December 19, 2017 at 8:16 pm #15453
When Adobe ceased to support Lightroom as a standalone program, the eventual demise of our paid-for copies of LR 6 became inevitable: a future cycle of Windows or Mac operating system updates will result in current Lightroom 6 ceasing to function. That may not happen for a while yet, but I’ve been looking around for software to replace LR when it does eventually stop working. Currently there’s nothing that provides both the cataloguing and the image editing features of LR in a single program; but recently and extensively revamped Luminar has editing features that are as good as or better than LR; and the company that makes it is promising a cataloguing system in 2018 that will be able to operate with existing LR catalogue databases.
So I’ve acuired a copy, and I’ve been playing with it to see how good it is. Of course, using a new image editing program is like getting a camera from a new manufacturer – and as those of us who switched to Fuji from Canon or Nikon will tell you, that’s bewildering and frustrating at first; but the more you practise, the simpler it gets. I can’t say I feel at home and fluent with Luminar yet, but I’ve been very pleasantly surprised at how intuitive a lot of it is to someone familiar with LR and Photoshop.
Anyway, by way of practice, I thought I’d have a bit of a play with this picture I took at the Grand Canyon in Arizona last year. Here’s the out-of-camera jpeg:
(Click picture to view large or to download)
As you see, it was a rather drab, hazy day. But I’d watched a few instructional videos about getting creative with Luminar’s adjustment filters and layers, so I thought I might be able to turn it into something better. Luminar has all the predictable adjustments – exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, colour temperature, clarity, vibrance and the rest. And it has a host of other clever complex filters for adjusting the lighting and atmosphere, especially of colour photographs. On top of that, you can combine the effects of filters on different layers, and adjust their interaction with blend modes (the same ones that Photoshop uses). And there are several different methods of appying masks either to layers or to particular adjustment filters. So it’s all very sophisticated.
Anyway, I bashed the above picture about a bit with the various tools on offer – and none too skilfuly or carefully, I have to admit: I was, afterall, just playing! And here’s the result:
(Click image to view large)
Now, as you probably know, I don’t normally do this sort of thing. I’m not even sure I entirely approve of it – it’s more to do with print-making than photography in my book. But if I were going to do it, I think I might quite get to enjoy doing it with Luminar!
What do you reckon?
December 19, 2017 at 10:03 pm #15457
- This topic was modified 9 months, 4 weeks ago by Ian McNab.
Like me Ian, you have treated yourself for Christmas–well done. Today the big “N” informed me my security software annual fee was due with a 16% interest increase to £70. So I phoned them saying the increase was unacceptable and I will not pay that amount. Within two minutes I agreed his new offer of half the total £35. Job done. Having mentioned Affinity to you (no catalogue) yesterday Serif offered a tenner deduction down to £38–for Affinity. So plunged on that with my big N saving. I agree a new photo editing suite is daunting and my main reason for it is for therapeutic reasons to keep the grey cells active. Now to your example pics Ian. Being the devils advocate you have achieved an excellent image from one needing some TLC. However I ask myself what has happened “in camera” when taking the shot. My mind goes back to the halcyon days of colour slides–no post options. We used filters –about all as extra”s–I think with the bright sky in the distant centre it has simply under exposed a bit. Maybe in camera a wee touch contrast and colours may have produced a clearer image. But nevertheless no doubt Luminar has restored the image very well. I will look to find an image needing help and try a similar comparison with Affinity. A problem Ian–as you know mine are all perfect!!LOL
December 20, 2017 at 8:27 am #15466
- This reply was modified 10 months ago by KEN LAST.
Thanks for your comments, Ken. I must admit I chose this picture to work on precisely because it wasn’t a particlarly fine ‘in-camera’ effort; but it looked as though there were things there that could be brought out a bit better.
Anyway, I’ve edited the post above so that you can now click on the images to see a larger version. And if you’d like to have a go at editing the original to improve on my efforts, you can download it. Indeed, it would be interesting for a few people to have a go at tweaking the picture, and uploading the results so that we can compare. Think of it as an entertaining passtime for Christmas, when there’s nothing on the telly worth watching, and you’ve nothing else to do. Bring a glass of something with you, and have a play! Merry Christmas!!!December 20, 2017 at 11:12 am #15470
I had a spare 10 minutes so took up your challenge Ian. my version is similar to your edited version. All done in Lightroom by increasing the contrast, recovering highlight and shadows, slightly warming it up and selectively darkening the sky and foreground. That was all I did. I didn’t know you could take dramatic landscape like this!December 20, 2017 at 11:59 am #15471
Lr is making a bit of fuss about the new maths behind the AUTO button.
This is what your picture looks like with the AUTO pressed in new LrDecember 20, 2017 at 12:05 pm #15472
Then white balance (clicking sampler on river), bit of dehaze, clarity. Auto had turned the contrast down, so I’ve put it up.
And I am shocked how unlike my result the picture appears online!
December 20, 2017 at 12:19 pm #15474
- This reply was modified 9 months, 4 weeks ago by ajroyle.
That was interesting! Like our “One Pic” exercise we used to do. On my set up the final result online does not look as good as the original in Lr (colour corrected)December 20, 2017 at 8:42 pm #15475
This one has had a little trip from Lr to Colour FX Pro – Sharpened a bit. Before that I brightened the Colorado a little.
Cropped to painters armature and that gets shut of the blue sky. Only Ian can tell us if it is too purple.December 20, 2017 at 8:48 pm #15476
Yes that is very good. Cleared the haze and no sky burnt out-very good.December 20, 2017 at 10:09 pm #15478
This is really interesting. I’ve been reflecting on how we have all immediately, and without consulting one another, set out to ‘improve’ the original photograph. To do this, we’ve removed the haze, pulled back the highlights, increased the rendering of detail (perhaps we would describe this as improving the ‘clarity’ / ‘sharpness’?), and warmed up the colours. These are all specifically ‘photographic’ values – part of our idea of what a good photograph should be like. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with making a pleasing photographic image; and we now have several slightly different, but variously good examples.
