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  1. #1

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    Improving the sky on prints made on VC paper

    I have noted that oftimes the sky tones in my black and white prints ( VC paper, both RC for work prints, and Fibre for final prints ) is/are a bland gray. I understand that yellow or red filters would improve the contrast between the sky and the foreground when I take photos in the future. However, the photos are done, and there is no turning back. Can anyone provide some advice on how to improve the "blah" gray on the prints? Would one do better burning in with the highlight, or the contrast setting? If the sky if too dark then the contrast between the grass and bushes in the foreground is attenuated. If I burn in with the highlight filter then the sky will simply become "grayer", correct? If I dodge the sky then the tones might simply become a lighter gray, correct? There are no clouds in most of the prints. Obviously there is no perfect answer, and "trade -offs" must be considered.

    Thanks for the advice.

    Ed

  2. #2
    tiberiustibz's Avatar
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    Burning in the sky will make the sky darker. It will be difficult to do while maintaining a believable look. The best option is, of course, to shoot with a deep yellow or orange filter which will make the skies darker and bring out the contrast between the sky and clouds.

  3. #3

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    It is a common, and traditional technique to burn-in light skies on darkroom made prints. You can develop considerable skill, with practice, and the print will not look "burned-in".

  4. #4
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    In the darkroom, more light equals more dark.

    Go with an easy hand

  5. #5

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    Depends on the image really. If the horizon line is relatively simple, a little burning in of the sky is pretty easy to do and doesn't look bad. To achieve a little more contrast between the sky and clouds, you might want to do your burn with a higher contrast filter. If the horizon line is complex, like in the attached example, you may want to make a mask from card stock to hold back everything else but the sky.
    Last edited by fschifano; 03-09-2009 at 06:13 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    Frank Schifano

  6. #6

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    Its a rare print that doesn't get some kind of burning in of the skies, even with filter use. Its a good skill to develop. Start with 1x the basic exposure, moving a card gradually toward the horizon line. Eventually you'll develop techniques to deal with all kinds of different shaped areas. Ansel has some charts of the burning he did on his prints, which are informative.
    JY

  7. #7
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    I am a big fan of very light skies -- especially if they have no clouds. Keep that option open. A light gray sky can give an open feeling to the landscape, whereas a darkened sky can sort of just plop down on the landscape and squish it. Depending on the angle of view relative to the sun's position, some dodging and/or burning might be needed to even out the sky across the print.

    Vaughn
    At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can still be a good day of exercise.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vaughn View Post
    I am a big fan of very light skies -- especially if they have no clouds. Keep that option open. A light gray sky can give an open feeling to the landscape, whereas a darkened sky can sort of just plop down on the landscape and squish it. Depending on the angle of view relative to the sun's position, some dodging and/or burning might be needed to even out the sky across the print.

    Vaughn
    I totally agree. A light sky gives the impression of atmospheric effect, i.e. accentuates distances and vastness. The main reason why I don't use heavy filtration at the film exposure stage is because it tends to cut through the distant haze which is exactly what I do not want to happen.

    It was Robert Adams's brilliant book "The New West" which revealed to me the beauty of light, open skies. You may want to check out Adams's work, if you haven't done so far.

  9. #9
    Ian Grant's Avatar
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    Pre or post flashing helps to retain the detail in the sky, burning in can cause the sky to look to contrasty compared tothe rest of the image unless you change the filtration and burn in at a much lower contrast grade.

    Ian

  10. #10
    pesphoto's Avatar
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    When I burn a sky I try to burn the top of the sky (closest to the top of the print) a bit more then where the sky and horizon meet to give it some depth, so there is a natural looking gradation.

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