String Lake and Recovering a Poor Exposure

During our recent photography workshop in the Grand Tetons we chose String Lake as our last evening shooting location.  Due to a slightly extended stay at an earlier spot, we now found ourselves racing the sun as we made our dash toward String Lake along the Jenny Lake Loop road.  Finally arriving, we gathered our gear and quickly marched toward the lake trail, passing signs warning us to be bear aware.  These warning certainly gained our group’s attention since most of our shooting locations did not lend themselves to likely bear habitat.  Not the case here.  The collective concern was magnified by the recent news of a hunting guide being mauled to death by a grizzly near the park just a short week or 10 days before.  But we had no need to hike any distance as the lake’s edge was close by and determination to catch the quickly diminishing last light at String Lake drove us on.

Moving quickly, I led the group toward a location I had previously visited, stepping over fallen pine logs, rocks and other debris, as we trudged along a finger off the main trail, our movement accented by my friend’s banging small stones against rocks warning any unsuspecting bears of our presence.  Arriving at lake’s edge we had little time to find a suitable composition to record our final night in the Tetons.  In haste I managed to fire off a few shots knowing I would likely have to do a post processing blend to capture the needed dynamic range.  Taking three quick exposures, two stops of exposure apart, I anticipated I would have the needed data to complete the desired image.  Only later did I realize I had started my sequence too low and the result would have my sequence well under exposed.  Normally, I would just have deleted the whole group.  But having just received the new version of Skylum’s HDR 2019, I decided to just see how far I could go with my challenging under exposed sequence.

Sony A7rIII, FE 24-105 F4 @26mm, 1/4 sec, f/16, iso 100
Sony A7rIII, FE 24-105 F4 @26mm, 1 sec, f/16, ISO100
Sony A7rIII, FE 24-105 F4 @26mm, 4 sec, f/16, ISO100










But having just received the new version of Skylum’s HDR 2019, I decided to just see how far I could go with my challenging under exposed sequence.


For reference I show here the three RAW files I used as a basis for the final image.  As one can see, these are not ideal to work with and one can appreciate how I might just toss these images and scratch my head as to how I could have made such an error.  I can only surmise in my haste to make the shot and hike back out before Mr. Grizzly got curious about my friend noisily banging rocks, I failed to examine my histogram, something for which I always admonish my students.

The final image, however, surprised me and further demonstrates the ever increasing power of our post processing tools.  My initial post processing utilized the Skylum HDR 2019 to create an image from which I continued the process to completion.  Clearly I also used my normal Lightroom workflow and finished in Photoshop with other tools such as DxO’s newly acquired NIK software.

While this writing is not meant as a review of either Skylum or NIK software, as such would need a much more in-depth examination, it is a demonstration on how we can use today’s tools to recover some of our mistakes and further really make our best images sing.




5 Comments on “String Lake and Recovering a Poor Exposure

  1. I cannot see the final image PP. Just looking at the RAW file, the 3rd image, 4 sec exposure seems overexposed with blown out sky. May be 1 stop bracketing may have been desirable?

    • Hi Narendra. The third image is blown out in highlights. 1 stop bracketing is often a better approach, although many use a 2stop bracket figuring that would provide enough range for the merge. However, I would agree that a 1 stop bracket, even if needing additional exposures would be a better approach in many cases. That said, this was mostly to test the capabilities of the Skylum HDR merge. Overall, I would say it is excellent software to provide a natural blend, provided you have sufficient recorded data. Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Amazing how much it’s possible to recover an underexposure these days. Both because cameras are capable of captured a lot of information, but not the least because of software like the one you use here. It’s a beautiful photo, almost like a painting

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