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This type of shot, a detail of some of the mechanics of old machines, has become a favorite of mine recently. As my major mechanical interest is aviation, aircraft engines are my absolute favorite subject for this sort of image. This particular one is a Pratt & Whitney R2800, my favorite aircraft engine.

The methodology I use for this isn’t all that difficult. The target look I have in mind is for the exaggerated detail look, just barely into the surreal range. I want it to look where you can just barely tell that the detail is exaggerated as compared to first person viewing, but not quite into the realm of fantasy. For this goal, I shoot HDR when possible. Thus, the first step is to setup a tripod if possible. (I will also talk about how to do this in one image, for when you can’t setup a tripod.) Then take a sequence of three images with two stop separation. I then use HDR Efex Pro to blend the images. I start with the presets from Tony Sweet looking at all of the artistic interior and exterior presets to see which one gets me closest to where I want to be. Then I customize those settings. Usually the primary thing that needs to be done is to intensify the blacks.

If you can only take one image, make sure you capture as wide a range of tones as possible. Then I open it in Lightroom and give the image about +30 of Recovery and Fill Light and a great deal of clarity. Then I use Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4. I sometimes go into Photoshop to do this, but other times use it straight from Lightroom, depending on whether I want to mask away the effect from certain areas. I use the Detail Extractor filter and start with the default preset but crank up both the extractor and contrast sliders pretty far. That’s pretty much my method for this type of photography that I’ve been finding very interesting lately.