In the Moment:
Michael Frye's Landscape Photography Blog

Image-Adaptive Behavior in Lightroom’s Tone Controls

(If you’re viewing this post as an email and can’t see the video, click here.)

There’s a lot going on under the hood in Lightroom – things that aren’t obvious, and aren’t talked about much, not even by Adobe. For example, all the Tone sliders in the Basic Panel are image-adaptive – that is, their behavior changes based on the image content. The two most important image-adaptive behaviors are the automatic highlight recovery, and the automatic black-point adjustment, which kick in when a raw file has overexposed highlights or underexposed shadows.

The seven-minute video above explains how the automatic highlight recovery and automatic black point adjustment work. The full 44-minute video about the Basic Panel Tone Controls has much more, including an in-depth look at all the Tone sliders, an explanation of why Adobe’s default settings might not be the best starting place for many images, and demonstrations of how I approach processing both high-contrast and low-contrast images in Lightroom.


Owl Encounter

Great gray owl, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Great gray owl, Yosemite. This was what my first view looked like as the owl as craned its neck around the trunk and stared back at me.

Claudia and I have made several trips to the Yosemite high country recently to photograph flowers. We’ve mostly seen early bloomers like shooting stars, along with a few other species.

One afternoon we made a short hike to one of the high-country meadows looking for flowers. Whenever I’m near meadows in Yosemite between, say, 6,000 and 8,000 feet, I keep my eyes and ears peeled for great gray owls. These are the largest owls in North America, and typically live in boreal forests in Canada and Alaska. But some live in the Cascades and northern Sierra, all the way down to Yosemite, which hosts the southern-most population of these birds.


The Profile Browser in Lightroom Classic

Free Video: Profile Browser Overview
This free video includes the first 9 minutes of the complete 33-minute video, and shows how to use and navigate the Profile Browser, how to add and remove profiles from your Favorites list, how use the Amount slider with Creative Profiles, and more. The complete video is included in my Landscapes in Lightroom ebook and video package. If you’re viewing this post as an email, click here to see the video.

In April Adobe added a new feature to Lightroom Classic CC: the Profile Browser. The initial release of this update (Version 7.3) had many bugs, but those problems seem to have been resolved now, so I thought it was time to delve into this new feature in detail.

Profiles are actually nothing new. Every raw file needs a profile to convert the raw data into the colors and tones you see on your screen. And ever since Lightroom 2 you’ve been able to choose different profiles (essentially different flavors of color and contrast), but those options were hidden down in the Camera Calibration panel, where most people never found them.


Lightroom eBook Updated!

The latest update to my ebook, Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide, is now available! This new edition is revised and updated for Lightroom Classic CC, and includes a brand new example where I take you step-by-step through processing a Milky Way photograph, plus six new videos about the Range Mask, the Profile Browser, fixing coma, removing color fringing around stars, and more.

I’ve also completely revamped the video about the tone controls – the most important part of processing any image – that covers their image-adaptive behavior, how each tool works, why you might consider changing your default settings, and how to approach processing both high-contrast and low-contrast images. The ebook now includes 17 videos altogether, totaling 3 hours and 45 minutes of runtime.

For a limited time this new edition is available at the old price of $26.95, but after July 9th the price goes up to $39. I know it seems like you have plenty of time, but you’ll get involved with other things, and before you know it the price will go up. So you may as well just jump on it now so you don’t forget. 🙂 Just click the Add to Cart button:


High-Country Panorama

Milky Way over a high-country lake, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Milky Way over a high-country lake, Yosemite. A five-image stitched panorama made with my Sony a7R II and Rokinon 20mm f/1.8 lens. Each frame was 30 seconds at f/2.5, ISO 6400. Stitched with Lightroom’s Panorama Merge.

Landscape photography doesn’t often lend itself to advance planning, because the weather is just too unpredictable. You’re usually better off being flexible, making last-minute plans based on the weather and conditions, and then being prepared to change plans again on a moment’s notice.

But some things require advance planning, and hoping that the weather cooperates. About 18 months ago I photographed the moon rising over May Lake. That image required quite a bit of planning to find a location where the moon would be in the right position. Later, it occurred to me that this same spot might also be a good location to photograph a Milky-Way panorama. That would, of course, also require the right conditions, including clear skies, and – ideally – calm winds, so that stars would be reflected in the lake. And it would only work during a narrow window of time in late May or early June, after the Tioga Road opened, and before the Milky Way moved out of position. (After about the middle of June the full arc of the Milky would be too high overhead for a panorama by the time the sky got dark.)


