Something is wrong with this picture

abraham lake, milky way, night shots, long exposure, winter, banff, rockies, landscape, Dan Jurak , photoshop trickery

The laws of physics if what I was taught in school apply to everyone. All the time.

There aren’t any exceptions for the rich, the famous or the good looking.

For the past few weeks I was at first uber impressed when I saw one photo like it and then double uber impressed when I saw another by the same photographer.

The landscapes were simply stunning. Night shots in the winter with all kinds of detail in the snow and shadows and tack sharp. How in the world was that accomplished?

I filed that away under the label of interesting things to try in the future. Stymied by this photographers complete mastery of photography and physics I plodded on in my Neanderthal ways. A simple photo. Compose. Tweak in post processing. Rinse. Repeat.

And then a light bulb went on above my head. Or was it in my head?

Why in the second night landscape did I not see any light pollution? The area in which it was taken is very populated and there just had to be light pollution that creeps into all night shots taken within 50 km of highly populated areas.

The second photo I revisited. When I looked closely at it things started to not make sense to me. The laws of physics you know.

Under a night sky with no moon the light is very, very flat. So flat in fact that no amount of overexposing will give you directional light and shadow. This photo along with the first was probably taken shortly after sunset when there is sufficient light in the sky to get great depth of field and most importantly directional light.

So I processed two RAW images from my recent trip to Abraham Lake. The first was the foreground taken around sunset on the first evening there. With a cloudless sky I would have probably ended up deleting the file eventually because as a landscape it sucked. The second, the night sky was taken from the same spot at about 5:00 a.m. the following morning while it was still pitch black out and moonless.

I pasted one photo on top of the other, did a few photoshop tweaks and black magic, added some fog on another layer, tried to match the colours of the two halves as close as I could and voila! My very own laws of physics defying night shot.

Now before you pick it apart, like all things done on first try and rushed there are a dozen ways to make it seem more realistic. This was my first try.

So before you go and swear that some photographer has all the luck with the perfect conditions remember this article. There may be some tom foolery afoot. 🙂

Happy shooting,



~ by Dan Jurak on March 15, 2018.

9 Responses to “Something is wrong with this picture”

  1. one image created from multiple moments…isn’t this sorta like life?

  2. Exactly. 🙂

  3. You are wise beyond your years young man

  4. LOL Ray. Are we elves who live thousands of years? This aint no spring chicken.

  5. The wonders, and dangers, of photoshop.

  6. I guess you might say, caveat emptor to anything that is posted on the internet. Not that there is anything wrong with interpreting a landscape how you like but as long as people understand that is not exactly how it might have looked when the shutter was released. 🙂

  7. I’m afraid that at some point it begins to erode the meaning of a landscape photograph, or perhaps any photograph. Unless perhaps the photographer announces his methods.

  8. I grew up shooting landscapes on 4×5 Ektachrome which meant no retouching at all and when I went to photo school and was forced to shoot black and white I made myself a promise to never burn or dodge any photos because that had meant I had failed to capture the scene properly. Forty years later I am to the point where anything is fair game and that each of us individually should decide what is right or wrong for ourselves.

    I dislike a lot of photoshopped stuff on Instagram, especially the scenes with the silhouettes of birds in the sky… aaaargh that drives me mad that is only my personal taste.

    To each their own. 🙂

  9. Indeed. It’s the wild west now and we’re each left to choose our own level of manipulation.

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