Shooting into the sun

Hi everyone,

First post here, as I was directed to this forum from the Darktable (unofficial) FB group.

I picked a particularly bad photo of mine which I shot on the island of St. John a few years ago. The scene at the time was of the sun breaking through a wonderful storm cloud formation. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the image was underexposed and the sun spot itself slightly over-exposed. My intent was to learn how to use parametric+drawn maps in darktable.

I seem to have made a horrible picture slightly better, but wanted to get some ideas on what else I could do, which modules to use, and perhaps gain a better understanding of the theory behind why one chooses specific modules or methods.

Attached are the original, a JPEG of my attempt, and the sidecar file.



_MG_0185.CR2.xmp (19.6 KB)
_MG_0185.CR2 (19.4 MB)

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Here is a very quick edit using mainly using exposure to raise the shadows and set middle gray, tone eq to lower the highlights, filmic to compress the dynamic range and a smudge of local contrast for … local contrast.

_MG_0185.CR2.xmp (9.8 KB)

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The sun is burned out. So it must be reconstructed with white or a monochrome color. In my try I colored the highlights a little yellowish.

_MG_0185.CR2.xmp (15.5 KB)


My attempt, without using any parametric masks:

Here’s the settings used in darktable 3.4:

_MG_0185.CR2_aadm.xmp (17.2 KB)

I haven’t tried to lift the shadows in the trees too much (I don’t like the hdr look and prefer a more natural look). I like to keep parts of the forest in the dark and then just naturally let the brightest parts come alive.

In summary here’s what I did:

  • exposure +2EV and filmic rgb with reconstruct options to fill in the sun.
  • tone equalizer to lift the shados in the forest
  • local contrast and chroma denoise

_MG_0185.CR2.xmp (13.9 KB)


_MG_0185.CR2.xmp (17.5 KB) _MG_0185_01.CR2.xmp (13.6 KB)


_MG_0185.CR2.xmp (31.4 KB)



for @spidermonkey
On this image I am fighting to obtain what I want.

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Rawtherapee version
_MG_0185.CR2.pp3 (14.6 KB)

Thanks for sharing the shot. Here is my try. I tried to separate the two trees in the foreground from the forest. I also wanted to bring up the sky texture. I pumped up the colors quite a bit which is certainly a matter of taste. Additionally I gave the forest a warmer color.

Feedback is welcome!

_MG_0185.CR2.xmp (11.2 KB)


Hard to keep noise under control, when dark areas are lightened. Also there seems to appear some banding

_MG_0185_RT-3.jpg.out.pp3 (16.2 KB)
RawTherapee 5.8 dev

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Wow! This is beautiful! Thanks!

Wow! Fantastic! I need to learn how to reconstruct burned out areas! Thank you so much!

@aadm, thanks! I absolutely love what you’ve done with the sky! It’s very much how I remember the scene in my mind. The forest may have been a little lighter, but the sky is definitely the focus of this photo!

And thank you for explaining how you did it. I find explanations easier to understand than looking at the side-car files, which I haven’t learned how to use well yet.

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@age - Wow. Just wow! What a gorgeous sky! I love how to brought the highlights out in the forest but left enough shadow so that the sky remains the focus!

Thank you!

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@neuralyzer - This is amazing! I can’t wait to load up the sidecar file to better understand what you did!


@Sunhillow - This is great! Did you use RawTherapee for this, or darktable?


maybe you like this:

(I know, initial idea of filmic is not to use two kind of highlight reconstruction, just I’m happy that way)

Soon a Mod will ask you to amend a license to your initial post, such like CreativeCommons :slight_smile:

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Yes, please assign a license, @pll

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