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.
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.
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
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.
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.