When standing on this location the composition became pretty apparant, but I often find that the first choice isn´t always the best, so I checked out different angles and comps before coming back to the initial one.
I knew I wanted to blur out the river with a longer exposure, and I also wanted a very long one for the sky to get the surreal effect.
I shot 7 different shots ranging from a 125th of a second to over 2 minutes with using a nd filter and shooting without.
F11 was the best I managed to get away with, I would go for F8 if I could, but then some of the foreground would not be sharp, so to get the depth I had to stick with F11.
After the initial search for composition, getting the depth and deciding on camera settings to use the rest was up to post processing, to get that more seamless blend I decided to use luminosity masking instead of combining it straight up in Photoshop or Photomatix, the advantage of luminosity masking is the degree of controll you get to not only blend the images but also the degree of blending, so you can have a very bright foreground image and only blend in 40% of it to brighten up certain areas.
After getting the exposure pretty much even across it was time to focus on the water, here I decided to mix the 2 minute exposure with a half a second shot to get a little bit of the drama of the river as the water was racing by really fast, the tricky part was to blend it so it looked more natural with the longer exposure, for this I use both clone stamping at low opacity and dodging and buring.
For the sky i stayed with the 2 minute exposure and added a bit of warmth to it at the same time enhancing the light around the mountains for a bit more dramatic feel.
For the midground and trees I used a shot exposed for the trees and pulled down the exposure more on the edges, on top of that I overlayed it with a overexposed shot and brushed in some highlights on the trees.
Then finaly the 2 min exposure caught all the water mist above the river as more of a light fog/haze, increasing the exposure on it and brushing it in at a low opacity added that last bit of mood to the image.
My goal was to get the image in terms of value as close to as it was seen as I could, then use the aspect of longer exposure to add what is not seen in a combination that would be both real and surreal.
For me it is not a question of being 100% real or as seen, cause that you could apply to any black and white photo, cause we do not see the world in black and white, it is more a question if it is a photograph or art.
I think it is both a photograph and a work of art, how great it is of either I will leave up to the viewer to speculate, but as long as I got my ideas to come together in this image and I like it myself then I am satisfied.