Upload & Sell: On
+1 @ working from only the single exposure.
Ben, I've noticed that when you take multiple exposures, you tend to have them closer together than I typically do. My perspective is rooted in that if you (incident) meter the sunlit side of a subject (say a person) and the back side (shadow) of the same ... you'll see the diff @ amount of light being contributed from the direct sun vs. the overhead sky.
Front = Warm direct/specular sun + Cool indirect/diffuse overhead sky
Back = Cool overhead sky (warm direct sun being blocked by subject)
There are two aspects to recognize regarding this. One is exposure, the other is color of the light.
Remembering that warm (Yellow @ R+G)) + cool (Blue) = White/Neutral (R+G+B), is also corollary to R+G=Y or White - Blue = Yellow (R+G), or White - Yellow (R+G) = Blue. Take away the warm (direct sun) from the neutral (i.e. WB) and you are simple left with cool (overhead sky) to reflect off those "shadow lit" subject areas.
First, the exposure of the back of the subject tells us how much light is coming from the overhead sky (absent of the direct light) only. This value is going to be the same amount that is contributed to the front of the subject as well. The difference in the values then becomes the contribution of the direct sun.
My observations have been that in typical "Sunny 16" lighting, the difference is around 2 1/2 stops. As a result of that, I find little value in bracketing for DR by shooting anything less than a two stop diff, typically shooting a 3 stop diff (for the shadows) @ easier math than 2 1/2.
Second, when we realize that the color of the lighting on the shadow side is different from the color of the lighting from the front, we have a choice to make @ retain the mixed color lighting, or correct for it. The choice is totally ours to make ... as in the case of the white / blue / yellow fence.
But, imo ... if we are going to go to the effort of "correcting" the exposure of our shadows, so our viewer can better see the subject matter contained in the shadows, then it only makes sense to me that we would want to likewise correct for the color so our viewer can better see the subject matter as well.
As always, S&P to taste ... and creative subjectivity of letting the blue show "as recorded" is certainly a matter of choice. But if the purpose of the image is indicated by the shadow exposure lifting to reveal more information to the viewer, then why would we allow the color information to remain askew?
If the purpose of the image is to showcase the light (which we often do) characteristics and how it records differently than we see (refer to Antelope Canyon), then why do we feel compelled to leave the colors "as recorded" but aspire to correct for the shadow exposures rather than also leave them "as recorded".
For me, correcting exposure without correcting color seems like only doing 1/2 the job of correcting the image.
As always, S&P to taste ... so if a person likes blue snow in their images, so be it.
"Corrected" or "Artisticly Rendered" ... it is still our choice at what we present to our viewers ... "What's the point?" or "What is the message that I want to convey to my viewer?" has as much impact on my "corrected" vs. "rendered" vs. "as recorded" vs. "as seen" decisions ... as it does on focus, scale, composition, etc.
I just find it a bit incongruous to shoot HDR, lift shadow exposure, but not correct shadow color. But, that's me.
Ben ... yes, I understand you aspire to better show the red sand to your viewer, thus inquiring @ possibilities. I hope this doesn't come across as anything other than my sharing my philosophy regarding "blue snow". I just think that while it is true when people say that the blue cast naturally occurs in the shadows, that doesn't do much to help with the objective of showing your viewer what it is that you want them to see. I was actually a bit surprised to see the grasses reveal themselves as much as they did on this one.
I just wanted to toss out that you might consider bracketing a bit wider than you have been. As I embarked on the dialogue @ variance of exposure between front and shadow, it just seemed to naturally warrant the color variance also for those who might have not previously considered it (as I know your already have).
The red sand is a tricky one. Lacking a good neutral reference, I first tried to bring G & B into nearly equal value allowing R to be dominant. That didn't seem to render the "red sand" red enough, so I went into the blue channel for additional blue mitigation ... and just kinda eyeballed it from there. I probably need to revisit it, predicated on what I learned of it in "Round 1" ... but hopefully it at least shows some potential for the purple sand to become red.
BTW ... Barbara's sand color is in the right direction as well. Maybe she'll share her approach to the sand.
The really tricky part of this one is going to get the sand, reflections and background to harmonize (even after figuring out the corrections) into plausible realism with tonal & saturation adjustments etc. As a learning exercise / skill builder ... this one is quite the challenge. It might be one to visit & revisit as a litmus test to your PP skills as you learn new techniques.
As always, S&P to taste.
I typically bracket +/-1/3 stop even when I am not expecting to blend, I got into this habit in film days and its basically a metering error safeguard. I almost always prefer the darkest image that does not have blocked shadows. For difficult light, I will shoot as much as 2 stops apart. More than that is probably not going to work anyway. But I often shot sets of brackets. I dislike blends anyway because they are usually messed up by subject motion. Sometimes I even see shadow motion. That is the sun has moved enough to move the shadow line.
But if I need to pull up shadows, starting with a brighter exposure helps me eliminate shadow noise. If it has no motion, I am good with it.
Also, you may be more skilled at pulling up shadows. Certainly with color management. I am reading and incorporating your color ideas into my workflow when I can see what you mean.
My lack of confidence in my own color judgement means I rely heavily on the cameras auto WB or other automated ways to get there.