The last couple of nights, the sunsets in my new hometown of Ulsan, South Korea have been no less than epic. I am not sure what it was. The daytime was nothing special, if not a little cloudy. Then, BOOM! the sky was on fire.
The problem that I have here is that I was not in a new location. The fact was that I was battling a severe migraine. I was in no condition to leave my apartment. So I was left with the same view that I always shoot. It’s lazy but it is also nice.
Once my headache died down and the muscles in my neck relaxed a bit I had an idea about the shots. I wanted to see what the major differences were between my 3 most common editing styles were. I figured that if I couldn’t change the location, I could at least change the editing.
If you are thinking that this would just a matter of making one black and white and another crazy HDR saturated and then another that weird faded instagramy look, then you are missing the point. What I am trying to do is edit pretty much the same way that I would edit the images in lightroom but just use a different editor or process. Sounds complicated but I thought that it would be interesting to experiment.
iPhone with Snapseed
When I first saw the sunset, I felt like garbage. Yet, the colour was too intense to just let it pass. I grabbed a shot with my iPhone and was about to go back to bed. Then I decided to tough it out and get some more shots to compare.
I edited this with SnapSeed which is one of my main iPhone editors. This was a simple edit which just the basics boosted. I usually boost the saturation, sharpness and in Snapseed the “ambiance” which I find brings out a bit more contrast.
Overall, I like the clouds in this shot and the colour is nice too. There is some detail loss in the buildings in background but that is mostly because this is an iPhone 7 plus and low light performance was never really good.
Lightroom + Luminar Flex
As you may know, Luminar is my favourite plugin for Lightroom. I typically use lightroom for the basic adjustments and for image fixes like spot healing and upright alignment.
At any rate, I did my standard adjustments here and I liked how it turned out. The golden hour filter in Luminar really added a lot of warmth to this image. I also like the depth of the shadows.
One of my go to looks for this type of shot is strangely found in the “Aerial” look pack. The “Aerial Golden Hour” look is often what I start with for images like this. With a few additional filters like the details enhancer and a slight boost in vibrancy, the image is good to go.
Aurora HDR 2019
HDR often gets a bad rap from many elitists but as I said before it is time to stop hating HDR. With this image, I wanted to really capture all the dynamic range of the scene. Sunsets like this are tricky because if you expose for the sky you will lose detail in the foreground and vice versa. Often sunsets happen before many people turn on their lights, so that is something to be aware of.
The changes here are subtle from the Luminar shot but I did that on purpose to show 2 things: the first being that HDR does not have to be over the top and the second that Luminar can also help bridge that gap if you are not really interested in HDR but like the look.
This image was from 5 bracketed shots, 1-stop apart and shot on a tripod. the I rendered them in Aurora HDR 2019. The edit emphasises the colour of the sky and the detail throughout the image.
The bottomline here is that you have a wide variety of tools at your disposal to make great images. There is also no right way to create your vision. If you want to make an HDR image, do it! If you want to keep things as natural as you can, great! If you only have an iPhone, so be it! Just get out there and capture your world!