Printing a sky - What would you do?

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Daniela

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Just printed this one this week. I'm happy with the sky just being white and merging into the margins, even if I know that's not really technically correct.*
I'm wondering what you'd do in regards to the sky if this was your picture. There's info in the negative, some static, amorphous gray clouds...
Also, as a viewer, how do you perceive the picture with a border-less sky? Do you notice it? Does it bother you?

*As a side note, I notice I've been printing crisp white skies a lot recently and I know it's heavily influenced by the endless stretches of gray days we've been having. I miss sunlight!

2-20230112_175248.jpg
 

MattKing

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There is nothing technically incorrect about a print showing a blank white sky if the subject included a blank white sky.
But if you don't like the aesthetics, there are a couple of things you can try.
You could do tests to see how much more printing exposure it takes to reveal the information in the sky area. If it is reasonably accessible, careful localized burning of the sky may add what you want. While the traditional advice is to burn in with a low contrast filter, I might try it with a high contrast filter instead.
You could also consider using a sky from another negative - a really old school technique that used to be considered acceptable, but now is looked at with disfavour by people who dislike "manipulation".
FWIW, I think I might also print the entire image with a bit more contrast.
 

logan2z

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If I couldn't get any detail in the sky any other way, I'd probably try pre-flashing the paper to see if that would do the trick.
 

ic-racer

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I'd burn it at the edges so it does not merge into the paper. I had one like that recently. I wound up printing it whole frame, however.

Scan.jpeg
Scan 1.jpeg
 

MurrayMinchin

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Looking up, it's a featureless cloudy sky...looking down, you have a tens of thousands of square miles soft box overhead 👍
 

scrufftie

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I don’t think every sky has to be dramatic, it is what it is. I might try a subtle vignette just to bring out the borders
 

MurrayMinchin

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I'd give it an edge burn, so there's at least a bit of density to define the image on the paper.

There is no right or wrong answer!
 

pentaxuser

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Daniela, is the picture of the sky in your small picture what you have achieved. It looks sufficiently grey to me to separate it from the border and correct for the sky you had when taking the photo

If there is some cloud formation in the negative that you want to show then the problem is that you have a lion against the sky and burning in the sky might turn the lion nearly black even if you are very careful with a mask cut out to shield the wall and the lion.

Only you know how good you are with a mask but I fear that with a high contrast filter a halo ( a lighter line around the lion) may show

All you can do is to try logan's suggestion then careful burning in but it may cost you quite a lot of wasted paper to get it as you want it

The paper is only wasted in the sense that you throw it in the bin but the skill gained in the process will not be wasted.

If you have a go let us know how you did it. It will be of benefit to me and maybe others as well

Thanks

pentaxuser
 

Sirius Glass

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There is nothing wrong with a white sky.
If there are clouds then you might want to split grade printing - ask if you are interested
or make exposure mats - ask this is advanced and can be done by exposing a mask and reprinting or ask digital masking​
 

miha

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I'm wondering what you'd do in regards to the sky if this was your picture. There's info in the negative, some static, amorphous gray clouds...

This very much depends on your vision. You can leave it as is or you can burn it in heavily as I did below:

 
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Daniela

Daniela

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Whoa, thanks everyone for your thoughts.
I've tried some of the things mentioned (in the past), and others are new to me. I will play with the different suggestions and report back.
I'll still be printing crisp white skies until the spring, though! Come on, sun!
 

Paul Howell

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Although out of fashion, at one time printing a sky from a second negative was quite common. It is more tricky that it seems, the direction of the sun and shadows need to match, have a bank of cloud negatives to choose from is helpful. Learning the tech takes time.
 
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rcphoto

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I print things for how I feel that day but I try to have something on all four borders. That being said, I'd be lying if I said I didnt have a habit of printing white skies.
 

Sirius Glass

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I split grade print as my normal printing method and then I look to see what needs to be burned or dodged.
 

Pieter12

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I would leave the sky white if the is how it looked. Too heavy a hand burning the sky will emphasize grain in that area. Another thing to try is just flashing the top of the paper before you print.
 

M Carter

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I really dislike when the "frame is broken" (IE, the image ends where the sky gets light), I find it really disturbing to the eye - a thin black border can help and it can be printed in. Humans are used to seeing things through "frames - windows, doors, TVs, etc., it always puts my brain off-kilter - YMMV and there's really no "rules".

If you try flashing, you don't need to restrict it to the sky only, if it's a non-image forming flash.

If your neg carrier returns to the same place in the enlarger, you can do things like tape rubylith to the easel and make a mask to stick another sky in there - that's a one-shot thing though, you print as many as you want in one go since you'll never line it up perfectly again.

I'm in Texas with our all-summer cloudless skies, but I have a masking carrier and I'll often put a cool sky in. Like, this image (Scotland, not TX!) just needed a dramatic sky IMO, but it was fairly easy to mask, and masking at the neg plane means I can come back years later and make more prints at any size. I've got a big collection of cloud and sky negs. That's kinda getting into extremes of obsession though.

fn0t84i.jpg
 
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White skies are just fine if that's part or your original visualization. Often, having a blank white sky is a good compositional choice; other times, it's difficult to do otherwise, especially with a bright overcast sky.

Keep in mind that white skies were the rule with blue sensitive materials in the past. If you like the look of, say Atget or others of his time, you can even use blue filters to approximate the look. Personally, I often like the luminous, detailed shadows and the crisp outlines and lack of distractions provided by a blank white sky. Just plan on it and weight the space accordingly when composing the image.

