Processing a Waterfall Photo

Even though the day was overcast, this was a fairly high-contrast image, and as always with waterfalls, there is a danger of "blowing out" the moving water. Because of this, I took 3 bracketed exposures:
  • A "normal" shot
  • A shot underexposed by 1 1/3 stops
  • A shot overexposed by the same amount

The Original Exposure

This exposure is basically what I wanted, but the area under the rock overhang is pretty dark, the upper trees are a bit "washed out," and a couple of spots at the top and the bottom of the waterfall are blown out. I'll use the bracketing exposures to fix these problems.

Shutter Speed: 0.5, Aperture: 22, ISO: 200 Lens: 16-35mm
Original Exposure

Adjusting the Bright Areas

I copied and pasted the underexposed version over the original, and made a mask, hiding all. Then I used the eraser to let the dark version show through in the small areas that I felt were washed out or blown out.

By the way, our Tips on two-exposure contrast masking for Photoshop and for Photoshop Elements explain how the masking and erasing are done.
After darkening bright areas

Adjusting the Dark Areas

I copied and pasted the overexposed version over the other layers, and made a mask, hiding all. Then I used the eraser to let the light version show through in areas that I felt were too dark.
After brightening dark areas

Adjusting the Color

I used selective color to liven things up a bit.
After Selective Color

Adjusting the Contrast

I increased the contrast a small amount.
After increasing contrast

Side by Side

Before Processing

After Processing

Before Processing After Processing

A Piece of Advice

Use a tripod :)