Struggling with direct light

Hey community! I think this might just be my first post here, but I have been lurking for longer.

As a happy, long-term DarkTable user, I would like to have your input and take on the following.

I’m pretty happy with the composition, but because of the direct sunlight (and maybe some camera setting that I could have done otherwise?), the resulting image feels kind of flat, colourless.

It’s taken with my trusty Canon 70D, and I worked on it in DarkTable 4.0.1

These files are licensed Creative Commons, By-Attribution, Share-Alike.

IMG_2395.CR2 (20.4 MB)
IMG_2395_02.CR2.xmp (7.6 KB)


And here is my attempt with current master of dt 4.1.0+620~g6e5bd4d3e

IMG_2395.CR2.xmp (17,0 KB)


IMG_2395.jpg.out.arp (11.5 KB)


IMG_2395.CR2.xmp (10.1 KB)


Oh, that’s nicely bright. I like the colours :slight_smile:

How did you come up with the tone equilizer settings? It’s something I never used, but that looks interesting.

IMG_2395.CR2.pp3 (17.7 KB)

RT dev, then GIMP to add some details in the sky, then RT again. Exporting helps with the highlights I think because many tools don’t behave well with blown data.


Ah interesting, so you exported from RT with a non-blown-out sun, and then increased some contrast or something in the sky?

Thanks for this challenge!

IMG_2395_RT.jpg.out.pp3 (14.4 KB)


IMG_2395.CR2.xmp (13.5 KB)


Images that include the sun are challenging; you want to keep the cloud-laced sky from following the sun into saturation oblivion, but you also want both contrast and color definition in the relatively dark-lit landscape. Thing is, when you pull the shadows up, that desaturates the colors.

I don’t have the cool color tools of darktable, but I’ve found that careful application of simple HSL saturation helps to restore some color saturation in those shadows. So, for such an image, after demosaic I’ll first apply highlight reconstruction to make-nice the blown sun, then apply HSL saturation to restore color in the shadows I’m about to pull up in the next tool, a filmic tone curve. Putting the HSL saturation in the pipe where the data is still linear minimizes its damage to the color. FWIW…

Here’s my rendition:

I also scooched up the just-before-export sharpen a bit, to put some definition in the brush.

Edit: If I had more time, I’d take TIFF of the rendition to GIMP to clone out the lens flare, then save the final JPEG there.


Thanks for the write-up!

Here is my attempt.

IMG_2395_03.CR2.xmp (14.0 KB)

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Basically, except for rotate and perspective, every module you see in my edit is part of my default module chain. From that chain I actively work on filmic (for global contrast and handling highlight as needed), color balance (for saturation, color temps, and obviously color stuff) and tone eq (adjusting shadows / highlights). All other modules I have set up their default settings once which I hardly ever change.

So, the tone eq is one of my main go-to everday tools. Even though you could do more with it, I only use it to boost dark areas and darken brighter ones (e.g. you could also use it for contrast stuff).

My setting for filter diffusion and edges refinement/feathering just turned out to work well for me over the time. I was aiming for settings that preserve contrast in the processed areas and avoid halos on high contrast edges as good as possible for me. I’m quite satisfied with what I get from these settings with hardly no need to ever change them.


The mask exposure compensation and mask contrast compensation are stuff you will always have to set up based on the actual photo. You want this histogram to fit in the -8 +0 space.


You don’t want something like this:

See the bright peak at the right border.

Now, the rest in the advance tab is just brighten or darken the different areas of lightness of the photo. In this case, the settings are pretty much extreme since there is some extreme lighting situation in this photo. So that I even made a second instance of tone eq which is not that common.


Yeah, I was wondering about why there were two instances. Thanks for the explanation, I’ll surely be experimenting with it, as the ‘shadows and highlights’ module is not giving the results I want, and is not fine-grained enough either.

Yes, just to expand the -2 +2 EV area.

aquatix.pp3 (19.5 KB) RawTherapee 5.8 development


I exported the edit, then added some details in Gimp by copying part of the sky, applying a high pass-filter and blending it with the merge grain option, then I just adjusted a bit the brightness in RT again using local edits (there’s still a bit of a halo though, hard to nail it perfectly).

Mine is a bit along the lines of @jonathanBieler and @ggbutcher 's edits… all done in DT… could mess with the yellow in the sky a bit to bump or further desaturate it to taste I guess…

IMG_2395.CR2.xmp (14.4 KB)

Taking out the yellow maybe??

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Why not do the high-pass in RT? I’m not a RT user, does it have a high-pass filter? Or is it just easier to mask in Gimp?

Thanks for the explanation!