As for the white bleeding into the borders: again, it comes down to personal preference. I'll often print white skies and snow scenes so that the brightest whites are pure paper white (a no-no according to my old college photography instructor!). I like the lack of frame and the sense of the image continuing out into the surrounding space.

It also depends on the presentation. I trim my prints to the exact image dimensions and dry-mount them on white board that I've chosen to match the paper whites. Still, there's always the thin line around the image of the edges of the paper itself that provides a bit of delineation between image and mat board. It's really your choice.

As for getting more detail in the sky: flashing your paper will make it grey, but often featureless, or at least the features will lack separation. That's what flashing does. If you want more of the darker tones to come through and still leave the whites really white, try a long burn with the highest contrast filter/setting you have (e.g., #5 filter). It will take a long time and you'll have to be careful of the darker things like buildings and trees that are silhouetted against the sky, but it can be quite gratifying if done well. This also works well in conjunction with a bit of flashing. The flashing gives the whites a tiny bit of substance and the high-contrast burn adds the darker details.

Have fun,

Doremus
 

Pieter12

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As for getting more detail in the sky: flashing your paper will make it grey, but often featureless, or at least the features will lack separation. That's what flashing does. If you want more of the darker tones to come through and still leave the whites really white, try a long burn with the highest contrast filter/setting you have (e.g., #5 filter). It will take a long time and you'll have to be careful of the darker things like buildings and trees that are silhouetted against the sky, but it can be quite gratifying if done well. This also works well in conjunction with a bit of flashing. The flashing gives the whites a tiny bit of substance and the high-contrast burn adds the darker details.
Flashing just the top can give just enough tone to separate from the white border. If there is any detail in the sky, flashing will help bring the paper up to its threshold, making burning more effective.
 

Vaughn

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Just printed this one this week. I'm happy with the sky just being white and merging into the margins, even if I know that's not really technically correct.*
I'm wondering what you'd do in regards to the sky if this was your picture. There's info in the negative, some static, amorphous gray clouds...
Also, as a viewer, how do you perceive the picture with a border-less sky? Do you notice it? Does it bother you?
...
Photographers and non-photographers will often view images differently, as will those who have studied and used the skills of composition in any form of art. It can be tricky trying to grab the attention of, and communicate with, the different viewing behaviors. With the OP image -- some viewers will be drawn directly to the lion, nothing else in the image will really matter to them, and they'll chuckle, wondering where the baboon is with Simba. Others might applaud the use of the large empty informationless negative space that is swallowing the emptiness of public transportation ( it takes up almost half the image area, must be significant!) And so on.

But if the image is mostly about the lion, I'd just crop the top off until you have a square (down to the birds), put a thin black line around it, and call it good. For me, as a square it will have more visual movement than the full image. But with or without the crop, I think a thin black line will also help keep the eye in the image area along the right side -- drawing more attention to the fellow down the road.

I enjoy watching people look at photo shows (mine and other's). Which image strung along the wall(s) stop, or at least slows down the bobbing of the heads as people glance down at the title, up to the photo, and repeat without breaking stride. As an example, the OP image's lower area moves strongly upwards left to right, then up to the lion. The viewers' eyes follow the lion's gaze right off the image, onto the matboard and onwards to the next photo on the wall...maybe before the viewer had time to notice the bicycle, the piece of trash, or the man in the distance. A black line might enourage the eyes to go left over to the birds, and keep them within the image.
 
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Daniela

Daniela

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Got a couple of hours in the darkroom today and tried the easiest suggestions given:
-increasing the contrast and cropping the sky a bit to improve the composition. I'm super happy with all the texture the increased contrast has brought forth.
-I also didn't realize how much I had cropped from the bottom and there's still more to the right of the image. I had cropped that side because of a tree. I burned the top quite a bit, but when I got to a burn that was 50% of the original exposure time and saw no change whatsoever, I abandoned it since I like it, need to save paper and most of you said it was ok 😬
Will try the other suggestions in the coming weeks. Thanks again!
20230116_165847_resized.jpg

Oh, and I found another photo of the same lion in a photo book. Those stairs are still in use, so I might try to recreate it (in the day time, with a random passerby and without cutting the lion's face)
20230114_100601.jpg
 

Sirius Glass

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Got a couple of hours in the darkroom today and tried the easiest suggestions given:
-increasing the contrast and cropping the sky a bit to improve the composition. I'm super happy with all the texture the increased contrast has brought forth.
-I also didn't realize how much I had cropped from the bottom and there's still more to the right of the image. I had cropped that side because of a tree. I burned the top quite a bit, but when I got to a burn that was 50% of the original exposure time and saw no change whatsoever, I abandoned it since I like it, need to save paper and most of you said it was ok 😬
Will try the other suggestions in the coming weeks. Thanks again!
View attachment 326847

Oh, and I found another photo of the same lion in a photo book. Those stairs are still in use, so I might try to recreate it (in the day time, with a random passerby and without cutting the lion's face)
View attachment 326848

Or Split Grade Printing: First bet the best print with the magenta filter only. Use that magenta exposure to add only the yellow filter to get the best print possible. Then based on the magenta exposure and the yellow exposure, start burning and dodging.
 
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Daniela

Daniela

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Or Split Grade Printing: First bet the best print with the magenta filter only. Use that magenta exposure to add only the yellow filter to get the best print possible. Then based on the magenta exposure and the yellow exposure, start burning and dodging.
Split grade printing is definitely on the list of things to learn and try.
 

BrianShaw

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I’d crop out some of the sky, as it seems you may have already done.
 
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