We like to make screenshots pretty here at dekeOnline, so when I went to capture the interface of Lightroom 2 for my post a while back, I picked an old photo of Venice at sunrise I had handy. Just so happens, this particular image really benefited from one of the new features in this version of Lightroom, the Graduated Filter tool, which allows you to apply your chosen adjustments with a mask that emulates a classic graduated filter. In one stroke, I could lighten the foreground while keeping the sky romantically dark and mysterious.
I shot the original image with my trusty old 4MP Canon Digital Elph, as I emerged, bleary eyed from taking the midnight train from Rome, to this amazing scene of sunrise over the Grand Canal. I had seen both the Pyramids at Giza and the Sistine Chapel in the previous week, but this view brought tears to my eyes. Tears which are my excuse for some serious exposure issues. But Lightroom’s graduated filter did an amazingly simple job of reviving the Venitian sunrise experience. And on a JPEG no less.
Just how simple? Once you have the image ready to go in the Develop module, you choose the Graduated Filter tool here (red circle). Then set the effect you want from the drop down menu there (blue arrow). I’ve got a classic exposure situation here, so I started by setting the exposure to 3.00.
Then I began the adjustment by clicking first on the patterned landing outside the train station and dragging upward past the top of the buildings on the skyline. Lightroom sets the beginning of the gradient at your initial click point, then you stretch the effect as far as you like. In the middle, is the “pin” that basically represents the edit as a whole. You can grab either of the outer lines to change the start or end points (spreading or compressing the gradient) and the pin stays put, or you can move the entire effect by grabbing and dragging the pin.
When the pin (which our friend Chris Orwig awesomely calls a “node” in his lynda.com video, Lightroom 2 Essential Training) has a black circle in the center, it means the edit is active and can be adjusted. I’m trying to duplicate sunrise with that coolish glow on the ground and darkness still in the sky. So with the node selected, I decided to increase exposure adjustment by moving the slider up to 3.25.
Lightroom also lets you skew the gradient angle by hovering near the central node until you see the double-arrow curvy cursor then rotating, even flipping upside down if you like. I turned my entire effect slightly clockwise, in order to recreate the effect of the sun slowly rising to the left (not sure if that’s geographically correct, but it’s how I remember it).
You can also add other effects to your gradient mask, by moving the other sliders while the edit is still active. So I decided to add a Clarity adjustment (which will be familiar to those of you who use Adobe Camera Raw) to the edit I’ve created. As opposed to applying a global clarity adjustment, this way, the buildings are made to pop a little more, but the pink cloud in the sky remains a little more undefined (as clouds probably should be).
Finally, I added some global effects to play up the green/aqua of the dome of S. Simeon Picollo, and turn up the Saturation on the entire image to deepen the colors. This has nothing to do with the graduated filter and everything to do with the green dome being awesomely green. Lightroom’s handy before and after view shows that in just a few second’s work, the magic of my memory of my first Venitian sunrise was restored to its magical essence.
If you’d like to learn more about the Graduated Filter, the other new localized adjusments, or just Lightroom 2 in general, Chris’s video is a great place to start. You can enjoy it during your free week of lynda-goodness that you get by going to lynda.com/deke. Take a break from the copious hours of Deke on Lab (or Sharpening, or whatever other deep dive you and he are in the middle of) and check Chris out.