Lupines in the Fog

Clearing rain storm with lupines and oaks, Redwood NP, CA, USA

Clearing rain storm with lupines and oaks, Redwood NP, CA; 11:44 a.m., 32mm 1/60th at f/16, ISO 400.

On our journey to far northern California last month, Claudia and I found some nice patches of lupines up in the hills away from the coast. Naturally I thought fog would add just the right touch to the lupines, but since the elevation was over 2,000 feet it would take a high fog bank or some low clouds to envelop this area in fog.

Luckily we got that high fog bank one morning. We drove up early, in case the sun broke through, but it stayed socked in for the first hour, with a light breeze moving the flowers and making photography challenging. Then the wind picked up and it started to drizzle. I heard a rumble. Could that be thunder? There were showers in the forecast that day. I heard another rumble: definitely thunder. That was a first for me – hearing thunder while wrapped in fog. It was kind of cool, but also a sign that I should retreat to the car.


Chasing Fog

Sunset and sea stacks, Redwood NP, CA, USA

Sunset and sea stacks, Redwood NP, CA. Sometimes the sun can slide underneath a fog bank (or marine layer) just before sunset, as it did on this evening before the workshop. (The shutter speed was 2 seconds.)

Claudia and I recently returned from another trip to the redwoods, and once again we had a great time. I love this area so much; it feels like one of my spiritual homes.

One of the reasons I love this area is because it’s so foggy. In fact I sometimes half-jokingly refer to our redwoods workshop as the “chasing fog” workshop. Every morning I get up early and check the weather, trying to find out if there’s fog, and if so, where. And wherever there seems to be the best chance of finding fog, that’s where we go. Fog adds so much mood to any scene – especially redwood forests – so it’s well worth chasing.


Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Rainbow over Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Rainbow over Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View, Yosemite, May 14, 7:13 p.m. 29mm, 1/45 sec. at f/8, ISO 100, polarizer.

It’s the classic dilemma of landscape photographers: whether to stay and wait, hoping for better light, or go elsewhere.

My friend Evan Russel from The Ansel Adams Gallery and I were standing at the stone wall at Tunnel View last Monday, hoping for a rainbow to appear. Evan told me he was thinking about going to Glacier Point. I was thinking the same thing. He told me that at times like this he thought of The Clash song Should I Stay or Should I Go:

Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go, there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double


Milky Way over Yosemite Valley

Milky Way over Yosemite Valley, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Milky Way over Yosemite Valley. Four frames stitched together with Lightroom’s Panorama Merge. Each frame was 30 seconds at f/2.5, ISO 6400.

Sometime around the middle of April a small weather system passed through our area, dropping about half an inch of precipitation on Yosemite Valley. In typical fashion, the temperature dropped toward the end of the storm, and rain turned to snow in the valley.

I kept my eye on the weather, as usual, and it became obvious that this small storm wouldn’t clear before sunset. It looked like it would clear sometime during the night, but it was hard to tell exactly when. My best guess, based on the radar and satellite images, was that it would clear sometime between midnight and 2:00 a.m. Should I grab a couple hours of sleep first, or stay up? Or just skip the whole thing and get a good night’s sleep?


Glacier Point Sunset

Half Dome and clouds at sunset from Glacier Point, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Half Dome and clouds at sunset from Glacier Point, Yosemite (7:44 p.m.)

The Glacier Point Road opened early this year – on Saturday, April 28th. Then it closed again two days later due to a chance of snow. When Claudia and I drove up to Yosemite Valley on Tuesday to check on the dogwoods the Glacier Point Road was still closed.

On Wednesday afternoon I finished writing a post about the dogwoods, and then decided to look at the Yosemite webcams. The forecast called for a chance of showers and thunderstorms over the high country, and sure enough, the webcams showed some cloud buildup. I called the Yosemite road and weather number (209-372-0200), and lo and behold, the Glacier Point Road was open! At this point it was already 4:30 in the afternoon, but the sun wouldn’t set until 7:50, so there might still be enough time to get up to Glacier Point. I told Claudia the Glacier Point Road was open, and she didn’t hesitate: “Let’s go!”