The raw image captured the pinks and pale yellows of the sky. It also exposed for the sky. I knew I was getting an obtrusion from part of the building to the right, but also knew I could either crop it out or otherwise clone it out. I wanted to get at the drama of the sunset, so I shot numerous versions from this window as the light changed by the minute, if not in seconds, and took different angles from the window.
I straightened it and cropped out the intrusion on the right, and worked with the color sliders in Lightroom, adjusting the luminance and saturation of the relevant colors. The danger is to avoid overdoing it so that it creates an artificial look. I also used the contrast filters, working with shadow and darkness to bring in some detail of the foreground rooftops but not wanting to create too much noise. It is always a balance between sharpening and noise when you are pulling up the shadows, particularly as you go to higher ISOs.
I was particularly concerned about the yellow and brightened and saturated as far as I felt was plausible. These were the colors that were there and that I saw, if perhaps more muted.
So the questions: Is this a real sunset? Is it a realistic sunset? Should we leave it alone, and not adjust the color at all?
We know that there are multiple colors: what is shot, what shows in the camera, what shows on the monitor, what ultimately prints, and how other people see it on their myriads of monitors. I recall a favorite saying, purportedly from a philosopher whose name escapes me, that essentially states, "I see blue and you see blue, but the blue I see is not the blue you see."
To saturate, you are deepening a color already there. I don’t adjust hue, but to increase or decrease luminance is still to work with the color that is already there. I suppose if I went too far and turned this into a cartoon, or so exaggerated the colors that it no longer looked “real,” I would have lost reality. But on the other hand, if I boost what is already there to, in my mind, get back to reality, to the sensation and impact of what I perceived (even if not exactly what I saw), is that any less real? If we now see details in the foreground that were not visible as the camera exposed for the highlights, isn’t that still the reality?