This is the Union Pacific “Big Boy” 4005 at the Forney Museum of Transportation in Denver. The shooting conditions in the museum, especially of this train, are extremely difficult. First, you have extreme backlighting due to the large window. Second, the train is black and lit only with incandescent lamps. That means you have a difficult exposure and also mixed lighting. I decided this situation called for some creative processing.
Read on to learn the steps I used to create this interesting image, using multiple tools and the Google Nik Collection.
First, I shot the train with the intent of creating a HDR image. I captured 5 shots, each 2 EV apart with my Nikon D4 and 24-70mm Nikkor lens, mounted on a tripod for maximum stability. Even at ISO 800, the longest exposure was 15 seconds!
I next brought the images into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.4. Lightroom makes it really easy to process HDR image sequences, because you can automatically sync changes across all the files in any selected sequence in real time. To do this, I selected all five shots and enabled “Auto Sync” in the Develop module. I made changes to WB and contrast on the base (0 EV) exposure, but as I did so all the other images in the sequence were updated in concert.
I then exported the images to HDR Efex Pro 2. To create the stylized look, I started with one of the “Soft” presets from The Photographer’s Guide to HDR Efex Pro 2. The biggest challenge with this image was the significant blue lens flare. Rather then try to correct it here, I chose to go further with other software applications.
After creating the base HDR image, I then sent the resulting TIFF file to Photoshop CS6. I figured the best way to eliminate the blue lens flare across the frame would be to convert the image to monochrome. I used Silver Efex Pro 2 to do the conversion. By using Silver Efex, I not only got rid of the blue streak in the shot, but I was able to further refine the textures in the image with the Structure controls. While HDR Efex Pro 2 has a Structure slider, I can go even further with the fine-tuning controls in Silver Efex Pro 2.
For the final step, I decided to use textures to make the image even more interesting. I added two Flypaper textures; the first was from the new “Tintype Edges” pack, and the other was from the Autumn Painterly pack. The second texture added just a touch of color to the monochrome image. I used “Hard Light” blending on the first texture, and “Overlay” blending on the second. I added Curves and Vibrance adjustment layers to tweak the brightness, contrast, and color in the image. What I liked about these textures is the effect they created in the nearly white window at left. At this point, I saved the image, returned to Lightroom 4, and used the Develop module to crop and fine-tune the image contrast further.
What’s the Point?
The take-home message here is that not only do your tools help you to be creative in challenging conditions, but you should look upon your various plug-ins as being components of a larger process. Had I limited myself to only using HDR Efex Pro 2, I wouldn’t have had the same control over local contrast as I did by following up with Silver Efex Pro 2. And even after I’d done the texture blending steps in Photoshop CS6, I still found it quite useful to do the final tweaks in Lightroom. Start viewing your individual plug-ins not as stand-alone editors, but as part of a larger process.