Extended dynamic range images cannot be done with a single exposure. However they can be dealt with various tools and methods. The first, since film times, is to use Graduated Neutral Density filters. They do work very well under most conditions, however, as you move up to wider diameter lenses the kit becomes bulkier and more expensive.
The second tool is your own camera. In-camera image blending is now available in most modern bodies. Just make two images, one shooting for the highlights and another exposed for the shadows. Doing this, locking focus at hyperfocal distance, in aperture priority and on a sturdy tripod eliminates depth of field and focus variations.
The third set of tools are specialized HDR software (like Photomatix Pro), always recommended for extreme wide dynamic range images, and Plugins (that you will need to buy).
The fourth tool is Photoshop, and there are two methods: The Painted Layer Mask, (the most laborious and time consuming), and The Layer Mask (my favorite, that will be presented here).
This is the LAYER MASK process:
STEP 1. In Photoshop, open a bright version of the image. In the sample image there is detail in the coal car but the smoke is blown out.
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