Thinking Differently

It’s a matter of perspective

Trying to look at your images in a new way? We find ourselves perfecting a work-flow, a way of approaching images that is empowering and streamlines the editing process -- but is that always the best plan? In this week's episode we deliberately take a different path in processing.

In the first edit, we work on the L channel separately, then apply it to the original image in two different ways: one in Darktable, and then another in the GIMP. Thank you, Elias, for your RAW contribution and the inspiration it provides.

In the second edit, we are as interested in reducing some details as in enhancing others. It's all a matter of perspective and choice. Thank you, Aleksandr, for this RAW contribution, and the taste of winter it brings.

This video builds on knowledge from previous videos, running full-tilt through tools and methods to achieve the edit. For fuller explanations, return to the Home Page and scroll down to Topics Discussed or Modules Used on the right-hand bar. Click on any of these, and we assemble a complete playlist of every instance for quick review right here on the site.

Green Gorge RAW
Green Gorge XMP - base
Green Gorge XMP - L channel 1
Green Gorge XMP - L channel 2

Snowy Path RAW
Snowy Path XMP

Complete Show Text

Download complete text here

(Pahoa sunrise)
(Orion from our back yard)


Welcome to Weekly Edit for Wednesday, January 18, 2017.

We got great RAW contributions this week.

Thank you for those.

We open them up like surprise gifts.

They give us windows into your worlds: your challenges, your styles...

They make us step outside our usual ways of looking at things, at looking at images, and get new ideas.

That's what happened this week.

So, keep them coming! This first edit is a scene that could be right out of my childhood in Upstate New York.

Gorges and paths like these were everywhere where I grew up, so we immediately felt a sense of homecoming.

Thank you, Elias, for that contribution.

I think the familiarity of the scene pushed Harry to reach for a new approach.

The second contribution, from Aleksandr, brings its own challenges.

When we're looking at an image, we often say,'When everything is important, nothing is important.' It's a way of sorting out the story in an image.

Again, everybody, thank you for all your contributions, and especially, thank you to Elias and Aleksandr.

We're looking forward to mailing you out your prizes.

(Harry's voice) After processing a lot of images, it sure is easy to have a way that you do it: a way that you start, a way that you work through it.

This offers you the opportunity to get really good at that, so that you get the results you want.

But, it makes it difficult to see things in a different way.

This week, I'd like to look at our two contributions with a different idea about processing them -- something maybe a little more bold.

In this first one, I'll deal with the L Channel completely separately.

We'll create a new L Channel, create a black-and-white from that L Channel.

We'll do our manipulations to it separately, then apply it back to the original image and see where that leads us.

In the second contribution, we'll pick out some bold elements and just work on those bold elements alone.

Here we go with the first image.

I don't know where it's from, but it sure is beautiful.

I notice that there is detail everywhere: in the background, in the foreground; the bridge is nearly the same density as everything else.

In the grand scheme of things, it will be a challenge to give the walkway, the water, and the cliff edge bold and separate identities.

First, we'll look at our Exposure and our Base Curve.

This was shot with a Nikon, so let's try the Base Curve for Nikon Like.

Looking at my Histogram, I see that pushed a lot of things toward the side.

I'll look at the next one, Nikon Like Alternate.

That opened things up a lot more.

It gave us a little brighter top end.

If I'm going to use that, I should bring the exposure down a little so we're not clipping up there.

Can we apply the Fusion options for better results? Let's see.

Oh, that looks nice.

That's with Two Exposures.

Bring down the Exposure a little because we're clipping again.

Well, that's one option.

We'll take a Snapshot of that.

Another option is to not go with any Fusion.

We'll bring up the Exposure so we match our brightness.

What have we got now? It's hard to see any difference.

Maybe this won't get us anywhere.

We'll try the Three Exposures, and once again, bring our Exposure down to match the brightness.

Well, that helps a little in these shadows.

The whole image is a little bright, though...

Yeah, I think there's a slight difference.

Another option is to turn off the exposure adjustment and turn down the Exposure Shift so we're not clipping.

