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  1. #1
    DF
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    Best Way To Get Dark Skies In B & W Photography?

    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. #2
    tony lockerbie's Avatar
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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. #3
    David Allen's Avatar
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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. #4
    Slixtiesix's Avatar
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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 don´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.

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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.

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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. #7
    polyglot's Avatar
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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.

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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. #9
    Tony Egan's Avatar
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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.
    http://www.tonyeganphotography.com/index.html
    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." Groucho Marx

  10. #10
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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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.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

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