Be Careful

Replaced Sky 1  © jj raia

Replaced Sky and Dunes © jj raia

At the end of the last post, the idea of “creating” a landscape image by taking the best parts of two or more frames was discussed a bit, along with the ethical use of the digital toolbox to do so. While I may combine an image of the sky and another of whatever is below the horizon, into a single image, they will have been two frames that were taken at the same time and not in different years or different parts of the continent! What I mean is, I will aim the camera up and take a photo of the sky including just below the horizon, and then angle the camera down to record just above the horizon and whatever the subject is below it, and then blend them together into a single frame. Sometimes two horizontal frames are combined into a vertical, or maybe just the sky is replaced due to wide difference in light values. A couple of the coastal photos in the last few posts were examples of that process. And you can also see a few images where I utilized this technique for the very first time during a month long photo trip out west in 2014 by clicking here.

While at first glance the image above looks like it may be a single image, it is actually two images combined that were taken at the same location only seven minutes apart; the sun just over the horizon being the first, and the dunes a few minutes later (see below). But if you want to combine frames, you have to be very careful that the lighting from the two images match.

A number of years ago, I saw the cover of a calendar where the waves of the ocean were obviously lit by the sun coming from the left of the photographer’s position, while the sun actually appeared directly in front of the camera in the photo!! This occurred before I had switched to digital in 2012 and still unfamiliar with what was possible using Photoshop, but it was clearly evident that the lighting was totally incorrect in the photo. Yet it had still made it past the editors and wound up as the cover of this particular calendar.

Illustrated in the example above, it is the exact same error. Shadows would not be on the right side of the dunes as they are in the lower left and the small dune in the middle ground on the left side of the frame. Instead, the sun would cast shadows directly toward the camera position since you’re looking directly into the sun.

So be very careful to make sure that when you combine two or more frames, the elements work together as they would be seen in reality, not just the way you want them to be. Below are the two frames from which the image at the top was made.


The frame with the sun, exposed for the sun and sky, was lightened first to better match the sky of the frame without the sun. In two separate layers in Photoshop, the frame on the left, with a layer mask, was placed above the frame on the right so that the horizon lines aligned. Using the brush tool, everything was brushed out using black (erased) below the horizon, as well as revealing the dunes. No matter how much more work is done to add ocean reflections, etc. to make it seem as realistic as possible, it still retains the incorrect combined lighting, and is therefore a failure in the attempt to transform what was basically a boring image into one with additional impact.

Don’t sacrifice accuracy for impact. If you can’t confidently show the work knowing full well that the “mistake” is evident to a discerning eye, don’t bother. Either make it right, or just accept it as being an unexciting image destined for the trash can.

Amazing Sky — Corolla Beach, NC  © jj raia

Amazing Sky — Corolla Beach, NC No.1  © jj raia

The photo above is not two images, but a single frame. It was among those that were neglected in the initial pass through from the recent Outer Banks trip. If you look back to another image from the same morning taken six minutes earlier (here), you’ll find that the surf is much cleaner in this image, rather than the slightly chaotic surf in the earlier rendition. As stated many times previously, if at all possible, take as many frames as you think necessary in order to have a sufficient number of choices from which to choose to create your best image. After all, we always strive to do our best, and having great clouds as on this particular morning, certainly does improve your chances.

Amazing Sky — Corolla Beach, NC - No.4 © jj raia

Amazing Sky — Corolla Beach, NC – No.4 © jj raia

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s