These are all the options I can think of.

What do we think about that? Let's just go with no Fusion; I don't see how it helps in these shadows.

Let's create an L Channel.

Go to our Channel Mixer -- First, I notice that the ISO is 100, so I'm not really worried about noise.

If we use just the Blue Channel, this is what it looks like.

That's terrible.

Our water is very bright and our dark areas are very dark, but this is really cool what it does in here.

I wonder if we can go negative with the Blue Channel? That doesn't seem to help us here, but after we add some color, that might help knock down some of these areas.

The Green: that makes the green very strong and gets us out of gamut really fast up here.

If I'm looking at my Histogram here, this is as far as I can push it, so I'll Take a Snapshot of that.

Then, let's do the same thing with the Red.

Turn our Green down and bring our Red up.

Do the same thing: push our Histogram to the edge.

Then, let's compare them.

I like that a lot better.

Everything is a lot more even.

I was talking about bringing the Blue negative.

That's interesting.

It really knocks down the water.

Let's see what that looks like.

Take Snapshot.

Set the Blue at zero, bring the Red back down again.

So, on the left we've got it with Blue subtracted; on the right just Red.

It seems like subtracting the Blue really knocks down our detail.

I don't want to do that.

So, I like the Red Channel; not worried about noise.

I want to turn on corrections for Chromatic Aberrations, but I should see if there are corrections for that in the Lens Correction.

Oh, look: the whole lens is in this database.

I'll turn that on.

It says it did correct for TCA: good.

Then, let's just export this as a TIFF and work on it.

16 bit TIFF: nice.

We can take off the changes to this one; we don't need that anymore.

I want my Base Curve to stay and I want the Lens Correction too, so actually, I'll just turn off the Channel Mixer.

Okay, here's our black-and-white.

Now, this enables us to think about things with just the L Channel.

A couple of larger-scale things I want to do first: the water down here doesn't look like it's in a chasm because it's kind of bright; this wall is so much darker than this wall that it's disruptive; I want this walkway to show up more so I can have these leading lines going from here to here and from here to here, and everything back here.

I want to keep the sunlight coming into this area.

There's a little brightness here and here and here; I'd like for that to stay.

Let's start with the larger-scale first.

We'll darken this up a little.

Before I do any of this, I'll look at using the Shadows and Highlights.

Wow, that does a lot.

Bring up our Shadows a little.

Bring up our Highlights a little; it was knocking them down a little hard there.

That looks good, and then our Compression -- I want to be sure we include these darker areas.

That looks good to me.

Now, how much Blend to we want? That's none, and that's all.

I think that looks good.

I want to keep this white-looking water here, so I don't want to affect that area.

I'll combine this with a Parametric Mask..., I want to pin a point.

What I'll do is pin these points so I don't pull them down at all.

Then I want to bring this down because that is just so bright.

Ah, there we go: that kind of thing.

And this wall here looks so dark compared to this one, so I want to bring that up.

Which parts are darkest? I think this, right in there.

Okay, that's looking better.

Now I'd like for this hand rail to stand out a little better too.

Let's see what we can do about that.

Maybe I can do that with the Equalizer Tool, because I could use the size of the hand rail.

Let's try that.


And we'll do a Drawn Mask.

I'll turn this to Difference and then we'll brighten things up a lot.

Then if we go over to our Equalizer and change things, we should be able to see where the changes are.

That's picking out the larger-scale parts of the hand rail.

Let's go down to the next size and see what...

Oh, yeah; there we go.

That's picking it out.

And down here? Yes, I even like that the best.

Now, I don't want this smaller stuff here.

Can I bring that down and bring this over a little bit? I think that's about the right size I want right there.

Now I can turn this off.

Going back to the Equalizer: instead of Difference, we'll go to Normal.

Ah, that makes our hand rail stand out nicely.

But, we've got haloing here.

We'll turn this down a bit, but first, I want to try Lighten only and see what that looks like.

I think that takes care of a lot of it.

