I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by the power of software to bring out something interesting in images that might otherwise be a wash, but wouldn’t you know it, I’m still capable of being amazed.
I’m currently shooting with the Nikon D800 of late as part of an assignment (more to come on that later), and I was up in the hills overlooking the San Francisco Bay Area at night, hoping to get some shots of the brilliantly-lit vista that encompassed San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and parts of the Peninsula area.
Of course, I got up there, and everything was completely fogged in.
I was miffed. Even the slight glimpse of the city in the background behind the Bay Bridge was mostly obscured by fog.
I was ready to pass up on the image, finding not much of value, but then decided to play with it a bit.
Since I had megapixels to spare (the D800 has a 36MP sensor), I decided to crop the heck out of it.
Okay, That was kind of cool, and it was still a 22MP image. But it was still just a fog-blurred image. I decided to see what Lightroom 4 could do with it.
Well, okay, that’s not half-bad. Exposure bump by +0.30, highlights lowered by -16, +48 on Clarity and +51 on Vibrance. Not half-bad at all.
I added a little bit of the Detail Extractor filter in Color Efex Pro 4 over the buildings and the bridge, then applied a film effect (Kodak Portra 160, I believe) to the entire image. Once it was back in Lightroom, I used a custom brush over the buildings and bridge with the following settings:
- Contrast: 60
- Highlights: -27
- Clarity: 100
- Sharpness: 25
Which led to the image below:
I like this image. The film grain layer laid down over the image in Color Efex Pro 4 will, I think, render beautifully when I print this baby (I’m planning to make a 36″-wide print with it), and the detail will come out nicely.
Looking at the comparison between the original, out of camera image, and what I ended up with is a pretty decent reminder of just how powerful the tools we have at our disposal are. I didn’t need to warp, clone, or do anything that required advanced Photoshop skills, to get an image I really dig out of what I had, at least initially, dismissed as a reject.
So pull up an old image that you never bothered to work on and play around with it it in Aperture or Lightroom or your image editor of choice. You may be surprised at what you come up with!
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