We have all heard that the best time of day to photo is sunrise and sunset. This is quite true as the sunlight passing through the atmosphere softens the light giving our environment more dimension and a warm glow. But what do you do the rest of the day?


If you are working with a subject that is relatively small and close to you, adding fill flash, a reflector or using a shaded area can fill the bill. If you are a pro you especially have to be able to bring the image home no matter what the lighting conditions may be.

What if your subject is the landscape. And the time you have to photograph —either because of a work schedule or you are traveling — means you either make the shot now or don’t make it at all? Here in Arizona, even if I am out on the trail in time for sunrise, the light turns harsh so fast I needed to find ways to record the scene to my liking. High Dynamic Range (HDR) to the rescue.

Bracketed capture of a scene with too much dynamic range to be captured in a single frame

Grab your tripod if you have one (I use MeFoto Roadtrip for hiking). At the least, find a way to steady your camera. Then make multiple images of the scene by bracketing the exposure using shutter speed.

Many cameras these days have ways to accomplish the brackets with a single push of a button. This allows you to increase the dynamic range enabling you to not lose highlights in the bright areas and not loose details in the shadows once the image is processed. I am a Panasonic Lumix G9 user, and with the G9 I can capture up to seven images up to one stop apart on a single button push. Most cameras have a similar feature. This is handy so you don’t have to bump the camera changing settings which can affect the outcome when merging the photos.

Aurora HDR 2019

As you may know I was not a fan of earlier versions of HDR software due to the cartoonish look and halos many images had at that time. I’ve been working with the Aurora HDR 2019 software for a number of years and each version has gotten better and better at allowing you to create a natural and realistic HDR image from multiple captures.

Basic neutral rendering of the scene using Aurora HDR 2019

Luminar Flex

Aurora puts the images together well and has a number of Looks you may add within the software which is perfectly fine. One thing I’ve tried with good success is to process a neutral image from the exposures using Aurora. Then take the resulting image into Luminar Flex for some finishing touches. The AI filters make working on separate areas of the image quite a bit easier. For example, the foliage filter and sky filters will isolate changes to those areas with no masking needed.

Image after additional processing with Luminar Flex

Enhancing the sky and foliage was a piece of cake. I warmed up the scene and red rocks a bit. This was accomplished with adjustment layers and a quick mask with a different Look.

One more time

Here is another set of images using the same techniques as used above to tame the dynamic beast.

Owl’s Clover HDR bracket capture
Finished image with solid dynamic range covering the highlights and shadows

Yours in Creative Photography, Bob

P.S.: A tripod isn’t totally necessary — I have handheld HDR captures. Aurora HDR 2019 software does have a setting that will auto-align images. Just note that it will add time to the processing and may cause errors. If I don’t have a tripod and need to make a quick HDR, I boost the ISO to make sure the lowest shutter speed will not go blurry and take the brackets a couple of times in case the capture was a little too shaky during during one sequence.