Back in 2007 I spent a month rafting the Colorado River through Grand Canyon on a private boat trip from Lee’s Ferry to Lake Mead. I was very nervous about bringing my DSLR on a month long rafting trip so I took my Olympus Stylus I purchased just for that trip. While a great little bomb-proof adventure camera, the images were not great.
At the time, I had little experience editing/enhancing photos in PhotoShop (or any other software for that matter). So they collection of images sat around. As I’ve been going back over older images shot with the DSLR I got to thinking about what I might be able to coax out of some of those old Point-and-Click images. There were some nice shots in there that just came out flat and uninspiring, shots that just needed a little help. Most were either blown out or too grainy to really do much with. I did find a handful of images with enough potential to work on and was pleasantly surprised with how much I could do with them in Lightroom.
Photograph one: Sunset near Lee’s Ferry…
I believe this was our first night camping at Lee’s Ferry before we put-in for our trip. It was on it’s way to being a chilly night and the sunset was crisp, clear and vibrant. I got the camera out and snapped a shot thinking I had really managed to capture this brilliant sunset with it’s reflection in the water. The actual image wasn’t as dramatic and I was disappointed. Even looking at it again, I wasn’t sure if there was enough there to really get a nice image out of it. But there is good contrast, potential for color and it’s a relatively clear image compared to the graininess in some of the others.
So I brought it into Lightroom and started playing with it. I pushed in some fill-light to reduce the shadows and increased the clarity to get some detail out of the cliffs. This already started bringing the colors out a little so when I got in to adjusting the saturation and luminosity the sunset came alive. Without having to push artificial color in to the sky, the yellows and oranges burst out and the reflection in the water became more dramatic. I pushed a little on the violet and purple spectrum and brought some color out of the cliffs. I finished my editing with a minor crop to balance the composition and the final image now feels like the sunset I tried to capture on my trip.
You can tell I pushed a little too hard in some places and the image comes out little grainy in places, but the colors and depth are much improved.
Photograph two: Canyon Walls…
This shot was taken from one of the side-hikes we took into the Canyon off the river. I liked this shot because it really represented the view we had from inside the Canyon – high, colorfull cliffs and endless canyon walls. This shot had a good detailed foundation to work with and the colors in the rock are very washed out. I thought it could handle the increase in contrast and clarity needed and I wanted to see if I could enhance the colors enough to bring out the cliffs.
As usual, I started with tonal adjustments and tried to create depth in the shadows. Then it was a matter of fine tuning the colors, careful not to over-saturate the cliffs past the point of reality. I managed to get some great color out of the rock, the detail in the cliff faces came out nicely and as a bonus, the sky brightened up and brought more attention to the clouds. I wasn’t very happy with the lower details in the cliffs where they start to crumble and slope out, so I cropped some of that out to bring focus to the colorful vertical cliffs and the sky.
When you revisit old images, do you ever think to try new software or new techniques to bring them back to life? I might start looking at doing this more often.