Sunrise Waves

Tone Curves

In this morning shot there is a lot of dynamic range between the sunrise and the tidepools in the shadows. I use a simple but very powerful tool, the tone curve, to control the light in various parts of this image. I don't know about you, but I just love to shoot straight into the sun. I Find myself doing it all the time. It's a good idea to get some techniques for bringing up the shadows while maintaining a natural look.

If you'd like follow along with me, here's the original RAW file

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Hi everybody.

Harry here with another Darktable Edit.

This is a shot I took this morning.

Sunrise, as you can see.

Nice big waves, ten or twelve feet, pounding all night; very nice.

As you can see here, the image format is DNG.

I shot this using Magic Lantern's Dual ISO option, which lets me use alternating scan lines of different ISOs.

This one was shot at 50 and 1600 ISO: quite a bit of range there.

And then it's re-combined with software to create basically an HDR image.

Let's get started.

We're going to want to bring out the shadows.

The image looks a little blue.

It probably needs to be more yellow.

This side is dark over here.

The bottom is dark this way.

This bay is dark.

I understand it's dark from the shadow from the sun on this cliff, but I think we can still do something about it.

Let's set our White Point and get the darn thing straightened out to start, though.

There's a couple of ways you can straighten an image.

One of them is you can change your Aspect Ratio to Freehand and that allows you to put your line anywhere you want, and you can do it by eye.

You can rotate here with the angle.

Another thing you can do is you can right-click with the mouse, keep it held down, make sure that you go as far to the other side as from where you started, because, see, there's a little hump in the middle? If you just go to the middle and make it parallel, you're not going to come out straight.

So, we're going to come all the way to this edge, and try and get our line straight.

When you let go, there you go; it snaps to that line.

Now you know three ways to rotate it.

White Balance: the first thing we should look for is some way to cheat.

We've got some plants here.

I know that plants should be about 2 yellow to 1 green, so let's zoom in on them and see if we can use them.

Boy, they're pretty dark.

Okay, well, let's lighten them up and then see if we can use them.

Go over to your Color Picker, use the Eyedropper Tool, make sure you're on Area instead of Point, and select as large an area as you can find that is contiguous.

Now, let's see; how about right here.

I like that.

Okay, now we're looking for 2:1.

You have to click Add because this value here will not update as you make changes.

Once you click Add, these values will change.

This is in LAB, okay, Luminence your first number; A channel, which is green on one side and magenta on the other.

This is a positive value, so we know that it's on the magenta side instead of green.

And then this is the B channel, which is blue vs.

yellow, and it's got more blue than yellow.

So, we've got trees that are magenta and blue.

They're supposed to be yellow and green, so let's fix that.

We go over here to our White Balance.

We want a little more green, and we want more yellow.

Okay, what do we have now? We've got green and we've got yellow, but we don't have 2:1, so let's get more yellow.

There we go; now we've got 2:1.

Let's see what the rest of the image looks like when we did that.

Make sure to turn off this Tone Curve.

We only did that so we could get enough data to work with.

Zoom out.

Oh, boy; I like that better.

I like that much better.

Okay, let's work on our dark areas first.

We're going to use Tone Curves to do large scale adjustments.

Drawn Masks and Gradient Fills.

This one looks like it starts getting darker around here and is darkest over here, so: Gradient Fill, we'll spin it, make it a little bit bigger, and then make it a little warmer.

Ah, that's changing this side instead of this side.

See this minus here? Click that.

If we click this, it gets rid of this indicator here.

Now, as we make changes, it's happening on this side like we wanted.

That looks good to me.

This bottom part is dark.

Let's do another one.

A little smaller.

Now, this effect's going to be going up.

I can show you that with the Mask Indicator.

We want it to go the other way, so I'm going to hit this minus here.

Then we'll bring this up.

Lighten it up, a little bit, quite a bit, actually.

There's still a bit dark over here in this corner.

Let's do another one.

I'm not trying to get everything right the first time.

I'm just doing gross adjustments here, just so that I've got something that I can work with.

Bring this up.

Alright, now you'll probably notice I rotated it 180 degrees instead of hitting the Minus.

They both work the same.

This bay is a little dark.

Let's see if we can lighten that up.

As a matter of fact, this whole side's a little dark, so let's do that first and then we'll worry about the bay.

Alright, now let's do something about that bay.

I can make this larger with my mouse wheel.