Knock down the Opacity a little.

There we go.

Okay, I'd like it to look more sunny here and here where the light is filtering through, so let's use the Equalizer for that.

Let's see: that's here and here and here and here.

We can use our trick to look at what gets changed.

Change our Blend Mode to Difference.


You know, I think I might like that the best.

Yeah, that starts getting real busy.

So, maybe these two, like that.

A little more color in there too? Oh, wait: we don't have a color channel (laughing).

We'll go to Lighten only, and how does that look? There's before, and there's after.

I like it, except I don't want stuff to get too bright up here and right here, so I think I'll apply this with a Parametric Mask and just pull up on the high end here a little.

There we go.

Oh, good, I'm liking that.

In here, I want the same effect, so I'll just add -- and maybe right here too.

Right there.

Alright, before and after.

Good, that adds some highlights; I like it.

Back in here, it looks like there's so much detail that it's hard to pick out what's going on.

I want to give more structure to the branches and the tree trunks.

We'll use the Lowpass Filter.

Get our Radius set so we're not really seeing the leaves but seeing these trunks instead.

Then I can apply this with the Softlight Blend Mode.

That gives me these trunks.

It's getting a little bright right here, but I'm not clipping, so I'm not worried.

I don't want that everywhere, so I'll apply it just in here.

I'm staying away from these higher-contrast areas here, along the edge, so I don't get halos.

There's before, and there's after.

That gives us more structure.

I actually want to get a little more in this middle.

This looks pretty good, but up here on top isn't as good.

So, let's do that again.

Okay, and we'll go with a little smaller detail.

There we go.

That's down around seven pixels.

Drawn Mask.


Before, and after.

It looks a little bright right down here.

Let's come up some.

Okay, that looks better.

What else? I'd like sharper edges, so maybe some edge detection with the Highpass filter.

I don't want to get lost in the details here, so I'm trying to stick to just the larger elements.

There we go; that looks better.

I don't necessarily want to get a lot of detail in the back, because I want it to look like it's farther away.

So I'll use a Drawn Mask and select this area back here that's farther away, feather this, and reverse it.

There we go.

Apply this with an Overlay Blend Mode.

And bring down the Opacity because that's too sharp.

It's working most right here and here and up these sides.

I want to brighten the whole image, so I'll save it first and then make some tonal adjustments.

Okay, this is basically a gamma adjustment.

Let's bring this up right here.

No; I want these leaves.

That's up here.

That looks good.

I don't want to clip up here, that's for sure.

I think I can get a little more detail back in these brighter areas by using a Highpass Filter with a Softlight Blend Mode based on the L Channel and isolating it to mostly just the brightest parts.

I'm trying to get as much detail as I can by adjusting the Sharpness and the Contrast Boost.

I'll use a Parametric Mask; I don't want this everywhere.

I'll bring it up for just the brightest parts.

Add a little Mask Blur.

And then a Softlight Blend Mode.

Before, and after.

That adds a little detail in there.

I don't think it's too bad.

No, that's fine.

Are we catching anywhere we don't want it? No; I think we're okay.

I'm pretty happy with this.

I think I'm ready to apply this.

There are a couple ways we can do this: in the GIMP and in Darktable.

Let's do it in Darktable first and then do it in the GIMP.

You can export it to this .config/darktable/watermarks/ directory.

You'll have to set it up as a JPG because there will be too much data.

You're limited to 8 or 9M as an SVG file.

You can look on my web page to see how I composite.

(If you look at the right-hand scroll-bar of the home page on Weekly Edit, the topic 'Compositing' will create you a playlist to learn from) I set up a pre-set for it.

I'll export it and see what size I've got and maybe adjust my quality.

I've got a script here.

You can find the script on my site under Resources on the right-hand side of the Home Page.

It's a simple one.

This file is just a little too large so we'll bring the quality down one click and that should do it.

And Export.

Checking it with the script: excellent.

Then we can just take this one for the base.

If I was going to do anything to it, I'd like to accentuate the colors.

I'd like to accent the red and this green here.

