In order to do that I first need to set the scene. The day was fairly overcast but there were many breaks in the clouds. There were spots of blue sky and there were spots of storm clouds. I really good mix in the sky. I was at work and when I looked outside I kept saying to myself that I hope this sky will hold till sunset. I find that sunsets have more impact when the clouds are scattered and broken up. The sun was supposed to set at 9:45 so I planned to be at the site for 8:30. I wanted to be at Elk Island Park over one hour early because I wasn't familiar with the area so I needed to have time to find a good spot. After parking the truck at 8:30 it took about 30 minutes to walk to the south east side of the lake. This gave me about 45 minutes to pick a good spot. This became rather difficult. Much of the brush was high. Too high even for my tripod. Getting close to the water was not possible. I wasn't able to walk into the marsh without having hip waders which I don't own. I managed to find a ridge that got me high enough to get the lake in with the sunset in the background (Lake Tawayik). After the sun went down I started walking back towards the truck. The walk consisted of walking on a trail in the marsh that was made by buffalo. Walking on that trail I noticed the sky change to a strong pink hue. I decided to find a spot to set up the tripod and take some more shots. Again I had to find a spot that was a bit higher up because there was tall grass along the trail. So now I will start getting into the details for shooting and processing Buffalo Trail.
Exposure compensation: -0.7
Bracketing: 9 @ 1/3
With the Nikon my metering is set to matrix metering and my point of focus is the red square in DEW5571. I chose this point of focus for a few reasons. Firstly, it was far enough away that everything would be in focus at f/8. Secondly it is basically the midtone as far as the lighting in the scene. I then press my menu button on my Nikon. Select Interval Timer Shooting. Select Now. Put in a second value. I have been using 15 sec. Then 001 x 9 = 0009. Select On. Then press OK. This will fire off the 9 shots for the bracketing. Keep in mind this is only for certain models of Nikon's and does not apply to all. Some models are only capable of 3 image bracketing. Check your camera manual. Not all cameras have the interval timer built in either and these two options are the big reasons I chose the camera I did.
Now back at home I copy my images from my memory card onto my computer hard drive. Some people like to use import software but I guess I am old fashioned and I just copy and paste them into a folder of that days date. Once all the images are on my hard drive I then use the import function in Lightroom. I then select the images I want to use and export them using export options that convert the raw files to tiff with no compression. Once exported the tiff files are automatically opened in Photoshop. This is a setting I have turned on in the export options of Lightroom. I then use Noise Ninja to denoise each of the 9 images. I save each of the files as tiff with no compression. I like to denoise early in the process because when using HDR software noise can be amplified by the software.
From this point I will typically either add other layers or flatten the image. Sometimes I add a layer to adjust Hue/Saturation or Exposure. I will most often add filters from Topaz Adjust. These are all preferences and I may at some point create a tutorial for those additional steps.
That basically wraps it up for the process that I use. I did leave out some steps regarding Topaz Adjust and I left that out because it's pretty complicated to explain. If you have and use Topaz, I will usually add a color blast layer but I will reduce it's opacity to about 55%. I usually will add a mild details layer as well. The opacity of that layer will depend on the shot and for a shot like Buffalo Trail I will mask out the layer in spots were I want things to be smoother like the water.
If you are interested in a print of Buffalo Trail or just want to see some of my other work feel free to visit my website: http://waddingtonphotography.smugmug.com/
Adobe Lightroom 3.0 - http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop-lightroom.html
Adobe Photoshop CS5 - http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop.html
Photomatix Pro 4.0.2 - http://www.hdrsoft.com/
Noise Ninja 2.3.6 - http://www.picturecode.com/
Topaz Adjust 5.0 - http://www.topazlabs.com/adjust/
If you have any questions regarding this process feel free to leave comments here or you can find me on Google+ as +David Waddington .