I grab this area here, use our Mask Blur to make everything softer edges, so we don't have an abrupt change, turn off our Indicators.

I don't really want to touch this dark part so I'm going to find out where that is.

Let's see: like right around here.

So, I'll put a point here; that will lock it so it doesn't move.

I want to change this White Point.

That's like, right up here.

So, let's bring that up.

And I think this went up a little too much.

There we go.

Okay, now let's bring this up a little bit.

It's getting light here on this edge.

I don't want that.Now, where's our line? Yeah, let's make it smaller; I don't like this.

If I right-click on the entire image, not on one of the pull points, it will delete it, see? We can re-draw this, right in here.

Now, I've already set my Mask Blur, so I don't need to re-set that.

Let's bring this up again.

There we go; that's better.

Alright, I want to bring out some of these shadows.

I'm going to use Tone Mapping for that.

I only want to apply the Tone Mapping to the darkest parts of the image here and here.

I will use a Parametric Mask to select the areas I want.

Turn on the Mask Indicator; okay, everything's selected.

We only want the dark parts of the image, so we're going to use these sliders to select just the darkest parts of the image.

That looks pretty good.

Now, see, it's getting areas we don't want it to, so we're going to use a combination of the Parametric Mask and a Drawn Mask.

I'll just paint the areas I want.

I'm not going to go all the way out to the edges.

That will help reduce halos and makes it so that the edges roll off to a nice shadow.

It will look more natural.

I'm going to blur my edge so I don't end up with a sharp line.

Oh, that came a little close over here.

Let's select just this Pull Point and right click: it'll delete the pull point instead of the whole bezier curve.

I can pull this in a little bit.

Now let's blur the Mask.

Alright: turn off Indicator; turn off our Bezier Indicator.

Let's set our Spatial Extent down to some reasonable level.

I usually like around 6%, and I like to run my Opacity about Half, so it's 50% the old image and 50% the new image.

Then I can adjust how muchof the effect I want with this compression.

Okay, that's with none of it; this should look like our original image.

As we slowly bring it up, and you use your mouse wheel, that looks good to me: one and a half.

Alright: without it, see it's dark in here and here; with it, we brought out some of this.

I'm pretty happy with that.

Okay, that looks good enough.

I want to lighten this up.

I guess that would be the Gamma.

I want to do it on this entire lower half of the image, mostly.

As a matter of fact, I think a direction from here to here would be good.

So, let's set up a Gradient Mask again, and this time I'll just rotate it.

There we go.

Now it's really big.

It goes from one end of the screen all the way to the other.

I'll turn on the Indicator so you can see what's going on.

See, very little effect here; maximum effect down here.

Turn off our Indicators.

I don't need to Mask Blur it because it's already nice and smooth.

Then I'm going to find this area right in here and try and bring that out, because I really like this little glow here, and this area in here.

Okay, we have an Eyedropper Tool.

That would be perfect.

As we slide it around, see this green here? That's from this part that we still left, that was up in the trees.

I'll remove that.

There we go.

Now we can see what's going on.

It looks like I want to increase this, right about there.

Boy, this ended up being a little bright over here, didn't it? So our Bezier Curve, we're going to make it just a little bit smaller.

I don't think that's helping.

I'm going to leave that and I'm going to go back to this one that I used before: that one, and bring it down a little bit.

See how this is a little out of focus? It was just a little too close to the camera, I think.

This might need a little extra love, in terms of sharpening and xxxxx.

When we get going, I'll have to keep that in mind.

And see at the bottom here, where we've got this little line of color? I think that the bottom scan lines didn't match up properly, so I'll make sure I crop that out when we're all done.

Just things to remember.

The sky...

I want the sky to be a little richer in these tones.

I've got a way of doing that.

If we go over here to Channel Mixer, there are different settings and we can adjust the Red, Green, and Blue, but we can also adjust the Lightness, and if we adjust the Lightness -- now, there's already a lot of red here; I don't want that; I want it to be darker.

Okay, let's see what the Green looks like.

We bring up our Green.

Without it, and with it.

See, the Red stays about the same image, but the other stuff gets more contrast.

Let's see what it looks like if we increase the Blue.

If we use the Blue for the L Channel.

I'm sorry: let me explain what I am doing.

This is basically the L Channel, in the LAB, and I'm using a combination of information from the Red, Green and Blue to create this L Channel, okay? Instead of just going with the way it came out of the camera.

What I want to do is I want to have the sky and the clouds have a little more separation.

