After-Before Friday Week 12

My submission to Stacy Fischer’s After-Before Friday Forum this week is from a recent trip to Paris (which is pretty obvious when one looks at the image).  I am often shooting cityscapes during twilight and one of the challenges in these circumstances is exposing for extremely bright lights scattered across an otherwise very dark scene.  Such was the case with this twilight image of the Eiffel Tower.  The problems are not so apparent when looking at the image in the small size here, but when printed at sizes of 24 inches-plus, a string of overexposed street lamps can be a little obnoxious.  My go-to tool (until I can find something better) for reducing the glare is the “Highlights” slider in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).  The starting image is shown below and is the unprocessed RAW image with no changes.  I should add that the final image, shown at the end of this post is actually a Photomerge with one other image, which explains the slightly wider field of view.  But both images were treated the same.

ABFriday Kent Before Week 12

Original Image, Unprocessed RAW File

The two images were photographed at twilight and the numerous bright lights complicated the exposure because much of the scene was not well illuminated.  I chose an exposure that would provide at least some detail in the darker areas, knowing that further refinements could be made in ACR.  (Technical data: Nikon D800E on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 31mm; exposure: 5 sec. @ f/16, EV= -0.67, ISO 400). The small aperture was necessary to get a hyperfocal effect, maximizing the depth of field.  Although it is somewhat hard to see at the small size here, the street lamps, carousel lights, and the Eiffel Tower itself are somewhat blown out.

Once downloaded into ACR, a number of adjustments were made to compensate for the initial exposure. The results are shown in the image below.

ABFriday Kent Before 02A Week 12

The settings were as follows:

Highlights: decrease to -93 (an extreme decline to suppress the glare of the blown out lights)

Shadows: increase to +78 (also extreme, to open up the underexposed dark areas)

Clarity: Increase to +18

Vibrance: Increase to +25

The image above, given its size, may not clearly show the difference between the two images.  However, an enlarged detail section below showing the image before and after the ACR adjustments should help show the improvement.  The top section, the image prior to ACR adjustments, shows that in a larger print, the lights of the carousel, street

ABFriday Kent Before 03C Week 12

lights, vehicle lights, and the Eiffel Tower all have a harsh glare.  After the adjustments in ACR, the effect is less pronounced.  One last note; the “star effect” on the street lamps is a result of the chosen aperture (f/16), not a special filter.  In twilight scenes such as this, I find that this optical effect is more pleasing to the eye of the viewer than an unstructured flare around the bulb.

With the ACR adjustments finished, the image was photomerged with another that had received an identical treatment (for more on Photomerge techniques, check my post of August 1st here.)    There was a little clean-up work undertaken, but no major Photoshop steps after the merge were necessary. The final image is shown below.

ABFriday Kent After Week 12

Final Image

Again, I would to thank Stacy Fischer for keeping this forum running.  Please check out the excellent submissions by the other contributors at her Visual Venturing blog.

22 thoughts on “After-Before Friday Week 12

    • Thanks very much, Susan. Yes, I’ve learned a number of new things from the other contributors. This is a great series that Stacy is running and I’m looking forward to see others joining in.


  1. Pingback: After-Before Friday Week 12 | Visual Venturing

    • hanks, Ben. It’s ironic, but I went over there that evening hoping the fountains would be running. They were–for five minutes–then they shut down. It was like they knew I was coming. So I decided to try for a reflection image. Now that I think about it, maybe the fountain man did me a favor.


  2. The before shot is superb and the after image is even better! Great work Robin. The photo is really beautiful and tips are very helpful ! 🙂


  3. Excellent job and gorgeous result Robin, nothing we didn’t expect from you! Thanks for clarify the “star effect”, honestly, I didn’t know about it and, at the beggining, I was doubting about the unprocessed image.


    • Thanks, Jaime. You are right that the star effects look like a filter was on the lens or some Photoshop technique was applied. Because neither was the case, I thought I should mention how it happens.


  4. You make it seem so easy, Robin, but that’s the benefit of shooting a wonderful photo to being with! Thanks for the tip about F16 – never knew that (probably because I’ve never seriously attempted night photography – have to change that.) So glad the print turned out as you had hoped. Perhaps you might give some tips on print settings/types of paper you print on for those of us (ummm, me) who have yet to print any of their images? Thanks for another great submission!


    • Thanks, Stacy. This one wasn’t too hard because, as you say, of the starting point. The lighting at the scene was pretty well-balanced compared to a number of other attempts I have made (and those others will never be seen by anyone else). As for some posts on the subject of printing, that sounds like it could be a good topic, although I often do things somewhat more casually than what is considered best practice by those who really know their stuff.


    • Thanks very much for your thoughts. You are correct, the street lights and carousel were the main changes; in this size they were pretty small changes but are much more obvious when making a large print.


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