Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Duckpool, North Cornwall

A few months back I took the plunge and decided to see what all the fuss was about Adobe Lightroom version 4. Well, it has proved to be particularly good at extracting detail from images made in tricky lighting conditions. For example, this was an image I made hand held while walking along the North Cornwall coast one sunny winters day two years ago.

I had been exploring Sandymouth beach near Bude looking for interesting images for a future visit later in the year when the evening sun is better positioned. I wasn't expecting to make any pictures that day as the light wasn't particularly good but I had my little Panasonic GF1 for recording interesting compositions that I planned to re-visit with my large format camera.

When I reached Duckpool I was immediately drawn to this fantastic rock formation. As luck would have it cloud cover had moved in and softened the bright sunlight that had prevailed throughout the day and I saw the possibility of an image. Unfortunately the cloud cover, whilst softening the sunlight, had extended behind this rock and so presented me with a new problem. The bright cloud behind the rock and the dark shadows at the front were at either end of my camera's sensitivity. If I had my tripod I could have made two exposures, one for the sky and one for the rock which could be then combined. I didn't have a tripod and besides, I've never been entirely happy with the results of this technique. I would have to make this image with one single exposure.

Whilst I was able to capture the whole dynamic range on my camera (just), I was not hopeful of being able to extract clean detail from the dark shadows. The camera recorded most of the scene as a black silhouette and from experience I knew that would mean horrible noise and very little detail when I set to work on the image. Later, after downloading the image, my suspicions were confirmed to be correct and I was unable to produce anything usable, let alone close to what I remember seeing that day.

I decided to put this image aside and tackle it another day.

Having become familiar with Lightroom's increased capabilities I recently decided to take another look at this image. The new tools in Lightroom, as well as being more intuitive, made surprising light work of this image. To my delight I was able to extract a huge amount of detail from the shadows and the inevitable noise was easily controlled without any loss of fine detail. Of course, I could have also achieved this using the latest Adobe Raw Converter in Photoshop CS6 which uses the same processing engine as Ligthroom 4, but I personally find the controls in Lightroom to be more intuitive.

I was so pleased to be able to produce this image I remember seeing that day and I am now looking at reworking a few old favourites of mine now that I know what can be done.

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