This HDR image of the Big Four Bridge in Louisville’s Waterfront Park was captured looking east over the Ohio River from the war memorial in Jeffersonville, Indiana. The morning was bitter cold and a weather front was moving in from the west just before sunrise. The clouds were a harbinger of the snow storm that was on it’s way and had nearly covered the entire sky yet there was a small window just above the eastern horizon where the clouds allowed the rising sun to show through. I suspected it was the temperature and the interaction of the front that were creating the conditions for the spectacular reds that were filling the scene; whatever it was I knew I had to capture it before it became nothing more than a memory.
I shot a handheld three frame bracket set of +2, 0 and -2 EV exposures because I knew that the dynamic range of the scene was too broad for a single exposure to capture. The sun was still just below the horizon and the foreground was still much darker than the water and sky which made it an ideal candidate for HDR processing. Back at my studio I took the bracket set into NIK HDR Efex Pro 2 to merge them into a single image. It was very windy that morning and the flags on the war memorial were standing almost straight out but because the flags were also an important element of the image I wanted to make them recognizable yet still allow them to show how windy it was. I tried several amounts of anti-ghosting adjustments from as little as 20% to as much as 100% before settling on 60% as the best setting. That amount of anti-ghosting allowed me to make the flags identifiable while still allowing enough movement to show how strong the wind was blowing. I used the Balanced preset in NIK HDR Eex Pro 2 and adjusted the Detail slider to Accentuated and the Drama slider to Deep before saving the merged file back into Aperture 3 for final adjustments. I adjusted the Exposure, Recovery, Highlights, Definition and Contrast sliders in Aperture 3 as well as going into the separate color channels to bring out the vibrancy and saturation of the sunrise. I also added the slightest amount of mid-contrast adjustment as well as sharpening the image and adding a small vignette.