Taming that Harsh Light


Sometimes you have no choice but to work with very harsh light, as in the trip to Machias Sea Island. Th sunrise there in the summer is around 4:20AM, so by the time you are taken to your blind at 9AM, the sun angle is already high, and working with B&W, be it black to dark brown, can be a real challenge. My general approach is to work my histogram to the right as much as possible, gutting a few blinks that I can late recoup at conversion. Underexposed darks tend to creep noise, not the case with overexposed whites. Just make sure you don’t totally burn them, because there will be no recuperation possible then. I stay away fro the recovery slider in ACW, much prefer to use Shadow/Highlght with masking, or the Color Range option, taking the selection into a new layer and using multiply as a blending mode, reducing the opacity as needed.

In this case, I didn’t go as much right as I’d have wanted. I was still able to tame the light a bit with a few tricks. Shadow/Highlight to bring detail out of the dark browns. Color Range and layer multiplying for the white chest and the almighty clone stamp at a very low opacity, sampling from both sides, to diffuse the strong shadow lines. There is no know substitute for good light, but in the mean time, can you tell the difference?

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