Let's do that.

First we'll sample these areas.


I love these reds.

Where are we at there? We are from this little bit of green up to here, so let's bring this down a little and bring this up a little.

I want to be sure my mid-point stays right in the middle though.

If I don't do that, I'm in big trouble.

I'll do it like this: set it back and then bring this over.

There's my greens, and there's my reds.

Then I'll do the same thing on this channel.

Oh, it goes down to zero: perfect.

And bring this up.

Wow, that's a bit much.

So, I can take this and turn it down.

Take this 'a' and bring it down.

You can use your mouse wheel and look at these numbers.

That helps you do fine-tuned adjustments.

Okay, the colors look nice.

I just want to get a little less color in these brighter areas, because it looks a bit overboard.

I'll use a Parametric Mask on this.

I'll turn on my Mask Indicator so I can see what I'm working with.

And bring down this top end a little bit.

Then I can see it up here.

That was before, and that's after, and that does look a little better.

There we go.

Now let's apply the L Channel.

So: Watermark and tmp.svg Now there's our L Channel that we created.

We want to apply this Uniformly.

Blend Mode: HSV Lightness? or Lightness? There are two different options.

Let's see how they look.

Take a Snapshot and let's just apply it as Lightness.

That is quite a bit overboard, isn't it? I don't think that's what I'm looking for.

What I want is that.

Now I've got this really interesting image.

The hand rail really stands out now.

I've got some interesting lighting.

If I want to do any work on this, I have to export it because this Watermark Module shows up at the very end.

If you click twice on these, it shows you the order that these modules are applied, and you can see the very last thing is Watermark.

So, I'd have to go to Export and then export it as a TIFF into the directory I'm working in.

Then I can work on it from there if I want to do final sharpening or anything else.

Here we are.

See, our History starts at zero.

So, I might want to do that; I might want to do some final sharpening here.

I'll use an Unsharp Mask, like that.

I could do anything else that occurs to me, too, because now that L Channel is combined and it's all one image again.

Now let's do this same blending using the GIMP.

We'll need a copy of this image right here.

We had applied this Watermark and these Tone Curves to it, so let's just turn off the Watermark.

There we go.

We'll export that as a TIFF.

Then we'll use this and this one, exported as a TIFF, in the GIMP.

Alright, File: Open As Layers.

There's the one we just did.

And here's the black-and-white.

We'll take those two layers And go up here to Blend Mode We are clicked on this top one.

Instead of Normal, we'll go to Lightness (LCH).

Now, we tried the HSV and the Lightness in Darktable and liked the HSV better, but let's look at the two here also.

This is what HSV looks like here, and this is what the Lightness looks like here.

I like THAT better.

I'm thinking I'll get a little different results, whether I'm using GIMP or Darktable.

But, if I'm happy with this, then I just Export As...

Here we go.

This is our image that was combined in the GIMP.

Fun stuff.

A different way to think of your artwork.

The next image I want to work on has a foreground and a background.

This one has buildings in the back.

I find these buildings compete with the trees.

I don't know what to focus on here.

There's a river; that's kind of interesting.

The buildings are kind of interesting; they make me want to squint and look at details in them.

And I'm not following these leading lines here.

So, what I want to do is to see the top of this trail where you walk, and then I want to see these colored leaves here.

Yeah, they have color in them; they definitely have color in them.

Then I want to see these trunks of these trees to be uprights that fill the scene.

So, I want to knock down these buildings so they're not as competitive.

I also want to make it clearer that this is two different heights, that the river is down here and this is a bank.

And I want to bring out the large-scale details on this path.

I really want to bring out these leaves.

Let's get started.

Base Curve.

Nikon Like.

And Nikon Like Alternate, which I think I like better.

These trees look a little dark up here, but I think I'm okay with that.

I bet I can knock that down just a little with the Shadows and Highlights.

We'll use a Bilateral Filter and do a Drawn Mask so it's pointed up right here, and use that to bring up these branches a little.

That's before, and that's after.

That seems fine.

