Incredible skies?

in·cred·i·ble, adjective: Very difficult or impossible to believe; extraordinary

There’s been a lot of buzz on the web recently about sky replacement – a genre of compositing. You take the sky from one photo and substitute it into a second photo.  I first tried this way back in April of 2007.  I wanted to make the Great Egret family in this nest at the St. Augustine Alligator farm stand out against the sky. You can compare the before and after in this slider:

Before on the left, after on the right – Use the slider to compare

You can view a higher res version on Flickr here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/4101177267/in/album-72157622798164562/. It turned out pretty well, but it was a lot of work (at the time) and I haven’t tried it again – until recently.

The latest version of Skylum’s Luminar photo editor comes with a capability called “AI Sky Replacement. This “automagically” replaces the sky in your photos with a single click and will even adjust the rest of the lighting in the scene to better match the new sky. You can read more about it on their site: https://skylum.com/luminar.

Here’s another before / after slider showing my recent effort with their software. The original photo was made on Black Point Wildlife Drive in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. It was a very pretty morning, but the sky was a bit plain.

Before on the left, after on the right – Use the slider to compare

Here’s the whole completed image (click to see it in much higher resolution on Flickr).

Good Morning
Good Morning

I like how this one turned out too – the sun in the new sky is in the right place and the light direction, intensity, and color match the foreground nicely. It adds interest to the image. And it was easy – Luminar worked well in this case.

But it makes me a little uncomfortable. I guess because in this blog I want to tell you about what, where, and how to photograph. So I think you should expect to see things here that you can also see when you go to these places. This image is a composite, not a photo – you wouldn’t have seen this on that morning. I won’t say that I’ll never do compositing, but I do promise that I’ll disclose it if I do.

Now, am I going to criticize you if you replace skies in your photos? No, you can do whatever you want with your images. They’re your art. But in general, I do see folks on Flickr doing this a little too much. And if you do it you should disclose or tag it. And you should do it right – the results should look natural, not artificial. The light direction and color should match. The lens used in both photos should also match so scene elements are at the proper relative distance from each other. Go for the second definition of incredible (extraordinary), not the first (Very difficult or impossible to believe).

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog.  And if you can – make some photos!

As for everything that’s going on in the USA and the world right now … I’ll try to keep politics and non-photo opinions out of this blog. But if you’re interested in what I think about things, feel free to take a look at my Twitter feed (link on the right). Peace out.

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

4 thoughts on “Incredible skies?

  1. Good blog, my friend! You always take me to the next step in photography and give me something to work on! Thank you. Beautiful images!

  2. When learning new methods, techniques and how to use any tools of a trade, it’s natural to explore the limits of creativity. New and wonderful results are what keeps us interested and motivated.

    I feel quite certain if someone such as Ansel Adams was presented with today’s technology, he wouldn’t hesitate to try all of it to see how it could be used to best present his vision. Whether he would revert to the “basics” is a fun topic to consider.

    Great post, Ed! Love your composite sky.

    1. Thanks, Wally.

      It would be very interesting to know Ansel Adams’ opinions on this and whether he’d actually use it. I’ve read that he employed all the techniques available to him at the time and would re-work prints for years, making changes until he was satisfied.

      Ed

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