My first real, composite photograph

20 years ago, on a forum called OffTopic.com, I would use Photoshop to create what are now referred to as “memes.” Today, despite watching others do this for years, I’ve finally started using it for its intended purpose: modifying photographs to create images that don’t exist in real life.

I guess you can infer by my tone that I’m not a huge fan of photo manipulation, and you’d be correct. There’s a fine line between photography and art and I feel wholesale manipulation of the image to create something that cannot be captured in whole, within the camera, as dishonest. However, I draw that line at profitability. If you’re profiting from a reputation as a photographer while creating digital art and misrepresenting it as a photograph, I take issue with that. If you’re creating art for the sake of it and representing it as such, for profit or not, I have no problem. The gray area is of course the line between reality and art. What I did, while photorealistic, is what I would classify as art because you couldn’t recreate my result in a single photograph.

Anyways, very simply, I liked the sky and background of a shot I took of Annette Lake but the foreground was a mess and didn’t feature as much of the lake as I wanted.

I had also taken a shot that was the complete opposite. Therefore, I decided this would be a great opportunity for me to composite the two images to create the vision I’d originally had for the location.

Using Lightroom to process the images to taste, I then loaded both into Photoshop Mix for iPad Pro. This was so I could sit comfortably on the sofa and use the Apple Pencil to make fine selections, resulting in an overall cleaner blending of images. The result:

Upon close inspection, I feel it turned out great. If this were a better image overall, I wouldn’t be afraid to have it printed large; the blending came off so well that it’s imperceptible even close up. I got the image I wanted: detailed background, large focus on the lake and a much cleaner foreground.

Sure, it may be photorealistic and it’s still an accurate representation of the location, and since I’m obviously detailing what I had done to create it, there’s no attempt to misrepresent my creation as the composite image it is. However, it’s is a composite image nonetheless. It’s is neither editorial nor documentary. Landscape art, yes. Landscape photograph? That’s for you to decide. As for me, I just like it more than either photograph that contributed to its creation.

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