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| p.1 #7 · Loch Arkaig - 1st go at Layer blending |
That's very nice, especially for a first shot at manual blending. It took me a lot more tries to get that far. I agree with the other about the low contrast and the lack of need for 9 images. I normally shoot three images bracketed 1 1/3 to 2 stops apart and find they contain all the information needed to blend most scenes. In a small number of cases, especially where the sun itself is included, I'll take a second set of three at +/- 2 stops, with the central exposure offset -3 stops from the first set. That produces a total of 6 exposures: -5, -3, -2, -1, 0 and +2. I'll use the 0, +2 and the -1 or -2 shots for the main blending, and the -3 or -5 shot for very selective blending of the super-highlights; thus I use four of the six and disregard the others. But as Ben pointed out, it is difficult to do this and still have the sun and other super-highlights included with color and detail, without looking unnatural.
To reduce the amount of manual blending, I usually create a base image using bracketed images as input for an exposure fusion process (I use TuFuse Pro, but Photomatix also has that), and then manually blend one or more of the bracketed exposures as layers over the base image, with a light touch as necessary to bring in anything the exposure fusion didn't.