Cinque Terre: comments on individual versiona

Dan Margulis

Here are my notes on the specific versions and methodology used in this case study. I caution not to pay much attention to the specific choices for the par version. I have a couple of favorites, but there were around seven serious candidates for the other three positions and I could have chosen them by coin flip.

My thanks to all those who participated, I hope you found it worthwhile.


501 This is the best retoucher version from the MIT Study. The color is accurate enough but it’s a pretty tepid presentation.

502 Chosen for the par version. Yellow-orange, the best version of those who favored this coloring. Range-setting done in Lightroom. Used a Dehaze filter to separate sky from sea. Used Exposure to darken. In Photoshop, enhanced saturation in midtones, masking out of sky. Contrast curve for village, masking out hillside.

503  More pink than orange, a little washed. Combined two versions, one reducing contrast, then extensive MMM, then Color Boost. Second, Bigger Hammer, then Color Boost 2018 masking out blues so that the water doesn’t get too colorful

504 Dark yet realistic, would benefit from not so much contrast in skies to extend range in the houses. Blended green into RGB, midtone curve. False profile. Customized MMM settings. Replaced sky with an earlier version, as it was too green.

505 Sets a mood, might be good for blending. for example 20% blend with 503 improves depth in village. Blue into red and Green/Darken mode. Sky Boost action used.

506 Candy colors, H-K would have been useful, Bigger Hammer.  “The Auto WB of the camera did an uncanny job of producing pretty neutral colors (although I’m sure someone will say the colors should be colder because of the cloud cover, but cold forbidding images don’t strike me as tourism come-ons.”

507 the same ice blue water, nice in its way, good contrast. He knew he wasn’t familiar with the area; “My ‘memory colors’  sky & sea from California probably depart quite a big from how things look in Italy. Worse yet, when I tried to cheat and find some reference images on the web, I got assaulted with truly awful-looking unreal super-saturated hyped-up solor, super bad HDR images—kind of caricatures of bad travel photos (Google ‘images/Cinque Terre). Saturation layer for the blues, cooling curve for the village.

508 Chosen for the par version. Possibly overly contrasty in foreground but nice neutrality and nice sea. Some yellow flavor, this was inserted in Camera Raw deliberately. Most work was done there. (No MMM?)

509 Chosen for the par version. This is my official version. Used H-K and a separate image for blues. Also blended green>red darken for more contrast and to kill color.

510 Chosen for the par version. This is about as colorful as I would accept, the ocean is too saturated IMHO and it’s too obvious that the sky has been selected for desaturation. It’s by Roberto Tartaglione, who wrote a full description of what he did and why in the Cinque Terre: Results thread

511 Basically OK in the foreground if a little pink, good ocean, but ruined by overuse of desaturation. The sky can’t be grayscale. It happens that both of the last two images also desaturated the sky by one means or another. I think that #309 did it acceptably but that the desaturation was obvious in #310, and even more so here. Also, the dead vegetation at left has been desaturated, yet that would be the expected color of some of the yellower structures, which were not. Interestingly, this person is very familiar with the area. He tried to correct the sea to his recollection of the real thing. He calls his own rendition of the village “eye candy” and that this was intentionally and he fully understands that the real thing is much more washed out.

512 This is a second MIT retoucher, who left a cool cast in the image, as measured in the nearest light roofs. 

513 Overwhelmingly colorful. Nice yellowness like #502.

514 Chosen for the par version because I was so impressed with the realistic insertion of a sky from another image. Maybe I should have looked more carefully at the rest. Attractive yellowness, a bit washed out, artificial sky, MMM used effectively, good water. H-K would have been effective here.

515 This was my 2017 version. I was trying to keep myself to three minutes per correction, so I couldn’t consider some of the shenanigans with the background that others (including myself) tried in this case study. Did have enough time for H-K, though, and MMM. These things made all the difference, because the underlying color is pretty much the same as #501, my strongest competition among the retouchers.

516 A very reasonable effort, could easily have made the par list. Basic MMM.

517 Another nice one that would be improved by H-K. Very pleasing color. Treated this as three separate images. Comments from this one and the next one illustrate why photographers and retouchers will never be at peace. The professional photographer who did this version wrote, “The composition itself is not that great because the sky, sea and foreground tend to fight for attention. This is made worse by having placed the sea right smack in the middle of the composition. On top of that the day is very overcast and the lighting flat.”

518 A reasonable attempt at a yellower look but #502 has it beat both for the depth of the village and for more color variation. Another possibility would be to, on a duplicate layer, blend #502 into #518 in Darker Color mode, then experiment with changing the layer mode to Luminosity/ That last would be a matter of taste but the first blend is a definite improvement. “On this one,” said the professional retoucher, “I’m trying to give it some attitude, thus I have a lot of stuff wrong and left the sky unexploited. Unlikely it will go into the par unless people get caught up in something I’m not seeing. My goal is that my clients and their clients like the shot, and whatever way I get to there, that it’s reasonably direct and absolutely repeatable across a story or campaign.” Retouchers try not to get the work rejected.

519 Candy-cane pinks. Once again H-K works well. Strong MMM. Used FP/ masked by the blue channel, which is correct in this unusual shot: normally we’d use the RGB composite.

520 A pinker, rather than yellower cast. This gets extremely close to the color of the par version, which would still be better because of its superior contrast. This guy did two versions from the outset, one in Lightroom and one pretty much straight PPW. This is a good approach because you can be sure that the two will not be as close to one another as if they had both used similar methods. Therefore there will be better blending opportunities.

521 Another fine yellowish version. Basically PPW. Applied red/blue luminosity.

522 Washed out like 503, Three different PPW versions blended. At the end, the person did the Auto Tone test, which unexpectedly added a bluer flavor to the image. He decided to keep a part of it.

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