It’s always nice to have pretty things to photograph, and in this case, it happened to be some outdoor ponds created by our friends at Atlantis Water Gardens. Photographing scenes like this is particularly challenging because there is a broad dynamic range with the natural light, the lighting placed in and around the ponds, the reflections and the shadows in the foliage.
In order to accomplish this look, I took a series of exposures for each frame and then merged them together using Nik HDR Efex Pro. This software allows you to merge multiple different exposures and then play with the balance to achieve the look you want. It is time consuming (especially with large files) and takes some practice, but once you have some basic settings dialed in, it is easy to just make some tweaks.
In addition to the technical side of creating HDR images, it is also important to shoot at a time of day that allows you to get the balance of lighting you want. Most of these shots were taken after the sun had set and the sky started to get a little darker, allowing the lighting to show up, but not overpower the images.
As you can see from the images below, as the daylight starts to fade, the scene lighting becomes more prominent. The trick is to balance both to make a pleasing image, hopefully without going over to top, making it look fake.