It looked to me like the Red really helps us do that.

The Green really helps us do that, and the Blue does not.

So let's us the Red and Green Channels.

We'll combine them.

We'll start with about equal amounts of each.

Then we're going to apply this with Soft Light as a Blend Mode.

There we go.


Alright, we've replaced our L Channel with the Red and Green without any Blue information.

You can even go negative on the Blue if you want.

See? So, whatever Blue information there was, it creates an inverse of that in the L Channel.

That's kindof nice.

We don't need any of that down here; it just makes it dark.

We're going to apply this whole thing with a Drawn Mask.

Gradient again.

Make it smaller with the mouse wheel.

It's hard to turn when you're close to the image.

Little changes make a big difference.

See, if you get way down here, this is with me still holding onto the mouse wheel, you get finer tune adjustment.

That's a good tool to use.

There we go.

Get rid of that Indicator.

Without it; with it; I love it.

That really helps.

This is looking better.

This is looking better.

Okay, the bottom part of the image definitely needs more highlights.

Another Gradient Fill.

Start about there.

I don't mind having a pretty abrupt transition because I think when, in the ocean it gets darker towards the horizon, that actually helps you see the distance.

So, I think that's fine.

I'm going to reverse the effect, so as I lighten, it'll be down here.

Get rid of this Indicator.

I don't want to lighten everything because I don't want it to blow out some of my information, so I'm going to figure out what's going on in here and lighten up this end of it, and bring down this image.

There we go; that creates a little more contrast in here.

Without it, and with it; nice.

Everything looks a little lighter.

The image is starting to look more balanced.

A couple of other things I like to do: RAW Denoising.

You can only do that when it's in RAW format, and it's the most powerful denoiser in terms of thetrade-off between denoising and losing details.

Let's see what our noise looks like.

Now, we've got a lot of color noise going on.

Let's get rid of the Chromatic Aberrations.

Oh, that helped a lot.

We're going to use this RAW Denoise.

I'll bring it all the way down to zero, and then I'll slowly bring it up until I start to lose detail.

Oh, there we go: we go back one: .003 Now, I still have a lot of color noise.

See how it goes Red-green-red-green? I'll show you a trick.

I come over here to Low-Pass Filter.

I can set my Radius maybe down around 3 or so, maybe a little bit higher, turn off my Contrast, and now I just have the color channel.

See, it's just the color information.

There, if I apply that to only the Color Channel, under Blend Mode, oh that gets rid of a lot of the color noise.

See that it's green here and magenta here, and it seems to alternate.

And I open that up, and now it's a lot smoother.

I can make it a little bit bigger too.

I'll go to 4 pixels.

Hey, I'm happier with that.

Let's make sure it doesn't make any of the image less sharp.

Without it; with it.

I think xxxx got rid of a lot of the noise.

I'm going to take an initial pass at sharpening this up.

I zoom in using the mouse wheel, in case you were wondering.

This is called the Equalizer.

It allows you to increase contrast and determine edges based on the size of details.

We don't want to apply it to the whole image because this stuff already looks good, so we're going to use a Mask again.

We'll work on just this area.

I'll make that a little bit smaller, and here we go.

We won't turn on any indicators so we can see.

That didn't work; there we go.

There's our indicator.

Turn off our Bezier.

This is a little bit of a blur on the edge.

We don't want any of xxxx changes.

Now, we'll start increasing the Contrast based on size, starting at the right, working to the left, and find out what sizes we're working with here.

We bring it all the way over to the right: we start with the fine first.

Not much tune.

We'll use a snapshot so we can see this better each time.

I'll take a snapshot of what we've got.

If I click on it, that pastes it in half the window.

As I slide this back and forth, the side on the left will be the original and the side on the right is the changed side.

If I want to change that, I can click on this.

But this is fine.

Go up to the next size.

Oh, that gave us a little bit of contrast in the right size.

Let's try the next size up.

Oh, that's getting a little large.

So, it looks like it's going to be in between these two, right here.

So, we'll pull up this whole right about there.

We don't want too much contrast.

Now, I want to use this Edge option, here.

The Edge Option won't do anything if you don't increase the Luma Contrast.

So, first you've got to increase your Luma Contrast, then you can work on your Edge Detection.

We'll bring out Edge Detection up even higher than our Luma Contrast because we really want more edges.

Now let's see what that's like.

That's an improvement.

Now, here's another thing we can do.

We can use this High Pass Filter.

