Every picture has a story to tell.

by George Mann


On the surface this image was fairly difficult to process in Lightroom and I will for sure have to take it into Photoshop CS3, to get the best results. The foreground of the image is in a very deep shadow and the sky was very bright. I did expose for the brighter part of the scene as much as possible, so that I would have a chance of using the picture, but I still had to use almost all the Basic tools in Lightroom to pull out an acceptable image.

First the sky - I used the localized version of the Tone Curve tool and dragged the highlight of the blue part of the sky down by a value of -99.

Fill Light - to bring out the shadow area in the image I used a value of 51.

Recovery - to lessen the overall effect of the fill light I used a value of 74.

Blacks - I added just a little bit of black for realizm, a value of 5.

Clarity - a full value of 100 to neutralize the flattening effect of the fill light

Saturation - not too much but enough to punch up the picture, value of +21.

On the other hand this picture tells another story all together. My nine year old son Man and I have been visiting this open air place of Buddhist worship since before he could walk. We hadn't been here in a while and I though it was about time to pay respect to the mountain and to the Buddha who lived engraved on his side once again.

I have literally hundreds of images of my son at this temple and he has always been in great spirits during our visits, saying a prayer to the Buddha and leaving some money for the upkeep of the grounds. I remember that both his mother and I were really surprised when he insisted on leaving money in the donation box on one of his very first visits (I had to lift him up to the top of the box so he could put the money in).

On this particular trip we came upon a new prayer spot and were surprised by a small crocodile that darted across our path and dove into the pond at the base of the mountain. I am not sure how the crocodile got here, it was probably bought as a pet when it was a baby and released here to stay with the Buddha when it got too big.

The 109 meter high Buddha image itself was projected onto the side of the Khao Chi Chan mountain with a laser light, traced with chalk by mountain climbers and then blasted along the drawn lines, to create the grooves for the golden inlay. The Royal Thai Navy and Marines guard and maintain the site.


This image taken on the same day and at the same location had pretty good portrait lighting and did not require any adjustments in Lightroom (OK I added a little Clarity). There is also not that much of a story. This was taken on a path coming back down from the Buddha shrine (behind my back), on which I have photographed my son many times before over the last nine and a half years.

His mother says he is funny looking in this picture, but that is because I am using a 12-24mm Nikkor DX lens at 12mm and very close up, so I can get as much of his smile as possible (missing teeth and all) into the image. Once again visiting the Buddha at Khao Chi Chan has had it's magical effect on Man.


2007-09-21 05:59:22
On the first pic i'd have used flash in the first place then tweaked the raw in LR or PS. High amounts of 'recovery' and 'fill lights' really give an unnatural look to pics IMHO.
With all the gear we carry a small cobra flash is not that much to add to our backpack and still proves useful.
George Mann
2007-09-21 07:10:29
chroma - Thank you for your suggestion but that would have been a different story. I used this particular image on purpose to illustrate that a "usable" picture can be pulled out of an image with extremely underexposed and overexposed areas. Sometimes we have a story to tell and the only image available to support that story needs this type of treatment.
2007-09-21 07:43:55
Hi, interesting article, however I'm confused, what do you mean by "First the sky - I used the localized version of the Tone Curve tool and dragged the highlight of the blue part of the sky down by a value of -99."?

I didn't realize that there was such a thing in LR, I though I'd have to use CS2/3 for that.

George Mann
2007-09-21 08:12:33
Gary - there is a "target adjustment mode' button for the Tone Curve and the HSL (Hue, Saturation, Luminance) controls.

Here is an example - http://dpmac.com/adobe/01-003v1.html - of how it works with Luminance.

2007-09-21 09:55:24
OK just to clarify, your son is called Man Mann?
George Mann
2007-09-21 13:38:20
It would seem like that but in reality it is a little more complicated. Man is his Thai nickname and is completely unrelated to Mann which is my professional surname. Man's real first name is Morgan and his surname is Lienemann.

Since Man was born in Thailand he was given a Thai nickname at birth (everyone is given one) by his mother. The nickname stays with you throughout your life. So even if you are the head of the army or the prime minister of the country you will be known as Mr. Little, Red, Fat, Skinny, Grape, or whatever. Lately there is a heated debate because a lot of people are giving their kids exotic foreign nicknames (like Cash, Bank or even Joe) instead of the more classic Thai nicknames.

Because Man looks more like a foreigner than a Thai some of his teachers actually call him Morgan and he answers to both names, but to most people (including his family and friends in the US) he has always been known as Man.

Stew Stryker
2007-09-21 13:46:42

Great image, great explanation of use of LR tools and great personal story. Thanks for sharing all three.

As you said, some localized editing would still probably be needed for best results. At least on my uncalibrated monitor, the sky doesn't look quite natural. I'd also argue that I would expect the foreground to be a little dark; just looking at it my brain would tell me that the tree leaves would shade the foreground.

But it's a great example of pulling a usable shot out of something you'd otherwise toss.

What an amazing temple! I love the story of how the image on the rock was created.

In your reply to chroma, I expected you to say that a flash would not have felt appropriate in the temple, though you were outdoors. :-)

And I'm trying to guess your response to Richard. Besides the obvious, I was wondering if, since he's smaller than you and his first name is shorter than your last, if you might call him "Little Mann", as in "Man" = "Mann" - "n". But that's probably only apparent to programmer-types like me! :-)

Oops, I'm rambling TOO much. Better go! ;-)

Thanks again!

George Mann
2007-09-21 15:08:23
Stew - thanks for the comments, yes I agree that the foreground can be toned down a bit and the sky needs some work too. There is also a replica of the mountain just beyond the offerings table that has more detail than can be seen in this size of image (a lot of work to be done). Flash fill is just not something I would use in a situation like this, unless this was a deliberate commercial assignment. My son and I were enjoying the day and I always have a camera with me, I saw the shot, raised my camera to my eye and grabbed it, a minute or so later we came across the young crocodile but he was too quick for me to get a shot.