Now I want to make the river look different than the bank.

Right now it's hard to tell; this white and this white are almost exactly the same.

We'll paint this on.

Drawn Mask.

Go like this, like that, up to here, over there.

We'll make that a little smaller, bring this in.

Let's see if we can bring this down just a little to get started.

That's pretty good, not too abrupt.

I don't want to lose these trees, though; I put all that work into bringing them up a little.

So, let's bring that up just a little.

There we go; now it's starting to look like it's an embankment.

It looks a little dark in here and a little light here.

So, I think I want to have the top of this embankment stay a little brighter.

Just a little bit.

Let's see: it's worst right there.

Okay, now let's straighten this a little.


Now, I want to select these buildings in back and make them less of a factor.

We'll do a couple of Drawn Masks and a Parametric Mask.

There's one, and then another one over here.

Bring it down and make it larger.

We'll use Mask Manager.

Tone Curve too.

First one: Union.

Second one: Intersection.

Then look at our Mask Indicator.

Ah, that's what I want.

Like that.

We'll leave that on because I'm going to combine this with a Parametric Mask to hopefully eliminate the darker parts of the image by eliminating these trees.

That's as close as I'm going to get before I start getting into the buildings.

Let's try that.Now, I don't want to mess with the L too much -- maybe bring down the contrast just a little between the darker and the lighter areas so it's a little less interesting, but that's about it.

I want to do most of my work in the color channels.

Let's see: this is the brightest and darkest parts right there, so we'll bring that up a tiny bit and bring this down a little.

That knocks down our contrast a little.

Maybe bring everything down just a little.

There: we've got a little less contrast and it's a little less bright.

Now, let's get rid of the color -- bring that way down, even less than that, right next to the line here.

Same thing with the b Channel.

Alright, now our city is not competing with our trees.

What does our edge look like? Not too bad.

See, if you don't mess with your L Channel too much, you don't really get a lot of edge artifacts.

I really want to bring out these leaves.

There are a couple ways to do that.

I can selectively adjust those with the Tone Curve, and there's also this great tool here called Color Zones.

If I use the Eyedropper Tool on the Color Zones, I can sample these leaves and make adjustments to Saturation and Lightness.

But, if I want to use both the Tone Curve and the Color Zones, I need to be aware that the Color Zones shows up before the Tone Curves.

So, if I want to make adjustments to the Tone Curve, I must do it after I make my Color Zone adjustments.

So, let's sample this.

Eyedropper Tool.

It says we're bouncing right around in here.

So, let's bring this up.

This is our Saturation.

We want more.

Oh, look at that: nice.

And a little more Lightness.

We don't want that everywhere; we just want it here.

So, I will draw that on.

Now, I can use the Tone Curve to really pick out these leaves here.

Drawn Mask.

We'll get these leaves.

Turn on our Mask Indicator and combine this with a Parametric Mask.

Let's see what we can get rid of.

We want to get rid of everything but the leaves if possible.

Getting rid of these branches is a good start.

Let's zoom in and see.

I want to make sure we're not hitting these leaves.

I know how I can do that: turn of my Mask Indicator, Take Snapshot, and then turn back on my Mask Indicator.

Then I can be sure the yellow always covers my leaves as I try to avoid the branches and whatnot.

And it does; that's good.

I might be able to use the hue of the leaves.

Can't use the Eyedropper Tool when the Snapshot is live.

So, click once.

Eyedropper Tool right in there.

It says we're right around in the 50s.

It went from like 50 to 60.

So we'll turn on our Mask Indicator again.

Let's bring this down and bring this up.

Look, we've got mostly just the leaves.


A little bit of a Mask Blur there; 1 px ought to do it.

Now I can use this Eyedropper Tool and select these leaves.

Here we go.

And then bring this up.

There we go.

That's looking more like it.

Now I want to bring out the large-scale feel of this path.

I'll use the Lowpass Filter for that.

Bring up my Radius.

That feels good, right there.

I'll use a Drawn Mask.

Bring that down a little; there we go.