We'll use the same Mask.

If you go to Drawn Mask and you go to No Mask Used, you'll see an existing shape that we just used, on Equalizer.

See, there it is.

We'll have to set our Mask Blur, like we did last time.

Turn off our Bezier Indicator.

Now we're going to bring our Sharpness and Contrast to a level where we're just getting our edges.

Like that.

We'll apply this with a Overlay Option, and bring it down; it's just too much to start.

That's a little bit more edge there.

Turn this off.

Well, it ain't perfect, but that's a heck of a lot better.

Here, we can look at our History.

If we click on this value it will show us what happened beforehand.

I'll do a snapshot, and then I'll go further up our History stack, and we can see what difference we made to this xxxxxx Before, after.

Well, I think that's probably about as much as we can get out of that.

We're going to crop it just a little bit.

Some of this top, and some of this bottom, some of the right.

See, this is confusing.

I don't need this little rock here; that doesn't add anything to the story.

Crop and Rotate.

Bring in the bottom a little bit.

Bring down the top a little bit.

Bring it in on the right a little bit.

Compress Stack just gets rid of any duplicate entries.

What did we start with? We started with this, White Balance, Tone Curve, Tone Curve, and little by little, working our way up.

There, that's how we got there.

Well, this looks like a good starting point.

I am going to go ahead and save this, and then re-open it.

Saving it makes it so that, as I make changes, it doesn't have to re-calculate everything.

I save as a 16-bit TIF, Adobe RGB.

I do all my work in Adobe.

It's tell me down here that it's exporting it.

When this is done, I can click Open and the image will be there.

There it is.

This is where we were last time.

It's collapsed it; it's now a TIF; we can start over again, from scratch.

Very nice.

This is awful dark in here, still, and I not only want to lighten it up a little bit, I want to add a little of the color of the sun to this area, so it looks like the sun is shining on it.

Right now, it looks kind of, like, I don't know where that light's coming from, but I don't get the clue that it's coming from here.

Here's what we'll do.

Set up a Gradient Fill that goes towards us, reverse the direction.

I'll turn on the Indicator so we can see where it is.

There it is.

I want the lighter parts of the image to get more effect, and the darker parts of the image to not get as much.

So, I'm going to combine this Drawn Mask with a Parametric mask.

It'll be a combination of the two.

Bring this slider all the way over.

Now, more of the image, oh, sorry wrong way.

Bring THIS slider all the way over.

Now, more of the image, more of the effect is going to be in the lighter parts of the image, less of the effect in the darker parts.

I want to bring up my Highlights a little bit with my Tone Curve and the sun is a little bit red but mostly yellow.

Not red: magenta.

So, I'll bring up my magenta a little bit, not much, and then I will bring up my yellow more, and that should give ma a little xxx.

Without it, and with it.

Well, I like it, but I want more effect.

So, I'm just going to duplicate that exact thing.

Duplicate Instance.

Don't forget to turn it on.


Second instance of the same thing.

Before, and here's with two instances of it.

Ah, hey; that looks better.

Now, I have a little bit of red and yellow in here and over here.


Alright, it looks to me like my Contrast is a little high in here; it looks a little abrupt.

I want to even this out a little more.

I want to bring out this with some highlights.

I want more color in the sky.

Let's see how we can do that.

Once again: Gradient Filter.

This time I'm going to go the other way.

Bring down my Highlights just a little bit.

I'll do this.

I'll do a Reverse S-Curve, because a Contrast Curve goes like this.

I want to go the other way, like that.

Hey, that looks great, except not that much.

So, I will attenuate the effect with the Opacity.

With none of it; with all of it, somewhere in the middle.

Right about there.

Okay, before, and after.

Ah, I like it.

A little less abrupt there.

I still want to bring this out, and this out.

I think I'm going to do it by color, though.

There's a tool called Color Zones.

You can go to Lightness.

There's a Saturation.

The Hue is a little tricky; I would stay away from that until you play with it for a while.

Get an idea where my color is.

See where it is? It shows me here.

I can move these sliders over.

There's a Parametric Mask.

Now, if I pull this up, more light; down, darker.

So, we'll pull it up a little bit.

Before, and after.

Okay, I think we can pull that up a little more.

Before, and after.


See, it's affecting the sky too, but I don't mind that; that's helping up here.

I want these clouds to pop from the background more; they just kindof look like they are laying there.

The right tool for that, that I like to use, is a Low Pass Filter applied with a Blend Mode of Overlay.

