About Me

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Spofford, New Hampshire, United States
Jeff Newcomer has been a physician practicing in New Hampshire and Vermont for over 30 years. Over that time, as a member of the Conservation Commission in his home of Chesterfield New Hampshire, he has used his photography to promote the protection and appreciation of the town's wild lands. In recent years he has been transitioning his focus from medicine to photography, writing and teaching. Jeff enjoys photographing throughout New England, but has concentrated on the Monadnock Region and southern Vermont and has had a long term artistic relationship with Mount Monadnock. He is a featured artist in a number of local galleries and his work is often seen in regional print, web publications and in business installations throughout the country. For years Jeff has published a calendar celebrating the beauty of The New England country-side in all seasons. All of the proceeds from his New England Reflections Calendar have gone to support the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at the Cheshire Medical Center. Jeff has a strong commitment to sharing his excitement about the special beauty of our region and publishes a weekly blog about photography in New England.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Using the Lightroom Reference Tool




Adobe regularly sends out updates to their Lightroom CC.  As the Creative Clouds “drift” by, these updates are often filled with new camera support and, hopefully, performance upgrades, but occasionally they slip in a new Tool to make things interesting.  These new gizmos are usually fun to play with, but it often takes a while to figure out what practical value they offer and how they might fit into my day-to-day workflow.  This was true for the new Reference Tool.

Enter the Reference Tool
Back a few months ago, the version 2015.8 (Catchy) included the addition of the Reference Tool in the Develop Module.  We are familiar with the Compare Tool in the Library Module, that allows a side-by-side comparison of two images. The Reference Tool appears in the same location in the Develop module as the Compare button, but exchanges the “X/Y” label for an “R/A” Label, standing for Reference and Active windows

The Reference tool allows you to compare two photos, with one a “Reference” image, which stays static, and the other a comparison image which can be edited (i.e. Active).  The usual goal is to match the Active image to the tone and color balance of the Reference.  

The Reference window can most quickly be opened by clicking on the R/A button or by using the short-cut “shift R”.  It is simple to set a reference image by dragging it onto the left window of the tool.  A single image or a series can then be moved to the right window and visually adjusted to the reference.

Easy, but when should you use the tool? 
Adobe suggests:

“This is helpful when making a group of images from a single event look similar or setting the white balance appropriately in mixed lighting conditions,”

Sunrise Challenge

Gradient Neutral Density and Flair

Nifty, but, until recently, I hadn’t found any situations in which this capability was helpful for my landscape photography.  Last week I was shooting a sunset from one of my favorite spots along Route 63 in Chesterfield New Hampshire.  The clouds were a bit too dense, and the sun peeking through them created excessively high contrast.  I tried using a graduated neutral density filter without much success and as usual adding an additional layer of glass just accentuate the flair coming from the brilliant solar disk..

  I tried a few shots, but then settled down to wait until after the sun dropped below the horizon.  In the meantime I studied the long shadow of my tripod and me, reaching back to the Chesterfield Firehouse.  Then the real show began.  As the sun set, the clouds lite up nicely.  Although the sky remained quit bright, the contrasts was easier to manage.  The problem then was to try to find a foreground with enough interest to balance the brilliant sunset glow.   From my location, the lovely pasture spread out toward the distant Vermont hills.  Classic, but rather bland, especially while mired in the shadows.  


Sunset Song

The sky was dramatic but I wanted to find something interesting to put in my foreground.  My first choice was a rather scraggly tree off to one side.  I was attracted by the flock of birds filing the branches, and ecstatically chirping at the fading gold.  It was a charming sunset sonata, but then I noticed cows grazing my way.   I had to scramble to get down to the herd’s level, but then I had my “foreground element”.   I was ready to go.   Again I tried to reduce the contrast with my Neutral density filter, but I got my best results by combining the graduated ND with a five exposure High Dynamic Range image.

Active Grazing


After processing, the sky came out beautifully and the foreground was reasonably exposed.  The problem was that the cows appeared blurred as they methodically grazed there way through the multiple exposures.

HDR Image


My Foreground Image, Exposed to the Right
Looking through the individual images, I found that all had some blurring, but some were less noticeable than in the HD image.  I decided to blend the foreground from one of the single images with the HDR sky.

To get better tonal quality and less noise, I selected my foreground picture from one of the brighter images.  Remember exposing to the right?  To make the blending easier, I wanted to darken the foreground image to closely approximate the tone and color balance of the HDR sky.  This is where the Reference Tool entered my workflow.



Reference Tool

Matched Images
I dragged my HDR image onto the reference window of the tool and then added the foreground to the comparison.  It was then a relatively easy matter to adjust the tone and color of my foreground image.  It wasn’t perfect, but after exporting it to Photoshop, the modified foreground image was close enough to easily to blend with HDR sky.  The final image showed the placid cows munching contentedly, totally oblivious to the spectacular fireworks hovering above their heads.  

Matching the Reference HDR Image, Step by Step


Final Composite Image
I could have roughly matched my two images without a dedicated side-by-side comparison, but the Reference Tool made this chore much easier and more precise.  I had to apply only a few minor adjustments to the masked foreground to reach a perfect the blend. The ability of the Reference Tool to match image layers for compositing is a great use for this new Lightroom feature, and allows me to comfortable position this new “gizmo” within my landscape workflow.

Check out more articles on Lightroom and Photoshop on my Blog at:
Photographic Editing (Photoshop & Lightroom) 

And watch here for information about my next Lightroom course, coming this winter. 
YES, winter is coming!


Jeffrey Newcomer

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