Best Way To Get Dark Skies In B & W Photography?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by DF, Jul 31, 2013.

  1. DF

    DF Member

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    I've allways used a combination Red+Polarizer to darken skies in my B & W shots, but now I wonder if all along, all I've had to do is simply burn-in the sky portion during printing, that is, leave the filters off during shooting (and perhaps render a sharper image?) 'Course I want the clouds to stand out - remain white. Any experience out there ?
     
  2. tony lockerbie

    tony lockerbie Subscriber

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    Personally I wouldn't stack filters, tends to degrade the image, and I would just use the red. That should give you plenty of darkening of blue skies, which will make the clouds stand out. Another useful tool is the neutral grad, which can darken the sky area and leave the rest alone, handy if you don't want to darken the foliage or shadows etc.
    Of course, burning in is very useful too, and I find that an orange or dark yellow filter combined with a little burning is all that is needed. Care is needed when you just burn in skies though as you will darken the clouds to gray if you overdo it.
    Tony
     
  3. David Allen

    David Allen Member

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    My suggestion would be to use a Wratten 12 (minus Blue) filter. This has a strong effect on skies and only has a nominal filter factor of +1. If you look at some of Ansel Adams' books you will find that he used this filter a lot and then added to the effect by burning in the skies.

    Bests,

    David
    www.dsallen.de
     
  4. Slixtiesix

    Slixtiesix Subscriber

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    From my experience, a red filter has a very dramatic effect and helps making the clouds standing out quite well. I doubt that burning in the sky in the darkroom would work as good, because if you donĀ“t use a filter at all, the clouds and the sky would be barely separated on the film, thus the clouds may look muddy if you give them too much exposure on the final print.
     
  5. MartinP

    MartinP Member

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    If you already have the negs made, and there is significant difference between the clouds and the sky, try burning in with the hardest filter you have. How this looks depends on how much change of density there is in the clouds too of course (you can 'over emphasise' the cloud structure if you're not careful), and pre-supposes that you are using multicontrast paper. For white-and-fluffy style clouds it can work quite well.
     
  6. wilfbiffherb

    wilfbiffherb Member

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    This is easily doable in the darkroom if you prefer. My method is to dodge the sky during the base exposure so as to get the cloud highlight tone i want. Then switch to your highest grade (4.5 or 5) and burn the sky. That will keep your clouds at the original tone but darken the sky. If your clouds then look too white you can burn them in at a soft grade (00 or 0) which wont affect the sky tone.

    this only works with VC papers of course
     
  7. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    And if you want crazy-dark skies, shoot (near-)IR film (SFX, IR820, Rollei) with an R72 filter.

    A filter is necessary in order to get separation on the negative between the blue and the clouds.
     
  8. John Wiegerink

    John Wiegerink Member

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    Burning in should be fine as long as you have exposed correctly. If you have a high contrast scene and accidently screw-up or move your deepest shadow up to zone 4 or 5 you're in trouble. You'll push your high values so far over that burning them back in well be nearly impossible. There's a reason they make filters so I use them when needed. Most of the better names like B&W are very good optically and I have never seen my photos degrade by using one, but I do use them sparingly. Also, some films are different when it comes to sky rendering as I have found out with the Foma films. JohnW
     
  9. Tony Egan

    Tony Egan Subscriber

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    Every plus usually has a minus. You might get the bold dark sky and and fluffy clouds you want with a red filter but sacrifice important shadow detail in other parts of the composition which creates a problematic dodging challenge if you wanted to keep that detail. I find a yellow filter is often enough to darken the sky, protect other shadow detail and which can then be combined with some shorter burning in. If there is little shadow detail to protect, an orange filter is usually enough before reaching for the red. Bracket with one of each is often what I often do. Film is cheap as they say.
     
  10. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    There are some fine graduated neutral density filters for this purpose too, which helps lowering the intensity of exposure in the sky, arguably making it easier to deal with in the darkroom.

    Occasionally I use a graduated red filter too, which does affect exposure of the sky quite significantly, but also darkens the blue a lot. This takes some practice to get used to.

    Usually I just work with no filters at all, though, but always a lens hood. At printing time I work with dodging and burning quite a lot anyway, so getting sky tonality to suit my taste has never really been a problem. Like others have suggested, using different contrast filtration for burning in the sky will dramatically alter how it turns out.
     
  11. PtJudeRI

    PtJudeRI Member

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    I have always had good luck with a regular old 25A red filter. That, in combination with exposing for the sky more than the land (assuming we are talking landscape shots here) has led me to get some good negatives to begin with. Here is a shot done recently, with a 25A filter. I didnt manipulate this at all out of the negative, other than to clean up the dust from the scan.

    FYI, Mamiya 645e with 45mm "C" lens, Tri-X 400


    This shot was Mid-Day sun.
    9400862669_b34617445a_z.jpg
     
  12. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    In my experience, burning in the sky has tended to increase the grain in that area.

    However, sometimes it looks good that way.


    Steve.
     
  13. kintatsu

    kintatsu Member

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    I've found that darkening in skies with nice cloud detail, a number 12 or maybe 15 filter is quite sufficient. A number 8 with a cp is good, also. A number 8 will not pose a big problem with greens in the shadows, and even a 12 shouldn't be to bad. Yellows to reds are even less a problem with the 8 to 15 filter range. The blue and parts of the scene lit by blue sky will darken.

    Another thing is to underexpose slightly, and increase development the appropriate amount, which can improve the range of values in the scene.

    The best things are exposure controls, including filters, followed by development controls, the last thing should be printing controls. Resorting to printing controls first seems, at least to me, to be putting the cart before the horse.
     
  14. ROL

    ROL Member

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    Quite a bit. Stop doing that, if you want to learn correct exposure and printing technique. Using overly strong filters is an unaesthetic crutch. Stacking, except occasionally with a polarizer, and for special "artistic" purpose, is unnecessary for normal natural light photography.

    FYI: Making a Fine Art Print


    BTW, this scanned proof print (dark enuf for ya'?) was shot with a deep yellow filter around midday, ~11 AM:

    Granite Park
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 31, 2013
  15. Hexavalent

    Hexavalent Subscriber

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    Slightly de-focussing while burning in sky/clouds can alleviate grain while still adding density. This method of course does not work if razor-sharp detail in the sky is required.

     
  16. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    That sounds like a good idea.

    Usually if there is sharpness in the sky, it is due to better light and higher contrast so burning in is less likely to be needed anyway.

    Your method would work on some of my negatives where I have burned in a fairly boring sky to make it (slightly) more interesting.


    Steve.
     
  17. pentaxuser

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    It really depends on season and latitude. In the U.K. I have never managed anything as dark as the picture shown by ROL. Even with a red and a polariser and the sun at its brightest and highest I have barely managed this dark a sky.

    I just about got there with Ilford SFX which is a near IR film.

    Unless you live in similar latitudes to ROL then I suspect you will be disappointed with what a deep yellow filter will do for you by comparison.

    The light intensity at latitude 53 with a hazy-ish sky even on bright days as is the case in the U.K. means that what is possible with a yellow is quite different to what is possible in a clear atmosphere at maybe 20-23 degrees of latitude less.

    Try a yellow then an orange and then a red and finally a red and a polariser together and see what you think. It'll only cost you four frames.I didn't notice any problem with stacking using two filters together

    pentaxuser
     
  18. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    A Wratten 12 or 15 with a Polarizer works for me. For colour I use ND's and a Polarizer.