So here's what we're going to do.

Turn our Saturation all the way down; increase our Radius, or decrease it until we've just got the edges of our clouds.

That looks good.

It's right around 13 pixels or so.

Then I'm going to change my Blend Mode to Overlay, lower my Contrast a little bit, and attenuate my effect with Opacity.

Okay, this is before, and after.

Ah, that's what I'm looking for up here, but I don't want to apply it to the whole image, because, look: it makes everything dark.

So, once again, I'm going to use a Gradient Fill.

I want the full effect to start before the horizon.


So, maybe we'll go like this, make it nice and big, and have it start right here before the horizon.

Now I've got the maximum effect before the horizon.

Without it, and with it.

It looks a little strong, doesn't it? Let's bring our Opacity down a little bit.

Hah! That's what I'm looking for.


Now, this top, the very very top is just a little dark.

I'm going to have to fix that.

Alright; I think it's time to apply some color.

I don't want to apply color to the whole image.

First I want to apply color to the areas of the image that have the least color, and then I'll apply color to the whole image.

If I just apply color to the whole image to start, then it's going to get out of gamut real quick in some of these areas.

Once again, a Parametric Mask, this time working on the Chromacity Channel.

I'll turn on the Indicator.

Bring this down so that all of the image is getting some of the effect, but most of the effect happens to areas that have less color.

See these areas have the most color, and they're getting the least effect, so I'm going to steepen my A and B Channels.

That's going to give me more Saturation and more color separation.

Oh, that's starting to look better.

I want this foreground to be a little bit brighter here.

I'm going to move this down so it's before my color enhancement.

Let's see: this area right here.

Nice big Blur.

Is it too big? Maybe a little too big.

Maybe a little bit smaller.

Okay, turn off my Indicator, pull up my Gamma a little bit in here.

I don't want to lose my Black Point, so I'm going to pull this down just a little bit.

Let's warm it up a little bit.

Where is this? Right around there.

When I took out my Middle Point I started losing what color I had.

I want to keep the same color; I just want to change it to saturation.

So, I left my Mid-Point there, and I brought my Blues down a little bit, and I brought my Yellows up a little bit.

It gives me a little more sunshine pop right there.

Before, and after.

Now, let's add color to the whole image.

I don't want to introduce noise, so I'm going to add color with a 3-pixel Gaussian Blur, with a Low Pass Filter.

Set my Radius down to around 3 pixels.

We don't need the Contrast.

Apply it only to the Color Channel.

And then, we'll use the Saturation Level to adjust the whole image.

Bring that up.

I like color, so I'm not afraid to use it.

We look like we're doing pretty well.

How's our sun looking? Our sun looks pretty good too: not blown out; that's nice.

That's that Dual ISO option; love that.

Anything need any help? It still looks a little blue on this end to me.

I think this end should be a little warmer.

I'll use the Color Balance for that.

Drawn Mask.

Here's our Indicator.

It's going down this way.

This is your Zero Point for each of your channels.

Gamma shows the convex or concavity of your Tone Curve, and Gain is your white Point of your Color Channels.

We want to increase the yellow at the high end.

Oh, too much.

We're looking over here.

Before, and after.

Hey, that warmed it up.

How about a little bit more red.

Not much; half as much as the yellow, maybe a little less, too.

Remember, we're trying to match this color, so that it looks like that light is affecting it.

Oh, I like that; that looks pretty good.

That looks pretty good.

Okay, let's do some final sharpening.

High Pass Filter is good way to start.

Bring our Sharpness and our Contrast down to the point where we just have our edges.

There we go.

So all these edges will be detected.

We're going to apply this with an Overlay, and we'll have to bring it way down, because it's too powerful to start.

Just bring it up until it looks right.

See, you go too far, come back down a little bit.

Oh, I like it right about there; that looks good.

A little more sharpening.

We're going to use our Equalizer Tool again.

Make sure you switch it over to Luma.

If you change Edges, nothing's going to happen.

You have to change your Contrast.

Bring this up a little bit, maybe over here...

Let's see what that does for our limu (seaweed).

Without it, with it.

Ah, our bubbles and our limu look good, but I think I need to bring this smaller details up more.

That looks better.

That's it for today's edit.

I hope you enjoyed it.

We'll go through the history in the second phase, here.

This is where we started, after we saved it as a TIF from our first pass.

We applied all these Tone Curves.

There we go.

Thank you.

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