Darkroom versus Lightroom

Ok Ok Ok – I’m convinced.

Back in my early days of photography I shot film, learned all about silver bromide emulsions on celluloid strips, and I learned how to process negatives (dangerous chemicals, don’t breath) and how to enlarge and develop the final image. In those days I shot film and I loved my Canon F1 (and still do), although, dealing with negatives or slides was always a hassle. I did much of my own black and white back in those days, developing and enlarging but I never learned the skills to make a great photo in the dark room. But I retained my skills of composing good images and taking good exposures.

The age of digital cameras came at a time when I was on a career path in another direction and the digital format began and passed me by. I still used my F1, it was a familiar friend, she felt good in my hands and always responded when I asked for a little more.

About eight years ago I was having a renaissance with photography and  felt the need to get into the swing of the digital age. As a method of entering this new world I bought a Canon Rebel that I used like a point-and-shoot for a few years. OMG! The buttons, the menus and what the hell is white balance?

It took some time but I finally learned all the control menus how to utilize this amazing new technology. It wasn’t long before I felt capable within the digital image age. In a previous post I mentioned that I purchased a Canon 7D body and an 18-135 and 55-250 lens. I’ve taken a number of images with the 7D and I’ve become comfortable with the camera in my hand. There are many more functions and settings than the Rebel, but photography is about controlling the light. The more I learned It made the F1 seem like an albatross, unwieldy and archaic, but the basic principles of capturing images is the same – film or pixels.


Ok, major truth – I always hated darkroom work. Mixing chemicals, setting up the enlarger and exposing the emulsion-covered paper. I was good at getting an image on the paper, but enhancements required a dexterity I never mastered.

But Lightroom is freedom beyond anything I could have imagined. It’s only been on my computer for a week and I can’t imagine my life without it.  The enhanced image below on the right has convinced me that no darkroom theatrics are necessary to achieve a better image. I captured this scene on my Canon 7D with a 18-135 EF-S lens / 1/125 sec. exposure, f16, ISO 100. I was sitting on a rock formation that divided two small bays and was looking to the south west at about 1:00 pm.

After watching a few YouTube videos, off I went…

#IMG_9248Kites over KahuluiThe image on the left was my original take at Kanaha beach in Kahului on Maui. On the right is the same image enhanced in Lightroom 4. Which beach would attract your attention?

In less than a week I’ve learned to uncover all the detail that my eye sees but the camera doesn’t reveal without some knowledge and coaxing.

Below is the first image I practiced Lightroom on. I always liked the original image for its composition, but it was too muddy. I always thought I’d maybe try and make a good black and white out of it. When I learned about Lightroom my mind went to this image. I saw the potential and after a couple of YouTube videos I took a stab.

20140309_155156Lightroom allows me to reveal the detail that my eye saw andKahana Beach - Maui the camera captured, but the camera didn’t tell the whole story.

The original image (on the left) was taken with a Canon Rebel with an 18-55 EF-S lens – 1/6900 sec, f2.6, ISO 80.

I opened up the shadows, extracted detail in the sky by using the graduated filter and warmed up the sand. It was raining in Makawao so I went to the beach near Kanaha and looked back at the kite surfing beaches (note the two kites in the distance).

The first portrait – of course of the fetching Mrs. Davis at the St. Regis resort on the island of Kauai.

I took a lot of time with this image that was taken with my Samsung Galaxy III phone (yes, that’s my 7D on the table).

20140620_115921BarbaraThe photo specs are: 1/400 sec. at f2.6 – ISO 80 but I don’t know how Samsung is able to capture such a long depth of field with a wide aperture.

I did a lot of manipulating of the rotation, horizontal and verticle elements to make the image look more realistic. Some brush strokes above the roof to bring out the deep blue sky on Kauai and show some detail in the tile roofing.

The umbrella’s really were yellow (not green)

I worked hard on the color of her dress and I lightened the shadows, especially on her and on the wicker chair.

I still have to work on the color of her skin, she is of Hispanic ancestry and it’s a little too light in the image on the right. Like a marriage, this image is a work in progress.

For those who know and will see the difference in the images I post from here on, the engine of my magic is Lightroom 4 by Adobe and it will be used on every image I post until I decide to upgrade. But enhancement of images has now become a standard of my process.

I won’t be posting before and after images any longer, unless there’s something specific I want to identify. I just want to provide the best images I can to those who visit my little world.





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