A less Subtle look into Light Painting

The other day I talked about why and how I use ACR to bring out more drama in my landscape images. Most of the time I like to be subtle so that it’s not obvious what I’m doing. The reason being that I want people to stop and look at the image and say to themselves, “how did he do that?” The more time someone spends looking at one image of yours the better. Well throughout this while process I keep trying to come up with different ideas and different examples to show. This time I went with a little but more obvious one.



If it ain’t obvious yet I really do like to go out when there are thunderstorms because the clouds simply can’t be beat. If you’ve have ever been in the northwest or anywhere else that has large fields of alfalfa, wheat or barley then you know there are lots of possibilities for shooting. But what happens when there is no light? Well off to the west the sun was stuck behind the clouds but a break was coming. To the east was this one lone cloud over the Bridgers. By simply using the adjustment brush and upping the exposure and shadows a little but I worked in a few areas of light. Starting with one pin and moving on to three more, I slowly built up the the amount of light in each area. It really does feel like painting sometimes and is certainly not as subtle as previous one I have done, but it’s fun nevertheless and the results kind of speak for themselves.

A first Look at ACR Light Painting

Yesterday I announced that I was going to be speaking at the Adobe booth at Photoshop World this September. The topic I’m going to be speaking about is what I like to call Light painting in ACR. Here is a more in depth look at what that is. We all know that working with the raw image is one of the best ways to make the most happen without doing any harm. Camera Raw allows us to to be non destructive with our images. The other major benefit about working with the Raw images is it’s ability to make major changes without increasing file size. I shoot mostly with the D4 these days and those files are big! After finishing they get even bigger, so the less steps I have to take in Photoshop the better. That was one of the major draws to processing this way.


Like most photographers I have a series of steps I take for the different areas I photograph. The standard for my wildlife work had always been to never use post processing on any of my images. My landscape work has always been to capture the beauty of the world while trying to evoke an emotional response with the viewer. My aviation work is a combination of the both; documenting the history of the aircraft while making that connection with the viewers. With that all in mind this barn sits on a ranch that has belonged to a family here in Bozeman for decades. We had a great thunderstorm come through so naturally I wanted to capture the beauty in the clouds while showing the age and texture in the barn. Well if you have ever used ACR then you know that there are many great sliders that allow you to target certain areas. The Shadow, Highlight and Whites sliders are great tools to affect globally. The issue is if you are working with clouds with bright spots, you can easily create hot spots if you move those sliders too much. This is where the Adjustment Brush comes in handy.


By using the natural light that’s in every photograph combined with the variances in light and dark colors in the image, you can create a more visually impactful image by bringing out certain areas. Using just the adjustment brush bringing up and down the exposure or shadows can bring out those areas that are important to the story. In this case the story is this old barn and the sky overhead. Well it was sunset, sunset brings golden light when it pops through the clouds. By moving the temperature slider up you can get a golden light feel in the areas your painting in. By doing this in key areas you can start to create that story. Then by placing a gradient on top with the exposure brought down makes it look like a more ominous sky. All the elements were already in place before doing any of this, the trick is seeing those elements and then bringing them out.

Speaking at the Adobe Booth

I am happy to announce that this September at Photoshop World I will be giving my first presentation at none other than the Adobe Booth. I am so excited and a little bit anxious but it’s going to be fun. The topic I’m going to be talking about is what I like to call Light painting in Camera Raw. Now I’ve been talking with the amazing Russell Brown and we agreed that little preview would also be fun. So all this week I will be talking about what I do and how the adjustment brush in Camera Raw can be your best friend. To get things started here’s a quick example.


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