STEP BY STEP / Two become one
1 Open in Camera Raw
Typically HDR images will be made using three, five, seven or more exposures, but this can be overkill. Here, two exposures were enough to capture detail in the bright sky and dark foreground. Ctrl-click to select both files in Bridge, then right-click and pick Open in Camera Raw.
2 Remove sharpening
Press Ctrl+A to select both files; your changes will now affect both. Go to the Detail panel and set Sharpening to 0, rather than 25 (it’s better to sharpen the merged file later). Go to the Lens Correction panel, click on the Color tab and check Remove Chromatic Aberration.
3 Merge to HDR
Click on the fly-out menu at the top-left of the filmstrip and choose Merge to HDR. Use Auto-align if there’s misalignment between frames, and check Auto-tone. Pick a Deghost setting to counter movement between frames (Medium works here). Hit Merge, then Save.
4 Enhance the tones
Now it’s simply a case of enhancing the image in the same way as any landscape, with the bonus that it’s easier to tease out detail in highlights and shadows. First use the Basic panel to add Clarity and Saturation, then grab the Adjustment Brush from the Toolbar.
5 Darken the sky
Check Auto-mask in the Adjustment Brush settings, and click on the minus icon on the Exposure slider twice for -1. Paint over the sky to darken it (hit Y to see where you’ve painted). Next hit N for a new adjustment, then dial in positive exposure and paint over the land.
6 Tidy the image
Hit Open to bring the image into Photoshop. Press Cmd/ Ctrl+J to duplicate the layer, then grab the Spot Healing Brush tool and use it to remove messy spots, like the drops of water on the lens. Use Dodge and Burn to further enhance the tones until you’re happy.