Housatonic Railroad at Housatonic; an example of Contrast Control

June 10, 2016 was a perfect Spring day. Cool, clear, and sunny.

I made a project of following the Housatonic Railroad’s line up its namesake valley from Canaan, Connecticut toward Pittsfield.

Over the years I’d explored parts of this line, but never put all the pieces together.

So, with the northward freight on its way, and fellow photographer Paul Goewey in the navigator’s seat, I arrived at Housatonic in time to make a few photographs.

Contrast Control

Often, even in nearly ideal lighting conditions, it is necessary to make contrast adjustments to digital files.

You never adjusted contrast with color slides, why is this now necessary?

With slides, what you saw was what you got. The only means of adjusting the slide was through the degree of exposure or in filtration (to adjust color etc). The means was imperfect, yet as photographers we grew to accept the results and refine our technique.

Such was never the case with black & white negatives. The negative was only one step in making the photograph, and in the course of printing, contrast adjustment was part of the process.

A digital RAW file is kin to a black & white negative in that both the RAW and the negative are a work in progress; or can be viewed as a step towards an end result.

With these photos, I made some simple changes in post-processing using Lightroom.

Specifically, on the telephoto view I made the following adjustments by manipulating the slider controls (the numbers indicate the amount of change as indicated by the slider) I brought down the highlights (-21) and lightened the shadows (+36), while making nominal adjustments to clarity and saturation sliders.

All my changes were made globally (to the entire file).

Telephoto view of Housatonic Railroad's northward freight NX-12 at Housatonic. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Telephoto view of Housatonic Railroad’s northward freight NX-12 at Housatonic. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

These adjustments were intended to improve presentation on the computer screen.

That is on my screen. I can’t anticipate how they will look on your screen.

Significantly, while I make these changes for presentation, I never alter my original files. Just like back in the day when after making prints I’d file the negatives in archival sleeves. I now store the un-modified RAW files on multiple hard drives. You never know when you might need to return to the original photograph.

Wide angle view at Housatonic. This image was exposed at precisely the same location as the telephoto view above. Here I've made a greater change to the shadow areas than with the telephoto view. I felt that the contrast was too harsh and the shadows too inky for the situation. That's my call. Another photographer might opt to leave them as is.
Wide angle view at Housatonic. This image was exposed at precisely the same location as the telephoto view above. Here I’ve made a greater change to the shadow areas than with the telephoto view. I felt that the contrast was too harsh and the shadows too inky for the situation. That’s my call. Another photographer might opt to leave them as is.

Tracking the Light posts daily.

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