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One of the best things about living in North Carolina is that you can drive down rural roads and pretty much guarantee that you’ll find interesting old barns, houses, or tractors to shoot. When I once complained that this sort of agricultural scene seemed to be the only interesting stuff around here, a photographer friend told me, “Shoot what you have available and make the best of it.” Wise words.
Sometimes in post-processing, you have to return to the basics. Although I often (read: usually) process with HDR, it’s not always called for, requiring a fallback to another strategy. The fact that it’s time-tested is just a bonus.
In this situation, there are two elements that did not allow this image to be processed with the usual HDR programs. First, the wind was blowing very hard, so any HDR program had a problem with ghosting on the foreground tree branches as well as on some of the background foliage. (I’ve heard that the next release of Photomatix Pro will address this. Yay!) Second, this was taken with a Nikkor 70-300mm lens, so the amount of fine detail (leaves, pine needles, grasses) caused a microcontrast nightmare due to compression of the scene.
This image started out with Adobe Camera Raw in order to make it look as good as possible going into Photoshop. Once in Photoshop, I applied a basic curves adjustment layer and a few Hue/Saturation layers to tone down or bring up some color. Layering on two different textures in Multiply mode added an interesting element, particularly to the sky, but also brought a bit of sepia tone to the subject area. Finally, I used NIK Color Efex Pro to adjust color contrast, and to add a darken/lighten center adjustment, bringing the eye to the building.
I don’t think this could have been done better with HDR, but then again, it isn’t a very high-contrast scene.