographed buildings in New Zealand. The view is fabulous from the windows inside the church.
About the photo
When I shot this photo there was a lot people going around, so I had to wait quite patiently and finally only a few people where in the shot, down by the beach. I then shot my 7 shots of bracketed exposures hand held. I have used the big rocks as foreground and the path that takes the viewer into the church. Behind the church, the lake can be seen. It seems more distant than it really is, and that is because I shot it with a wide angle lens. The church it self points to the lake, and takes the viewer there.
About the processing
This is the before photo and as you can see, it is much more flat and dull. Let’s see what I did to it.
This is an HDR photo. I initially shot 7 shots, but I only used the 6. I shot the photo handheld, and the last and brightest image was shaken. I processed the photo in Photomatix pro and saved that image, without closing the output window. I then pressed the ‘Tone mapping’ button once more, this gives a double tone mapped image. This photo I saved too. I then loaded all of the original 6 plus the 2 tone mapped images into Photoshop as layers. Aligned them (Edit->Auto align layers) – Photoshop does a great job of auto aligning, just as Photomatix does.
Let’s look at the specific processing areas:
#1: The lake. It looks dull and not even close to the color it really was. I increased the saturation for that particular area and the lake came to life.
#2 The photo is taken in the middle of a grey day. Not ideal, but that was the time I was there, and I wanted a shot. To make the photo pop a bit more and make the texture on the church and the rocks stand out, I have used the double tone mapped image for the church and the stones, but also the grass. The double tone mapping makes it more painterly, but it also enhances texture quite dramatically. You can make some really awesome effects from this, however, the first impression, when you press ‘Tone mapping’ is that the photo has gone hay wired. The colors go crazy, so you have to dial back the saturation slider quite a bit, to around 45 (which is neutral). And then the luminosity slider must also go almost all of the way to the left. This is a very potent slider the second time you tone map an image. Find somewhere you like, but be careful not to blow the highlights completely. I wanted the double tone mapped image for the church and the rocks in the foreground, and maybe the grass. This is what the church ended up looking like in a 100% crop. Look at all these lovely enhanced texture details with a lot of colors.
#3 I didn’t get a shot without people, but by using the clone stamp and content aware fill, I was able to remove the people. I also removed a lot dust spots from the sensor. My camera needs to be cleaned.
#4 The grass became crazy green when I double tone mapped it. This is a common problem was grass and trees. Another common problem is that a grey sky usually get’s so full of noise (grain), that it is unusable. The grass is made less green, by duplicating the layer, and then using the Hue/Saturation dialog (CTRL+U) and then select the Yellow color channel and lower the saturation to something more natural looking. You will be surprised to see how much yellow there is in green. I then mixed the more natural looking grass into the photo. The sky, you use one from one of your original shots.
#5: I also used the double tone mapped image for the rocks. I also cropped away some of the rocks, to make the path start more elegantly at the bottom of the image.