Thinking Camera, Lens, Lightroom before taking the shot.

by George Mann

When I saw this scene in front of me, I realized that it was going to be very difficult to get what I was seeing. For one it was very dark and I was standing on a very narrow and slippery ledge between the lichen encrusted ruins of Banteay Kdei (Angkor, Cambodia) and the jungle. I didn't have a tripod with me but it was doubtful that I could have gotten the angle I was after even if I had one anyway (where is that Gitzo ladder tripod when you really need one).


I took a few close-up shots first but what I really wanted was to capture the feeling I got when I crawled around the most remote corner of this temple and saw these stone carvings facing in three different directions, with very dramatically different levels of light on the various surfaces.

I tried a number of different angles but I also had to jack the ISO of my camera up to 1600 to get both the depth of field and the shutter speed I needed to work while leaning out precariously on the very narrow and slippery ledge. When I finally saw this image in the camera, I knew that I had what I was looking for, that sense of being able to fall into the picture and see around a corner.

The camera I used for this shot was the Nikon D40, which has a relatively noise free image at ISO 1600. The lens I used was the Nikkor 12-24mm f/4.0 DX. The setting for this particular shot was 12mm, 1/125 sec at f/6.3. It seemed appropriate that my settings where as far out on the ledge as I was.


Just looking at the scene in front of me and reviewing the image on the LCD, I could see that I was in real trouble exposure wise, but in the back of my mind was the thought that Lightroom would allow me to save this image by pushing and pulling the deep shadows and glaring highlights enough to produce an image that would give me a sense of the time and space I was in when I took the image.


"Pushing" is to me is the effect you get when you increase the Fill Light value in the Basic panel (of the Develop Module) to open up the shadow areas in an image. Overdoing it can leave an image very flat (and noisy) and without any blacks. Sometimes it is necessary to overdo it though and bring back the blacks with the Blacks tool (use a very light touch on this tool).

"Pulling" is to me the effect you get when you increase the Recovery value in the Basic panel to lessen the effect of glaring highlights. You have to be very careful to not overdo it with this tool though because you can easily leave an image drab and lifeless looking when it loses all its highlights.

A lot of the life in an image that has been pushed and pulled a bit too much, can be brought back by using the Clarity tool.

The end result is of course a very personal image and not one I can claim to be technically perfect, but by using my camera, my lens and envisioning the result I would get using Lightroom to control the image, I was able to produce an image that will always put me back in that exact time and space, that existed only for a fleeting moment in a remote corner of Banteay Kdei.

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