old dubai skyline (and highlights reconstruct in filmic)

A photo that I took back in 2012 when I was still traveling a bit around the world. Taken with my old Nikon D7000(*) and a Tokina 12-24 f/4. Not particularly sharp if you pixel-peep; no tripods were harmed when taking this photo.

Always interesting to work on old raw files and see what you can get out of it using new/updated applications (for photos taken at that time I was still using Lightroom; now it’s darktable 3.6.1).

I thought it could be a good example for highlight reconstruction; I know we’ve had countless discussion on this topic but I still find this a tricky thing to do and I’m still not settled on a particular workflow. In this case I’m uncertain about the result so maybe other people can test their ideas here.

First, my final processing:

My main problem was a pinkish halo around the sunset which is minimized in this particular processing. What I did was to deactivate highlight reconstruction and only use filmic. This is a screenshot of the reconstruct tab in filmic rgb:

Other settings of note in filmic:

  • preserve chrominance: RGB Euclidean Norm
  • iterations of high-quality reconstruction: 10 (not sure this has any significant effect)

This is the raw file with the xmp settings (darktable 3.6.1):

20120116_D7K0879.nef (18.3 MB)

20120116_D7K0879.nef.xmp (8.4 KB)

This file is licensed Creative Commons, By-Attribution, Share-Alike.

(*) one of the few cameras I’ve not regretted selling. I think it had a somewhat faulty AF mechanism, so when I switched to the D600 I was more than happy even though I had to sell a few good aps-c lenses (like the Tokina 12-24 used for this one). Since then my only wide angle lenses have been old manual focus Nikkors (28mm f2.8 and a 18mm f3.5).


I converted the RAW using Filmulator with everything at default values. In GIMP, adjusted the black and white points and a very slight increase in mid-range contrast using Colours/Curves. Scaled and finally sharpened with Wavelet Decompose.

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The (outer) pinkish “halo” might be the real color while the inner part is burned out.

My try:

20120116_D7K0879.nef.xmp (26.4 KB)


(sorry for the offtopic). I lived in the Emirates in the 80’s, you can say that the skyline was different then :slight_smile:

beautiful scenery

old dubai skyline (and highlights reconstruct in filmic)_20120116_D7K0879.nef.xmp (11.6 KB)


DT 3.7

__20120116_D7K0879.nef.xmp (11.9 KB)

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so back in the 80s the landscape was like the right side of the photo? or all desert?

that’s interesting. I don’t know anymore what is real!?

Both I guess, but definitely none of fancy skyscrapers (even the right side looks a bit too neat), and Dubai expanded a lot. There were some highrises around the creek in the 80s. I might have some old photo’s, unfortunately, a lot has gone missing after moving around. I myself lived in Al-Ain, but we were often in Dubai for shopping and swimming in the sea.

20120116_D7K0879.nef.xmp (10.2 KB)

DT 3.6

Thanks for sharing !

20120116_D7K0879.nef.xmp (15.9 KB)
DT 3.6

Maybe the first try was a bit cold

20120116_D7K0879-2.jpg.out.pp3 (14,9 KB)


old.dubai.skyline.pp3 (16.3 KB) RawTherapee 5.8 Development


A teal & orange look, DT 3.7

20120116_D7K0879.nef.xmp (21.4 KB)

Turning off white balance (so no multipliers are applied to raw values) shows there’s clipping in only a small portion of the image:

Even with the WB module on, much of the sky shows no raw-level clipping; I don’t think there’s any reason for the sky to have false colours in the non-clipped region:

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20120116_D7K0879.nef.xmp (11.4 KB)

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Might be a bug. RawDigger shows more clipping.

My effort …thanks for sharing…my take is the end results will depend on how the sky is handled adn how warm you go with the WB and how much shadow you leave…ie how bright was it actually when the picture was shot…I went with what pleased my eye rather that what might be the real look since I have no idea what that might be…

…xmp in jpg…

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Hey Istvan this analysis you did is interesting! Never thought of using the raw-clipping indicators to give me some idea about how “correct” a certain color or shade is.

thanks for sharing this tidbit!

Todd I agree, I took this photo 9 years ago but I also have no recollection of what was “real”… I’ll also add that even if I had taken this photo 9 minutes ago I would still be confused and forgetful about what my eyes saw

(but then if I put on my biking Oakley shades, the world looks shinier so I tend to not pay attention to what my memory tells me)

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