Dusk in the Valley – Dramatic highlights with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4

Before and after example shot with a Canon EOS 60D.

Canon EOS 60D - Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4
Canon EOS 60D - Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4
Dusk in the Valley

I’ve been using Lightroom 4 now for a few weeks (the final release is now available) and continue to find the results satisfying. Actually, beyond satisfying. Far beyond. Without a lot of time, I’m able to take simple photos and make them more interesting- well, at least I hope they’re somewhat interesting.

Here’s a recent example.

For some reason I have a fascination with shooting the skyline, streets and foothills here in Silicon Valley. This time I set-up the tripod, mounted the Canon EOS 60D, and played around with some slow exposure. As a kid, I remember creating ghosts using slow exposure. I would hit the shutter and run into the frame, then stand on one side for a few seconds, before moving a few feet over and waiting until the shutter closed. The result – which would come weeks later after film processing – was always entertaining, if not slightly eerie.

Before

Canon EOS 60D

The before shot is okay. Nothing too catchy. I like the red and white streaks from the cars. But I wanted more drama. More sizzle; something you might see in a magazine, maybe related to an article talking about nightlife in San Jose or San Francisco.

Processing

Lightroom 4 processing

So I imported the file into Lightroom 4. Unfortunately I didn’t use RAW this time, so I was editing a hires jpg. This time I went extreme with the controls. Boosting the exposure (+2.93), and whites (+37), cooling the tone, adding more vibrance (+27). One of my favorite adjustments in the new version is the ability to use the “shadows” slider to bring out detail in the shadows. I went +20 with that – way more than I normally would. You can see some of the other settings in the screen shot of the controls at end of the article.

After

Canon EOS 60D - Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4

I’m generally pleased with the result. The colors really pop. There’s a lot of action, and drama. Neighborhoods are visible now. I like the contrast of the quiet homes, against the bustling streets. Not everything is perfect. There’s noise in the shadows; I likely boosted too much (capturing RAW would’ve helped). And the star bursts seen across all the street lights might be a bit much. Still, I was going for over-the-top. There’s room for improvement and further learning. Isn’t that always the case with photography?

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  • Jhscratch

    I agree completely with you regarding Lightroom 4.  It’s a great tool and can really enhance a ‘blah’ photograph.  I seldom use Photoshop any more as a result.

    • Yes, LR4 is utterly fantastic. I’ve got to say Adobe has really raised the bar. I didn’t give previous versions much attention, but they’ve nailed the ease-of-use/power balance with this release.

  • Trikercarol

    I like the “over the top” changes you have made.  I have read a lot of comments from folks who do not like this new version – complaints about it being slow and not compatible with PS.  I was glad to see your post and read that you are happy with the program.  I got into photography when I retired and have been having fun but have just recently started to do post processing.  I just bought LR4 last week.  I have made some slight modifications to some photos and I am pleased with the results.  Still having some trouble understanding the import/export process, collections, catalogs, etc.  Need to spend more time on some of the tutorials on the web.  

    • Thanks. I’m not finding it slow at all. Granted I’m running Llightroom 4 on an i7. I too am still learning catalog/collections features. I’m hoping I can use this to tag, and manage terabytes of photos/videos. I need help!