What’s interesting is the way that these ‘photographic values’ subtley drift away from how real landscapes actually look. The real Grand Canyon is often very hazy, the air blueish in a way that reduces the contrast and clarity of the distant hills to an indistinct dark blue-grey. The Canyon is so immensely wide that the far side fades away with the phenomenon called ‘aeriel perspective’ or ‘atmospheric perspective’ that the Renaissance painters were the first to try to reproduce in their pictures.
The attempt to reproduce this in painting first appears in early 15th-century paintings in the Netherlands, and was later taken up by Italian painters, including Leonardo da Vinci. Painters observed that as a landscape recedes from the viewer its colours and tones alter, reducing the clarity of objects that are further away, and shifting their tonality towards increasingly monotone shades of blue. This how our eyes perceive distance in real landscapes.
So it’s intriguing that when we set out to make a ‘good’ photograph, we are intent on reducing all the features that convey atmospheric perspective. We’re all intent on making better photographic images, but the result is that they tend to be less natural pictures.
I include myself in this description, so I’m not criticising anybody. Perhaps what I am wondering about is our ‘photography aesthetic’.December 20, 2017 at 10:57 pm #15479
Ah! You see, we all know what a photograph is supposed to look like!
I tried to maintain the mistiness on the right, but the mist otherwise doesn’t add atmosphere, it just adds gloom, so I felt happy to reduce it (it didnt take much). I felt the added detail made it more inviting to explore. I draw the line at defending colour because you could only vouch for that by being there.December 21, 2017 at 3:54 pm #15483
John >>> Yes, there is a difference between low contrast / loss of detail due to mist or low cloud (particularly evident in the area around the distant rain on the right) and the low contrast and loss of detail (presumably due to dust and diffraction?) that reduces the definition of distant features of the landscape (e.g. far left background). Similarly, there’s a difference between the colour shift towards blue of more-distant features and the colour and tonal shifts casued by dense cloud cover. I guess it’s really tricky – perhaps impossible? – to remove mist and gloom without also losing the features that create atmospheric perspective.
But you hit the nail on the head when you said we all know (perhaps too well!) how a photograph ‘ought’ to look. This ideal of the good photograph is, of course, a total invention, a set of conventions and aesthetic choices that have accumulated over time, and that shape the look of the pictures we now see in publications, and getting accepted in and winning competitions, and that shape the beliefs and pronouncements of course tutors, well-known speakers, and competition judges. And it’s from being exposed to all this that we unconsciously learn what pictures ‘ought’ to look like.
How can we tell that our idea of how a photograph ought to look is just a set of current conventions and aesthetic choices? Because what has been admired as a ‘good photograph’ has changed over time, and quite radically. Currently, rather extreme intensifications of definition (sharpness, clarity, high resolution) and of colour and contrast are the ‘in’ thing among pictures that do well in international and national competitions. (I’ve heard you describe them as ‘over-processed’. It seems that because pretty much everything about a digitally-recorded image can be altered with software, people can’t refrain from actually altering pretty much everything!)
Anyway, I think we have all been fairly restrained, and the look of the poor old Grand Canyon in all our efforts has not been rendered impossibly unnatural. But maybe the things that we have chosen to ‘adjust’ do tell us something about the current conventions around how a picture ‘ought’ to look. And when we realise what those conventions are, we’re free to make different choices – if we wish.December 21, 2017 at 8:55 pm #15484
Ian you have bought so much interest with your article. It has all been analysed in depth so well. I have given thought from another angle. You would. like we do–stop on your journey to take a photo of this amazing scene and no doubt many more on your journey. Then we are dissecting it for exhibition purposes. Roll the clock back 40 years. In the old hackneyed fashion stand a couple with obligatory dog and lady in the red coat —“strongly in the foreground” – your very first adjusted image would look simply great. A whole new set of laws come into play as we visualise the scene as being viewed by the people in the foreground. Certainly 40 years ago judges would have pronounced the need for some strong foreground in a scene like this. But it is just one of your holiday shots and can we see some more please.December 22, 2017 at 6:34 am #15485
Thanks for your kind comments, Ken. If you’re interested, you can see half a dozen of my Grand Canyon pictures here (three colour; three mono). But they come with a health warning: they’re more in the style of ‘Pictures’ (what Winogrand called, somewhat disparagingly, ‘Illustrations’), rather than documentary photographs.
This distinction is not, of course, new. Ansel Adams once made some remark to the effect that ‘dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships’. Some American chap saw a book of Adams’s pictures of Yosemite, and was so bowled over that he rushed off to see the place for himself. Bitterly disappointed, he shortly wrote Adams an irrate letter, complaining that Yosemite looked nothing like Adams’s pictures!
With our computers, we can go much further than Adams in putting God’s mistakes right!December 22, 2017 at 8:31 am #15486
How the notion of a “good” picture changes is beautifully summed up there by Ian. It is why you are destined to failure in competitions if your photos don’t conform to the current perception of a “good” photograph.
I found the story of the guy who found disappointment in visiting the places Adams photographed an interesting one. Why would anyone prefer black and white, two dimensional, single-view, still images to the real thing? I can only think that the he was unable to succumb to the true charm of the outdoors, about which many have written so well.
Ken Scott spoke about the landscape photographers who set off so hell-bent on capturing an image that they carry in their heads that they miss the real rejuvenating, healing effect of just being outdoors and being part of our true environment.
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