I just finished processing last night’s Stone Mountain LIVE show (a rather eclectic tribute to the music of the 1950′s).
The Stone Mountain Arts Center is renown for its live music and sound system (as it should be) — less so for the stage lighting. When you have a large group playing, and they often do, the performers off of center stage drop into the shadows (easily a one-stop drop).
While editing the photographs I realized that Lightroom 2′s new graduated neutral density (GND) filter tool might easily tune the wider-angle stage shots and bring it closer to what an audience member would see. Now, doing this kind of exposure adjustment was always possible in Photoshop, but I don’t have the time to go through that process for what could be dozens of photos. With Lightroom I set up a half-stop increase in the exposure and set it at an angle — almost as if I was adding a light to the stage. The result created a much nicer balance (see the sample image below). And I could sync this adjustment to the photos that needed it, fine tuning the position of the filter for the composition of each shot.
I’ve done some other work with the LR2 local adjustments, diddling with the masking tool, and I’ve found some uses for that — but for my workflow I think the graduated neutral density filter adjustment tool will turn more bland photos into selects than any other new toy in Lightroom. Between this new tool and the improved sharpening, it is well worth the cost of upgrade.
Sample: The “stage left” lighting leave sax players Paul Ahlstrand and Tom Hall in the dark. A somewhat narrow GND filter centered just over drummer Billy MacGillivray’s head makes it appear a new stage light was added.