A New Sky - To Blend Or Not

Barren Tree v2Parapara Ranges

A little while back Les and I were lucky enough to head out on a foggy morning. One of my favorite images from that trip was of the tree, not because of the image but because of the mist around the tree and the way it isolated it from the background. The bottom half of the image, especially in black white, looked great but the top half just wasn't as good.

That's when I remembered an image I had seen by Wyn Bullock, and I had a moment of inspiration. I found an image of light rays piercing through thick dark grey clouds and blended the two images together. It added a sense of drama to the image that I liked to fit the bottom half of the image.

So is it right to add a new sky to an image? To the purists probably not, it's not something the film photographers would do so we shouldn't either. How do we know this, well its obvious they didn't have computers so surely they couldn't have right? Is this the truth or a myth that has been spread by others.

Something not a lot of people know is that for a brief period I worked in a print shop. One of my jobs was taking artwork or layouts and transferring those on to metal plates for the printing presses to use. We did this by photographing them, and exposing the image on to light sensitive metal plates. The metal plates were A0 in size, inserted into a very large format camera.

Some of the time the artwork or layouts were ready to photograph straight away, but a lot of them weren't. So in the manual process, without a computer in sight, how did I alter the layouts. The same way we now do it, by masking out some areas, and by blending in new ones. How did we create masks, we used a product called Ruby, essentially a red film over a clear plastic like material, when you wanted an area to allow an area to come through you just removed the red film. All this can be done without software or a computer. Because the people who did this in the analogue world were transitioning to the digital world they replicated the process inside Photoshop because it was something they knew and understood.

Ansel Adams is famous for saying 'The negative is comparable to the composer's score and the print to its performance'. Let's put that into context, one of the great's of landscape photographer, believes the work in the darkroom (post processing) is as important (or possibly more important) than the work of capturing the image. We also know he spent days, weeks or even longer working on a single image in the darkroom to perfect the final print. 

So in review, they had the tools, they knew how to use them and even the best spent hours or even days in the darkroom to get the image looking just the way they wanted it to. Do you really think that film photographers decided not to use them to blend elements into their images? Just a thought...