On Tuesday, while shooting images at a small iron foundry here in Ulefoss, Norway for my Under the Hood, Working Raw project, I messed up. What followed is both a testimonial for Lightroom and shooting in the RAW mode.
The Ulefos iron works was founded 350 years ago, employs just over 200 workers, and uses a fascinating mix of old and new technologies to produce stoves, man-hole covers, and other custom made cast-iron objects. It’s situated a kilometer down river from our family house, near the thundering water falls it uses to generate power. It’s actually a very small factory–don’t’ think Pittsburg!– and physically it leaves a very small imprint on the environment. When you drive by it’s hard to believe it’s even operating at all. Call it a “micro” foundry if you will.
As I photographed one stage of the manufacturing process and then another I encountered varied lighting conditions. Instead of using a strobe in low light situations, I mostly bumped up my ISO as needed. Outside, for example, I shot at 100 ISO but inside, in some areas, I went as high as 1600 ISO. On my Nikon D 200 the ISO button is near the white balance button and at some point I must have inadvertently changed the white balance from automatic to K 5000.
Normally I would have caught this kind of error when previewing the images in the camera’s LCD, but frankly I was caught up in visual intensity of the place, especially when I watched several tons of liquid iron poured a few feet from me.
Back in Lightroom, after the shoot, I noticed my error when I compared the JPEG and RAW files. (I set my camera to shoot both RAW and JPEG because I like to have the JPEG as a reference file. Often I also set Lightroom’s preferences to bring in both the RAW and JPEG file under the General tab, by selecting “Treat JPEG files next to raw files as separate photos”).
Here is the JPEG file. Notice the strong red shift.
And here is the RAW file, using LR’s default settings. You can see the colors are more neutral.
Now, this brings up an interesting point. Why didn’t LR “see” my custom white balance setting and apply it to the RAW file as a default? This is because Nikon encrypts their white balance setting and LR must “intelligently” come up with a setting of its own. Putting the JPEG and RAW photos side-by -side illustrates what I mean.
Anyway, the point I’m making is since I shot RAW it really doesn’t matter that my white balance setting was incorrect. I can use LR to set any white point I want, as I have done in this image using LR’s white balance tool in the Develop module.
Once I come up with a white balance I like I can copy the setting and apply it to any or all of the other images nearly instantly. Whew, my butt is safe thanks to LR and RAW.