Saving a Difficult Slide.

Nearly nine years ago, I made this view of an Irish Rail spoil train passing my familiar location at Islandbridge Junction.

The sun was low in the sky, which can make for nice light, but rapidly moving clouds rolling across the sky made for difficult lighting conditions. The exposure would vary by as much as two stops from one moment to the next.

Further complicating matters I gauged the exposure incorrectly and this resulted in a fairly dark slide. Sometimes, rich Novmeber sunshine isn’t as bright as it looks.

Lastly, the processing was substandard. Overall this batch of slides suffered from inadequate detail in the shadow areas and a strong red-magenta colour-cast, giving this image an unnatural appearance.

The other day I decided to see what I could do to improve this image. You might ask, “Why? Don’t you have plenty of railway photos from the this place?”

I do. Hundreds. But Irish Rail spoil trains are some of the most elusive moves on the network. Also, the equipment is this scene has all been withdrawn. The class 141 diesels no longer work on Irish Rail—although several have been preserved—and the old four-wheel spoil wagons were replaced with modern bogie wagons several years ago.

The scene itself has changed as the old Clancy Barracks to the left of the train has been developed and the area looks quite different today.

Using Lightroom, I implemented a variety of digital changes to a Hi-Res scan, which ultimately produced a far more realistic image. Below are a sequence of images that show what I’ve done.

This scan presents the slide more or less as it appears. Not only is it too dark because of underexposure, but it suffers from imperfect processing that resulted in poor shadow detail and a reddish-magenta colour cast. This is a pity, because it features a difficult train to capture and very interesting lighting conditions. I exposed the photo in November 2007 and it sat in its box for nearly nine years.
This scan presents the slide more or less as it appears. Not only is it too dark because of underexposure, but it suffers from imperfect processing that resulted in poor shadow detail and a reddish-magenta colour cast. This is a pity, because it features a difficult train to capture and very interesting lighting conditions. I exposed the photo in November 2007 and it sat in its box for nearly nine years.
I scanned the slide with my Epson V500 scanner, the using Lightroom, I was able to implement a variety of changes. I balanced the colour to appear more natural and eliminate the pink tint. Also, I manipulated the contrast control sliders (contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks and clarity) to lighten the image while reducing the overall contrast and improving the appearance of the shadow areas. This screen shot shows part of what I did.
I scanned the slide with my Epson V500 scanner, the using Lightroom, I was able to implement a variety of changes. I balanced the colour to appear more natural and eliminate the pink tint. Also, I manipulated the contrast control sliders (contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks and clarity) to lighten the image while reducing the overall contrast and improving the appearance of the shadow areas. This screen shot shows part of what I did.
This image benefits from my first round of colour and contrast corrections.
This image benefits from my first round of colour and contrast corrections, yet the shadows are still muddy and the overall scene is too dark.
This is my final image. I've selective lightened some of the muddy areas, while lowering the overall contrast and tweaking the highlights to make for a more pleasing and natural looking image. The files presented here are all scaled Jpgs made from large hi-resolution Tif files.
This is my semi-final image. I’ve selective lightened some of the muddy areas, while lowering the overall contrast and tweaking the highlights to make for a more pleasing and natural looking image. The files presented here are all scaled Jpgs made from large hi-resolution TIF files.
For my final adjustments, I further lightened the whole image, while manually darkening the shadow areas and further softening the contrast. This might not be perfect, but its a huge improvement over the original Fujichrome colour slide.
For my final adjustments, I further lightened the whole image, while manually darkening the shadow areas and further softening the contrast. This might not be perfect, but its a huge improvement over the original Fujichrome colour slide.