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Herbert Lake Exposure Blend.

Herbert Lake Exposure Blend.

Interesting story about this image. At the exact moment I pressed the shutter to trigger the five shot auto exposure bracketing sequence planned for this scene, gun shots rang out across the water. I near “shat in my pants” because at the time I thought I was the only person around for miles. Not only that but I was in Banff National Park which is strictly prohibited from firearms!

So I’m standing there on the shore line of Herbert Lake (which is by no means secluded from civilization), it’s nearing sunset and I am bent over my tripod, butt crack hanging out exposed to mosquito central, sweat dripping from my brow (cause I sweat a lot) on what was to be one of the most beautiful evenings one could of hoped for! I thought I had it all to my lonesome but boy was I wrong. If an elk were to bugle three miles away I would have heard it, it was that quiet. You get my drift but anyway a picture perfect evening and that’s when all hell broke loose. I though I was under attack as what sounded like five or six gun shots pierced my ears from just across the lake. The echoes reverberated up the valley for what seemed like forever. I actually dove for cover the best I could given the fact that grass was the only cover available. So there I am face down on a soggy, spongy grassy soaked shoreline peering through three blades of tall grass like I’m in the movie Platoon…I couldn’t hear any bullet impacts and the lake remained as calm as glass so I figured they weren’t shooting at me or taking pot shots out into the lake. My thoughts turned to the possibility of nearby hikers maybe protecting themselves from a big Grizzly Bear and at any moment, a frothy mouthed wounded bear was going to come barreling around the corner.

I had planned on staying right to dark but my plans were quickly altered and I made a mad dash back to my family in a near by motel to relay the story. I reported the incident to local Warden and he followed up with an investigation and when I spoke to him on the following morning, he reported to me that he found nothing. No poaching, people, dead animals, empty bullet casings….nothing! Your guess is as good as mine but I know what a gun sounds like and it was definitely gun fire!

Ok so back to this shot, I had posted this image to my flickr page a day ago and since then have had an email request as to how I captured and processed it. To be quick it goes like this…

If you have read my previous blog post about my hands on experience with my new Canon 5D Mark III, you would know that I bracket most of my landscape shots. Did this particular scene require five shots, no and I knew that when I pressed the shutter but, I have my settings saved to my custom control function on my camera and my landscape setting is set to capture five bracketed shots so for the sake of time, this is what I used.

I found that one image was actually all I needed as per my histogram readings but in this case I decided on two. One for the sky and one for everything else. My workflow generally goes something like this for when I am manually blending images. Once imported, tagged and rated in Lightroom, I pick the images to be used and without any major adjustments, I send them over to Photoshop and open them as layers to be blended together. In this case I decided on a simple gradient to see if that would do the trick without creating to much fuss or getting to complicated, and it did. I used the gradient tool to reveal a portion of the sky that looked to be more properly exposed via a layer mask, over top of the image that had the properly exposed foreground. I looked ok and from here I used a light opacity brush to balance the two mages further to create what I hope for which is one seamless exposure.

Remember, I’m still learning myself so for the time being this is how I do things.

From here it goes back to Lightroom and saved so when I mess it up, I can always go back and start fresh from the already blended image. In Lightroom and like most other photographers do, global adjustments first followed up with some localized balancing of the image. Remember I spoke in a previous post about the improved Lightroom Gradient tool…it works great at this point so get to know it.

I relate the process of finishing an image to cooking, “salt & pepper to taste”. It takes a while to get the flavours just right so lots of practice is mandatory. In my mind I am still a prep cook hoping to someday become a chef.

Once the image is looking good and balanced in Lightroom I again move it back to Photoshop for fine tuning including really localized adjustments if needed and the finishing touches put on. …once again more salt and pepper but in this case if you use too much, you can always take some back, so experiment away!

I won’t go into too many details here because for one my brain is starting to pulsate and two, it varies quite a bit from image to image. This is very general information but maybe somewhere down the road as I become more fluent and comfortable with my writing and my procedures, I will get a little more detailed. I hope for now this gives a liitle insight as to what I do.

Jan, hope that answers your question and if anyone would like to make suggestions or comments…please do!

Off to Montreal for the balance of the week…see you soon!



  1. Carol B

    this is such a stunning shot Greg!! you are amazing!

  2. Jan Madsen

    Hi Greg

    Yes,it did answer my question. It is an interesting technic abort blending exposures like you do. I have tried it a little bit with my Photoshop Elements 9, but not so successfull yet.
    Thank you very much for the information and thanks also for the story behind the image capture. Seems like an exciting evening :-)


  3. Laura

    Breath taking beauty… the story as well. You paint a picture with your words as well as you capture the picture with your camera. You are so talented Greg.

  4. Tania

    I’m glad to hear you made it out of there safely. I presume you brought some extra pants :)

    Stunning image!

  5. Caillum

    The stories behind the photographs are often a compelling factor to go out and shoot. Makes the images even more precious to the creator. I often find the same issues with the vibrance/saturation slider however the colors in this image are brilliant and true. You might find this article interesting.

  6. Thanks for the link Caillum…great read and so true. How much is too much saturation and how little to little. The best part of digital storage is, as one grows and matures as a photographer, there is always the ability to revisit and readjust as necessary!