Dark faces and overcast background recovery

Hi guys,

this image from a friend is driving me nuts. He is using some proprietary software and is able to get a clean result with details in the highlights and shadows, with not so much noise and splendid colors. There are nice faded shadows and microdetails all over the picture.
I have tried all I can with darktables tools and whatever I do I end up with something broken. May it be the colors, the highlights blown out, the noise … I am lost. So I am interested in your edits of this very nice image.

My friend gave me the OK to upload the image with creative commons license s.t. I can share it here.
I am happy about your results and attached xmps. If you face a challenge and have solved it I would also be happy to read your thoughts.

Daveplayraw.NEF (24.6 MB)

Here’s my quick take, cause I’m at work:

playraw.NEF.xmp (5.7 KB) (DT 2.6)

Wath I did was raising the exposure by 4 EV, protecting the tunnel outside (I should have tweaked the mask a bit more, because you can clearly see the feathering is not correct).
Then I used filmic preset “Outdoors”.
Then I used Tone Curves to darken the outside.
Finally, I used lowpass to brighten the scene.

The attached JPEG is the result of your friend or your own attempt?

I don’t use darktable , so here is my attempt with RawTherapee

playraw.RT3.jpg.out.pp3 (12.5 KB)

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I also used RT (I have no experience with DT).

playraw.jpg.out.pp3 (12,0 KB)

I’d be interested to know how, when apparently there is none in some places. Here’s 3x3 enhanced standard score - flat areas = no detail (unless I made a mistake somewhere!)

Edit: probably a bit more can be recovered, but still flat areas…

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playraw.pfi (25.6 KB)

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Its just a quick result of mine using dt because I thought a bad start is better than a black box.

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I was not clear, I agree. I ment the bridge was not washed out and the greens didnt go completely away in his result. Sure, the completely white area is overexposed and has lost all details.

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Thanks guys, its late. I will check tomorrow what you did in your processing.
@gadolf thanks for the explanation. I appreciate that.

@All: In all your images the rear window of the truck gets magentaish. Also one of the problems I wasnt able to solve.

Here is one more done with darktable:

playraw.NEF.xmp (16,5 KB)

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Btw (off topic, sorry), my workflow above followed some of your usual steps in your videos, that is, darken with tone curve and lighten with lowpass, thanks for sharing them.

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Actually it is reddish and not so easy to target specifically.
I think it is faster to take care of it in a pixel editor like GIMP:

You can of course fine tune the result.

dcraw + G’MIC, didn’t try to do anything with colour (mainly tone)


Can’t resist a second try.

playraw.NEF.xmp (9.5 KB)
Same approach as before, in the same order (history doesn’t show it), but with a stronger noise reduction, haze removal and channel mixer to tweak with colors.

Here is his version, the one with proprietary software

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playraw.NEF.xmp (9.1 KB)
This is the closest I can get. I think there is also a bit more happening than just a single filter in that mysterious proprietary software (added vignetting, masking, etc.).


I have already posted my edit with RT , have no a clue what prog that mysterious edit was done with , so did an attempt with Lightroom. Besides from global adjust , I did add a luminosity mask to play down the overexposed part of the image.

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Pretty much the same as my last edit, though yours has less noise than mine, and mine is a bit more contrasty and saturated.
(I know, I know, there’s no point in comparing both programs, each one has its own path…:innocent:)

Jepp , didn’t mind contrast and saturation too much with my edit.
Noise reduction is still a difficult part of darktable , i guess …:thinking: