Using Photoshop to create natural landscape photos that include the moon
When photographing landscapes at twilight that include the moon, proper exposure can be nearly impossible to achieve. That’s because while the dim light of twilight requires a relatively long exposure, the moon requires nearly a sunny-16 exposure. As a result, there is no one camera exposure setting that will get the scene right. Your options are:
Under-expose the scene and recover shadows & highlights in post
Properly expose for the landscape and blow out the moon
Bracket exposures and combine them in post
All of the above options have drawbacks. In an under-exposed image, you’ll be prone to getting noise when you try to recover shadow details, and you may or may not be able to recover detail in the moon. If the moon is very small in the frame (as with wide-angle lenses), you can make the conscious choice to just allow it to blow out completely. Bracketing exposures is another option, but I’ve found that traditional exposure blending or HDR tone-mapping just doesn’t quite produce the results I’d like, because the blown-out areas around the moon often bleed into the sky or are exacerbated by thin clouds.
Recently while I was in the field, I decided to try a variation on exposure blending. I captured two shots: the first was exposed only for the moon, and the second shot was properly exposed for the landscape. I then used Adobe Photoshop to combine the images, but instead of just blending them (as with a traditional composite), I had to completely remove the blown-out moon from the landscape photo using Photoshop’s Content-Aware Fill tool.
Video: Processing Landscape Photos with the Moon (Photoshop)
Fix a weak sky using Lightroom Classic’s Dehaze Slider
I was out photographing landscapes the other morning at Garden of the Gods, and the sky was just not great. Fortunately, I capture all my photos in raw format and make sure that I expose as to not blow out the highlights. Turns out, there was definition in the sky, but I had to bring the image into Lightroom Classic to fix it. I used the Dehaze slider and local masking to pull it off:
Digital exposure is about data, not the final image
Photographic capture is not about “getting the image right” in-camera. It’s about recording the *best possible data* to further work on in post. In other words, we try to make sure that the original exposure preserves the elements of the image that are important to us, so that we can then execute the final image (in the darkroom or on the computer).
Landscape Photography Workshop, August 26-30, 2020
I’ve just returned from South Dakota after an outstanding landscape photography workshop, and I’m pleased to announce that I’ve scheduled dates for next year. 2020 will mark my 10th anniversary workshop in South Dakota, and I’m looking forward to meeting you there!
This workshop is a comprehensive landscape photography experience, with a wide variety of shooting locations and in-depth training on workflow and post-processing techniques. Each day, we’ll photograph sunrise and sunset, and then spend several hours together learning how to make your best images stand out with fine-art processing tools.
Workshop Topics Include
Composition & Exposure
HDR & Panoramas
Image Processing in Adobe Lightroom Classic & Adobe Photoshop
I’m looking forward to returning to South Dakota next week for my 9th annual Badlands Landscape Workshop. It’s a fabulous location for sunrises and sunsets, and offers spectacular scenery and the opportunity to use a variety of photographic techniques. I hope you’ll consider one of my photography tours as part of your path towards better photography.