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Fishtown, in Leland Michigan, is a remnant and reminder of the commercial fishing industry that once thrived in northern Michigan. Early in the last century, is was a bustling port filled with fish boats, shanties and smokehouses. Though a few commercial fishers remain, these days it bustles with tourists drawn to the picturesque setting and the galleries, shops, and boutiques that have moved into the historic district. It is also the launching site for day-trippers and backpackers headed to the Manitou Islands just off shore.

Because its a popular tourist destination, I had to wait until the season was over to take this crowd-free photo. It was late October and the afternoon sun cast strong light on the north shore while creating deep shadows on the other side of the Leland River. I knew it would take some work to tame the strong contrast in the scene.

Here is a view of what the untouched raw image looked like:

Fishtown Raw File

As you can see the shadows are really too dark to make a pleasing print. So I opened the image in Adobe Camera Raw and made some rather strong adjustments. You can see what I did in the image below. You can also click on it to see a larger version.

Fishtown Hightlight and Shadows adjustment

First, to tame the bright highlights in the image I dragged the Highlight slider all the way to the left to -100. This darkened the sky a bit and brought out more details in the brighter portions of the image. I then brought detail out of the shadows by moving the Shadow slider all the way to the right to +100. Finally I brought up the exposure just a bit to restore the sky to it’s original tone.

As I expected, making such profound adjustments to the Shadows and Highlights sliders reduced the contrast a great deal, to the point that the image appeared a little dull. To reintroduce some contrast without loosing the detail I was trying to reveal, I made more modest adjustments to the Whites and Blacks sliders. If you hold to the Alt key while you move these sliders you’ll see the image in the highlight and shadow warning modes. When adjusting the Whites slider with the Alt key depressed, I moved the slider just to the point that the white highlight warnings began to show. I then adjusted the Blacks slider with the Alt key depressed just to the point that the shadow warnings began to show. This procedure made sure the image contained a full range of tones from black to white and improved the overall contrast.

Finally, to punch up the mid-tone contrast I adjusted the Clarify slider. I don’t use this slider often, and rarely use more than +25. But because I’d made such profound adjustment to the Highlights and Shadows slider, I found I could crank Clarify up to 100 as well. Here is the final version as seen in Adobe Camera Raw.


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