Cloud Geography

Hello! I have been using darktable and am trying to improve my editing abilities (both technically and aesthetically). Occasionally I will take a photo that I can never seem to get just right, or that I think has potential that I cannot express. This image I shot while flying cross-country in a small airplane at about 4500 ft MSL (mean sea level), with the sun setting against a small mountain range. I am very interested to see how you all are able to edit this, and learning from your techniques. I have attached my edit as well as the original raw file (if I upload them correctly).

DNA_0377.NEF (24.7 MB)
This file is licensed Creative Commons, By-Attribution, Share-Alike (


Looks like a magical flight.

cloud-geography-DNA_0377.NEF.xmp (14.5 KB)
darktable 3.2.1

I really love the subtlety of the lighting in the hills.

With Filmulator:

  • Highlight Recovery 2
  • Exposure Compensation -0.667
  • Shadow Rolloff Point 0.0026 (to add shadow contrast)
  • Highlight Rolloff Point 0.654 (reduced to reduce the abruptness of the highlight clipping)
  • Drama 78
  • White Clipping Point 0.37
  • Shadow Brightness 433 (to brighten the shadows)
  • Saturation 10.6 (because it needed a little color oomph)

@DNA Welcome to the forum! Looks like a HDR scene, with which a typical camera would struggle. Looking forward to see what people could do to bring back some of the details. But the cloudiness might be in the way of that to begin with.

hard shooting into the sun, but I think you can get away with it… thanks for sharing.

DNA_0377.NEF.xmp (48.2 KB)

Thanks for posting,
DT 3.2.1

DNA_0377_01.NEF.xmp (29.0 KB)


Nice view and framing, the highlights kind of blows it though :slight_smile: I don’t thinks there is an alternative to bracketing to grasp the full DR of this scene. Here is my try, I did my best to limit the clipped highlights damage but there’s no magic I guess.
Nice image otherwise it gives the sensation of how amazing it must have been to witness that first hand, thanks for sharing :slight_smile:
DNA_0377.NEF.xmp (18.3 KB)

RawTherapee 5.8 attempt.
DNA_0377.jpg.out.pp3 (12.2 KB)


great image, thanks for sharing. my version:

vkdt, tried to keep as much of the highlights as i could, i like how the godray/atmospheric scattering leads up to the spot. sidecar file: vkdt.txt (2.5 KB)


DNA_0377.jpg.out.pp3 (13.7 KB)

A highlights reconstruction that’s a mixture of RT and dt (filmic) would be perfect for this kind of photo. RT is not bad but there are artifacts, especially at 100% view. dt (flimic) has the right settings (blur etc) but it does not remove the magenta.

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Here are a few ideas made in dt 3.2.1:

lowlight vision

DNA_0377.NEF.xmp (9.1 KB)


DNA_0377_01.NEF.xmp (9.9 KB)

color correction (only in midtones)

DNA_0377_02.NEF.xmp (12.9 KB)

You did an amazing job with the highlight!

DNA_0377.NEF.xmp (12.5 KB)

Tried to save the overexposure in the sky.

DNA_0377.NEF.xmp (12.2 KB)

interesting, with the color correction…

Wow, Since the release of Filmic I totaly dropped the use of tone mapping but therer it does an excellent job to enhace the recoverable details in the blown out part of the sky. Nice trick @Thomas_Do !

Thank you all for the edits! I am still going through and trying to learn from them. I am also watching
Aurélien PIERRE videos on youtube, which I find quite information dense. I have edited another photo taken a few minutes after the original image in this post using what I have learned so far.

DNA_0384.NEF (24.6 MB) DNA_0384_02.NEF.xmp (16.7 KB)

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thanks for this picture.
it is a real challenge to bring out details and colors. :+1:
I think I exaggerated it a bit … but maybe you like it

Cloud Geography_DNA_0377.NEF.xmp (15.6 KB)

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this picture makes it even more difficult.
that’s pretty much the maximum I can work out in terms of details.
As for the picture itself, … for me it would be more for the trash (my opinion) :upside_down_face:

Cloud Geography_2_DNA_0384.NEF.xmp (18.2 KB)

Hard to get a good balance…

DNA_0377.NEF.jpg.out.pp3 (15.5 KB)