Digital Compositing – Time to Move Forward

Is compositing right or wrong? Doesn’t matter. It’s my art

It’s almost 2017. I have been a photographer for over 20 years starting back in the day of film. I think back to the tricks we used to achieve certain effects of our final images. When I was doing wedding photography we would use a clear filter on our lens and apply a very thin layer of Vaseline to soften the focus. I have shot a sharp image and then a blurry image and sandwiched the 2 in the printer to get the “Orton” effect.

Over the last 10 years since switching to digital I have kept pretty true to my art. I have waited for epic light, I have lost many nights sleep, I have spent a lot of time away from my family to get really great images… 99% of them coming from a single shot. Doing my best to get a great exposure on any given scene.

The image below is composed of 5 images to make up the wider panoramic image. During each exposure the light did not change, yet if you were to walk up to this scene in the dark your eyes would not see this as it’s presented here.. In theory, yes, this is how it looks to your camera sensor. We used an LED light panel to illuminate Turret Arch. Vega, the star above the arch was diffused by the thin layer of clouds, The light pollution from Moab added to the color the clouds giving them a nice yellow color on the left. With only minimal processing this was the final scene. Fact is, the eye did not see this…the camera sensor did..


I am at a point where I want to try something new, Digital Composting, a term so many feel is wrong.  I think of a painter who wakes up one morning, walks over to his canvas and begins painting a scene from his head, it’s not a real scene, just a scene he has  envisioned and wants to put on his canvas. Who are we to tell him that is wrong? Have you been to EVERY place in the world to know if that scene exists or not? No. You haven’t.

For whatever reason, through the ages of photography there has been negativity towards editing and adjusting scenes… For the purpose of our Art I feel that we are free to do as we wish. For commercial purposes I don’t feel it’s right to advertise something that a tourists or traveler will never see… I would never advertise a workshop to Death Valley with a shot of the sand dunes with a castle in the middle because that is not something the students would see.. I would use the image if I were advertising that we would be learning how to composite images.

Over the last week I have been trying some new things to see if I can create some realistic images using 1 or more image. I think so far I have done a pretty good job.  If this is your thing or something you like seeing, great. If not, that is fine too. This is my art and I will continue to do things my way..I am willing to teach as much as anyone wants to learn.

I feel over the last 10 years I have kind of been in a bubble. Yes, I have learned new techniques and tips to create better images but I have never really stepped outside that bubble until now and I feel like there is an entire world in front of me with endless possibilities.


Changing Seasons” –  The above image is a piece I created this fall by using 3 separate images of the same scene and all I did was combine them in Photoshop to create the desired effect. All blurring was done in camera..


“Delicate Explosion” is a 2 image blend. I took one image of the stars while using my zoom lens to create the desired effect of the star burst and then another shot for Delicate Arch. This image represents a true scene. The Milky Way does rise behind delicate arch in the Summer. An image like this simply can’t be created in one exposure. Having the skill and foresight to create 2 images to put together later is where the credit for being creative comes into play.


Lightning Lane” – Arches National Park – 2 image composite with a sky replacement. The orig image had stars in the sky. We were light painting the road and Courthouse Towers while shooting at night.. This was the first image using a new technique to replace the sky. The final image is much more powerful and thought invoking. It looks good in print too.


Desert Storm” is a 2 image composite with the lightning bolt from Kansas and the alcove from Valley of Fire State Park.


“Storm over Mesquite Dunes” is a 4 image composite for the final image The 3 lightning bolts and the sand dunes. I took the lightning bolts behind my house from Chatfield Lake State Park and the dunes are from Death Valley.

These are a few examples of digital composites I have created. Yes, there have been some I have worked up that I just look at and think, “that’s just wrong on too many levels” and I end up deleting the images.

Having the skills needed to take each image and then see it as a compliment to another image is a great example of how my vision has progressed throughout the years.. I won’t be stuck doing the same thing…For me personally, this progression is good for me on all aspects of my work.. Will I completely change the way I shoot? No. I still plan on getting great images they way I have before. Now I am simply seeing places where other images might fit into another image.

Right or wrong, it doesn’t matter to me…It’s my art and I will do what I want…

If you would like to read my first post on “Nothing is Real” <— please click and enjoy.

Whatever your vision is, create it and never let anyone tell you different…

Thanks for your time,




One thought on “Digital Compositing – Time to Move Forward

  1. Very well said. I struggle with the same thing. I recently shot an image of the harvest moon rising while traveling on the interstate. I combined an image of car light trails with an image of the moon at correct exposure. It’s what I saw at the time and got criticized for that. Who knows but it is your art, not anyone else’s’ !


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