Be Bold With the Controls

by James Duncan Davidson

Sometimes when you're out making photos, things don't always go just as you'd like. You can be in the most stunning scenery, but the light won't cooperate. This happened to me a few days ago while traveling through the Big Bend area of Texas. A storm front was on its way, but instead of spectacular brooding skies, there was just a high layer of clouds turning the world into one big low contrast shadowless scene.

Of course, I still made a few photographs for myself to remember the place. Here's an image I shot of the Rio Grande and Texas route 170 in Big Bend Ranch State Park:


In the image above, I've done a bit of initial processing a bit to neaten up the exposure and added a bit of vignette, but you can see that there's not much pop in the scene. Out of curiosity, I started making some extreme adjustments in the luminance color panel—much more extreme than I'm used to making. Here's what I ended up with:


Looks pretty extreme doesn't it? But, with these adjustments and a little vignette, here's the resulting photograph:


The sky is still featureless and lifeless, but there's a lot more pop in the ground vegetation and the mountains. It's still not one of my better shots from this trip—at least in my opinion—but it's a nice record of where I was. And, more importantly, by playing boldly with the controls on this image and seeing the results, I'll be more open to working up some of my other images using some of the same techniques.


2007-12-04 10:55:34
i think you could have been even bolder -increase the blacks +10 or so - increase the recovery - decrease exposure a bit and increase brightness.

decrease saturation -10 and increase vibrance +10
add a bit of clarity...

2007-12-04 11:17:06
Nice edits there, James. What is the difference between brightness and exposure in practice?
2007-12-04 18:20:35
Try using the Recovery slider to bring out more detail in the sky.