Northern Lights HDR Photography
HDR means ‘High Dynamic Range’. Multiple exposures are combined to give the result that a single exposure couldn’t achieve. For this scene, I actually took 3 exposures. First was the sky for 25 seconds, then the landscape for 225 seconds then the lights for 1 second. This final exposure was never used in the final image, so this is a 2 exposure HDR.
Here is the unprocessed 225 sec exposure open in Lightroom so you can see the histogram.
Lightroom shadow adjustment
All of the shadows are included in the exposure, so I can go ahead and increase the levels of the shadows by boosting shadows and blacks. Then using de-haze to introduce contrast I maintained a ‘Night Look’.
The 25 second sky exposure was given a similar treatment in light room to boost the shadows in the sky to give a better print.
The next step is to open both images as layers in Adobe photoshop. It is possible to open both files as layers, but I just open both files and used Select all > Copy > paste to add 1 image as a layer on top of the other. I selected the brighter pixels in the top layer (brighter image) by using ‘Ctrl+Alt+2’ to select the highlights, then holding shift, I was able to add to the selection until the whole sky was selected.
With my selection, I click the Mask Icon to turn the selection into a mask. Then I invert the mask (Ctrl+i) to allow the highlights from the bottom layer replace the highlights in the top layer.
This was mid January on a 3 day photo tour. We hit the beach about an hour before sunrise after a comfortable breakfast.
Nacreous clouds are difficult to expose. The trick here was under-exposure to make sure I didn’t loose any of the details and colours in the glowing cloud.
It was horrible conditions that brought about this beauty. We were sand blasted and windswept on the black sand beach, day 2 of a 3 day tour.