I want more of the effect closer to me, so I'll combine this with another Drawn Mask, like that.

Spin this one around.

I can use the Mask Manager to grab the tool I want.

It's really nice when you've got masks on top of each other.

I'll turn on our Mask Indicator.

The first one set to Union; second one set to Intersection.

There we go.

It fades from top to bottom and stays in this area; that's exactly what I wanted.

We have large pixels: 40.

I'll change this to Softlight Blend Mode.

This is with none of it, and this is with more of it.

I think I want more of it up here, so I'll bring this up.

Then I'll bring this one up too.

Before, and after.

Then I want to do it again but with a slightly smaller size.

Set my Saturation down to zero.

Bring my Radius right to this point.

I'm looking for the details in the snow so it looks more 3-dimensional.

Change my Blend Mode to Softlight.

Bring down the Opacity.

That's with none of it, and it looks good right about there.

Okay, and I want to pick out these larger details, like the tree and these trunks, and separate them from the back.

I'll use the Lowpass Filter to do that.

Set my Saturation down to zero, get my Radius set right, like that, to give me nice bold elements.

I'm way up to 20 px.

This time I'll use the Overlay Blend Mode.

That gives me a lot of contrast on these larger objects.

I like that, but I don't really like it here, so, once again a Drawn Mask.

We'll go like this.

Now it's not in the path so much, but just hitting these trees up here.

Okay, a little edge detection.

What this Highpass Filter does is give me more contrast right on these edges, kind of like a local contrast.

Speaking of edges, I want to hit the whole thing with an Unsharp Mask.

There we go.

Are we bright enough? We'll do some final Tone Curve adjustments.

This part should be pretty bright.

And set our Black Point.

I want even a little more color here.

I already have a lot of yellow.

There we go.

The town has a little more color than I wanted, so I'll turn it down just a bit more.

I'll bring these all the way down to the line.

I really want to de-saturate that background.

There we go.

Let's see where we started with.

That's where we started, and this is where we're at.

I'm trying to think outside the box today.

It's a fun thing to do once in a while.

(Mouse's voice) Nice edits, and fun to do something new.

I particularly liked that both of those images had paths in them, drawing you into the picture.

Thank you again, Elias and Aleksandr, for your contributions.

Everyone: send us your suggestions.

We need to know what you want to learn about.

What are your challenges? A lot of our shows have been direct responses to viewer questions.

For example: Red Hair.

Fernando asked us a question about skin tones and we made a whole episode.

Or Lab Color Charts: that one was two or three questions that we got.

Some of the tools in Darktable are so familiar that we forget what questions we ourselves once asked, so we need you to ask them.

It's so important to us that we've included this link right on the Home Page, down in Resources.

Go to Show Suggestions and there's an email link there.

Email us! Let us know what you want to know.

While you're communicating with us -- we are ALL OVER the internet! Find us on Facebook at Harry Durgin Photography, where we post not only the Weekly Edit posts, but also Shoot with Harry.

Whenever we do a new blog post, those go up on our Facebook page too.

You can Comment just like on any other Facebook.

Write us a comment.

We're also on Google+, of course.

And on YouTube, where you can leave us a comment right there: Add a Public Comment.

And on Patreon, where we post every week on Wednesdays.

You can write a comment to us right there, or, since you're on the page anyway, you can Become a Patron.

Support us; support the show.

Again, thank you for watching; thank you for contributing and writing to us.

We hope to hear from you, and we'll see you next week.

A hui hou.

4 thoughts on “Thinking Differently

  1. Pingback: Weekly Edit 24: Penser diffĂ©remment – darktable FR

  2. Pingback: Traitement par darktable 24: Penser diffĂ©remment – darktable FR

  3. Harry! Greetings from Ukraine. Thank you for the detailed story of my photos. I did it in town Mukachevo river Latoritsa in the Carpathian Mountains. You are the best!

    • Aloha Oleksandr thank you for telling us where — now we almost feel like we have visited there too
      –Harry and Mouse

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.