[Play Raw] Morning Light

I’ve really enjoyed PlayRaw. Had in mind for a while to post one, finally got around to choosing an image…

Morning light can be tough. It changes rapidly, and when the sun breaks the horizon the scene’s dynamic range outstrips that of most cameras. I mostly let the sky go into desaturation in favor of subject lighting that’s sometimes in shadow.

This image is from an autumn morning in the Colorado mountains, west of Lost Creek Wilderness. Son and I had set up camp off the road, just to the right of the scene. I crawled out of the truck before dawn, and just wandered the locale with my camera. The silver color in the grass is frost. The blown part is the sky just above the mountains. Here’s the batch-processed proof:

DSG_1642.NEF (21.2 MB)
License: CC-BY NC (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/)


Great photo! I tried to keep the haze.

DSG_1642.NEF.xmp (5,2 KB)

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Very nice photo @ggbutcher. Here is my attempt using RT 5.5 together with the thought process.
I thought that a) vast expanse of blue sky is uninteresting b) the fog in the middle ground and the frost on the grass is very interesting and c) the cows and the road add a important touch to the photo.
So applied graduate density filter to the top part of the image to accentuate the fog that lies immediately below. Used L curve of the lab to darken the surrounding areas to the fog and lighten the trees lit by the sun. removed noise from the the base of the tree line as I thought this gives a more painting like look. Used the Residual image tab to further highlight the fog and Final Touch UP module to finish the image.
If the viewer primarily notices the grand scene together with frost tipped grass and the fog in the middle grounds in the version then I will think that I was successful in my attempt :slightly_smiling_face:
DSG_1642-1.jpg.out.pp3 (12.4 KB)

Note: One can use GIMP now to lighten the cow standing on the road to make the processing complete. May be something like this:


Thanks for sharing such a nice photo. Here is my two attempts with darktable.

DSG_1642.NEF.xmp (4.9 KB)

DSG_1642.NEF.xmp (4.9 KB)


DSG_1642.NEF.xmp (7.8 KB)


Ok so here is my take done in RT

I have gotten into the habit to first view the black and white image (shortcut “v” in RT) and the RGB black and white images (shortcuts “r”, “g” and “b”). Most of the times with images where theres sunlight and shadows the r channel looks more powerful to me than the B&W.

Here’s the B&W:

And here’s the R channel B&W:

So I am trying to bring some of that “power” into the color picture by doing the contrast using the RGB curves in luminosoty mode, in this case using the R curve.

Other thatn that I:

  • pushed the yellows and reds
  • shifted the blues slightly towards teal
  • shifted the yellows slightly towards orange and the reds slightly towards pink.

Here’s the reult:

PS: @ggbutcher I really like your high keyish take and I suppose it was somewhat like that at that moment, because your image has a real morning light feeling to it. :+1:
As I wasn’t there and I am uninfluenced by the time and place of that shot I went for a darker more dramatic look.


I liked the hills with their haze the most so I cropped the image to highlight them.

DSG_1642.NEF.xmp (11.7 KB)


DSG_1642.NEF.pp3 (13.0 KB)


DSG_1642-1.jpg.out.pp3 (11.6 KB)


DSG_1642.NEF.xmp (12.4 KB)
DSG_1642_01.NEF.xmp (12.9 KB)


With GIMP and G’MIC:


Wow, thanks for the response! They’re all great, and the commentary is quite insightful.

Military service made me a morning person, and I used to cuss that. But I’ve found it to be a boon for the type of photography I’ve come to like, and this morning was one of the better experiences I’ve had doing it. Got up and going at about 5am, no signs yet of dawn. I usually berate myself standing there, “what are you doing, Butcher, nothing to see, move on”, but this particular morning drove home the wonderful insight gained in being present for the entire diurnal transition. Almost minute-by-minute, the dynamic range changes and requires different consideration of the exposure. The changing DR also changes the composition opportunities, adding depth where it wasn’t before and such. Really, there are wonderful image opportunities from the first hint of light onward…

The JPEG I posted was just a linear contrast stretch, absolutely no thought given to the processing except for the black and white thresholds I put in the batch file almost a year ago. I’d say it captures aspects of the scene I remember, like the shininess of the frosted grass, but each and every one of you brought out something that also resonates with my recollection: tone, color, and composition.

Once again, thanks all for extending and enhancing what was a rich morning, wandering around with my camera… :heart:


Nice exposure! Essentially perfect ETTR with the green channel, which greatly pleases me.

I tried to emphasize the lightness and purity of the scene, pushing a lot of the brighter regions way to the right in the histogram with raised Exposure Compensation and lowered Highlight Rolloff Point, and maintained contrast using Drama and an S-curve (lowering the Shadow Brightness) slider.


@CarVac I like that the cows stand out in this version!


DSG_1642-0.jpg.out.pp3 (12.0 KB)


The panorama crops are especially interesting.

I’ve always been a “photograph what’s there” sort, not much into staging things, so the cows made an interesting counterpoint to the wild setting. Thanks to those that worked them locally.

The fact that your JPEG is already so good proves the excellence of your photography that is deserving of the attention. Makes my PlayRaw threads jealous. :stuck_out_tongue: :cricket: Hope you share more from your records. :wink:

Here is my contribution with darktable 2.60

DSG_1642.NEF.xmp (7,0 Ko)


Thanks for sharing this nice picture!

DSG_1642.pfi (48.8 KB)

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Thanks for the compliment, @afre.

I used to think one needed to live near pretty places/things to make good images. Colorado, USA, is what we called in the military a ‘target-rich environment’ in that regard; it made making the image of this thread easy. But, seems to me that it’s really the light that makes the difference; with interesting light, ordinary spaces and things can become compelling.

Just a random thought…

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