MBTA PCCs with a Cotton Candy Sky

Mattapan in January.

The sky can make all the difference in a photograph. However, often the way a modern camera presents exposure tends to push sky detail toward over exposure (that means its too light).

The result is a washed out sky that loses all the color and detail that made the scene interesting.

Thankfully, with careful exposure and post processing manipulation of a RAW file, it is easy enough to balance sky detail with the primary subject.

I made these photos the other day at Mattapan during a visit with Tim and Will Doherty and Pat Yough. All were exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 with a Zeiss 12mm Touit lens

I processed the photos using Lightroom (an Adobe program that allows for easy adjustment of the the RAW files).

My first move was to digitally introduce a graduated neutral density filter across the sky to locally adjust contrast and exposure with an emphasis on retaining highlight detail. Next I lightened shadows and adjusted mid-tone detail with the clarity sliders.

My intent was to recreate the scene. It would be easy enough to create a total fantasy using these tools. That balance is purely subjective.

Example 1

Example 1; the scaled RAW file, unaltered except for necessary sizing.
Example 1; this is the scaled RAW file, unaltered except for necessary sizing. Notice that the sky is blown out, especially at the left while the streetcar and tracks are too dark. I exposed this image to favor the sky, knowing in advance that I could retrieve shadow detail to present a better exposure balance in the final image.
Here I've introduced a digital graduated neutral density filter that is only applied to the sky area. This makes the clouds darker while display greater detail in highlight and midtown areas. I haven't altered the overall balance by adjusting contrast or exposure.
An intermediate step for example 1: Here I’ve introduced a digital graduated neutral density filter that is only applied to the sky area. This makes the clouds darker while display greater detail in highlight and mid-tone areas. I haven’t altered the overall balance by adjusting contrast or exposure. As a result the streetcar and ground area are still too dark (because I’ve done nothing to address these areas).
Example 1 final image: Now, I've made global adjustments by lightening the shadow areas and making nominal changes to the mid-tone contrast using the 'clarity' slider. This gives the streetcar and ground a bit of 'snap'.
Example 1 final image: Now, I’ve made global adjustments by lightening the shadow areas and making nominal changes to the mid-tone contrast using the ‘clarity’ slider. This gives the streetcar and ground a bit of ‘snap’.

Tomorrow I’ll present a more dramatic example complete with ‘fantasy’ treatment. Stay tuned!

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