ABFriday Forum Week 09
This is my submission for this week’s After-Before Friday Forum. The Forum is managed by Stacy Fischer of Visual Venturing and is enables participants and readers to exchange ideas about bringing their vision of an image into reality. The submissions for this week can be seen at this link to her site later today.
Normally, taking this photograph from this location is not permitted. It shows the Reading Room in the Library of Congress and was taken from a balcony overlooking the room. The Reading Room is probably the most spectacular space in the Library and the balcony provides the best overall view of it. And the only view for most people because access is restricted to researchers with a Library-issued ID card. Photography is prohibited here (so as not to disturb the readers below) many other parts can be toured and photographed during open hours. Details can be found at the Library’s website.
The reason that I was not hauled off in handcuffs for taking this photograph is that twice each year, the Library has an “Open House” and visitors are allowed into the Reading Room and pictures can be taken there and from the balcony. These two days are usually on the weekend of the President’s Day and Columbus Day holidays.
So with only two chances per year, one doesn’t want to mess up. The “After” image here was processed first in Adobe Camera Raw and then final changes were made in Photoshop CS6. The original RAW image, before any changes were made, is shown below. In this case, the main challenges were the lack of a tripod and the strong contrast in lighting: the overall room was relatively dim while the mid-morning light coming through the stained glass windows above was extremely bright. Consequently, I chose a relatively high ISO and underexposed the scene by 1 stop. (Nikon D800E with 14-24 mm f/2.8 lens; exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/4, ISO 800, EV= -1.0)
Original RAW Image
The first set of changes were made in Adobe Camera RAW, where the dark shadows were opened up and the very strong highlights were dialed back. The results at this stage are shown below. As you can see, the difference is not enormous, but more detail is apparent.
Image after changes in Adobe Camera Raw
The specific changes in ACR for the above image were:
Highlights: decreased to -43 (to reduce the brightness in the skylights, allowing more detail to show)
Shadows: increased to +28 (to show more detail in the dark areas of the lower section of the room
Clarity: increased to +26 (in my usual range of +20-30)
Vibrance: increased to +23 (to add some warmth)
The next step was to transfer the image to Photoshop. At the time, I was using the CS6 version and the first step was to correct the tilt with the crop tool. Next, some adjustments were still needed in the brightness levels of certain sections of the image. The area below the skylights was selected and a Curves adjustment layer was applied (Blend Mode = luminosity). The screen shot below shows that a moderate increase was applied. (The left side of the library image is cropped out in the screen shots to make the Photoshop details a little easier to see.)
First Curves Layer Adjustment Applied
Next, the blown out window in the upper right corner still needed improvement and after selecting this section, another Curves adjustment layer was applied (Blend Mode = luminosity). The image below shows the amount which was a fairly strong pullback. It brought some improvement but it’s not perfect; I think more work may be needed here.
Second Curves Layer Adjustment Applied
Finally, the ceiling dome is still a little flat, even after the dash of Vibrance applied during the ACR processing. This was remedied with a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer Blend Mode = saturation) as shown in the image below. The overall saturation was increased a moderate amount to +25, giving a more accurate rendition to the color of the dome and surrounding walls.
Hue/Saturation Layer Adjustment Applied
The final version of the complete image is shown below. Comments and questions are welcome and I will do my best to reply. Thanks again to Stacy Fischer for managing this forum and also to the other photographers who participate. I have learned a lot from all of their examples.