Photo from December 7, 2005

I drove before sunrise from the South Bay to San Francisco this early morning in order to accomplish two things. One was to photograph a Christmas card to send to friends because of my newly-launched, just finished eCards for Plaxo. The other was just to see the legendary view from the east peak of Mt. Tam.

On the drive back, I pulled over to the side of the road and took some handheld photos of which this is one. I liked this angle because from here you can see both the skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge in the frame, while still having enough foreground to show the distance and frame the photograph.

Morning fog hits San Francisco
Mt Tamalpais, Marin, California

Nikon D70, Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR
3 exposures @ f/13, iso 800, 70mm (105mm)

While I did make a christmas card, I never processed the other photos until this project came up on my Aperture to Lightroom migration list.

This is an HDR image which was merged in Lightroom. I then manipulated some contrast controls and added two graduate filters to get the overall baseline look where I the top clouds and foreground forest would frame the photo symmetrically and draw the eye to the skyline. I also removed two obvious dust spots and cloned away a dark cloud in the corner that looked like an artifact.

I used this image to learn how Lightroom might handle my old workflow without the need of 3rd party tools. Instead of using HDR Efex Pro or Photomatix, I used Lightroom’s built-in module, instead of DxO Optics Pro, I used Lightroom’s lens corrections, instead of Film Efex or DxO Filmpack, I used Lightroom’s effects panel, instead of Color Efex Pro, I used Lightrooms graduated filter, basic, and tone curve).

Overall, I found it quicker and more convenient than roundtripping with various things. I can’t speak to the quality, but the customization is more limited and some things were impossible to do without losing the intent of the photo. As for specific issues:

  1. There were almost no options in the HDR photo merge that affected the image (the preview was buggy also).
  2. Since the graduated filter tool emulates a real one, I needed two graduated filters instead of one to get the right effect. Also masking out portions is frustratingly slow and inaccurate compared to Nik’s control point technology.
  3. The anti haze tool acts like a sledgehammer to contrast.
  4. Less options for color, film effects, and film grain. This coupled with no way to preview quickly many options and select the best effect meant I stayed close to the lines of the camera’s renderings.
  5. I didn’t see any changes due to lens corrections, though that is probably due to the high quality lens and low aperture.
  6. Stacking a lot of effects (especial lens corrections) mean significant delay in the most minor changes
  7. The vignette is not subtle like Aperture’s gamma version (still the best vignetting I’ve found). This meant I turned it off and used natural framing for this photo.

On the other hand, using settings in the right order meant the workflow was quick and convenient with no “burn in” step. Also the clone tool is way better than Aperture’s, in its automation, customization, and ability to help you find dust spots. Overall, it can produce an image just as good as third party tools in most cases at a fraction of the effort in some.

I give Adobe an A for the processing workflow so far. Overall, it has Aperture beat, but I always knew that. It’s because I prefer 3rd party tools for editing that I was an Aperture fanboy which was always weak in processing and strong on digital asset management.

Below is the original image

Lightroom rendered RAW file of original image. (Lightroom cannot import the in-camera JPEGs that Aperture can.)

In this image you can see the orange off the Golden Gate Bridge and its own subtle beauty which I couldn’t preserve due to the heavy-handed nature of Lightroom’s develop tools and panels.

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