Suspicious Skies

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It’s just impossible to witness and photograph thousands of beautiful sunrises and sunsets without beginning to believe that nature could do better. Spcifically, Mom Nature could do better if she had some Photoshop lessons. This is pretty presumptuous thinking for a mere mortal. Nevertheless, I’m a moral weakling and easily succumb to shiny new things that prove my lack of respect for authority. The “I could have done it better” theme runs rampant through my more fanciful exercises in portraying reality in images.

Witness this atrocity:

A "Too perfect reflection" sunrise

It was quite spendid that morning. I was up before 06:00 with my tripod, chair, Canon G10 and an orange Fanta. The only thing that was missing was a cheap cigar. Either Mercury or Venus (I could look up the position on that morning, but I’m too lazy) was high in the sky and shining fiercely. I used a frightfully long exposure through a polariser and a #1 neutral density filter to make the water look glassy. Nevertheless, I wasn’t satisfied. The sky didn’t look dark enough. Fooling around, I discovered that I could apply a graduated filter with just about any attribute attached to it to the image while it was still in the Camera Raw filter. Vliola!  I got an evenly graduated ever darkening sky. Applying the same procedure upside-down gave me the effect that I needed to balance the image for the water. Very nice. Except that the star all but disappeared. I had to fake it. I painted it in. If I hadn’t told you, you wouldn’t know, eh? I will state, however that the reflection is real.

This one is a perfectly good picture that looks very much like an interesting sunrise, umm?  Hah, it’s a sunset. It seems that they are mostly interchangeable unless you can spot something in the image that gives it away. Madang residents might just possibly recognise this as a view from Tab Anchorage  looking west. Therefore, it must be a sunset, unless Superman has once again reversed the Earth’s rotation:

The "It's not really a sunrise" sunrise

This one has no obvious fakery.You probably wouldn’t catch it unless you had seen it. It was weak, weak, weak. The colours were pastels at best. I had to saturate and vibrate unmercifully to get anything remotely pretty:

The "Water too smooth" sunrise

This one, I like, even though it’s an obvious fake. The colours were quite nice, if a little bizarre. However, the water had nothing going for it. It was a little windy and it took on a greenish-grey cast that made me slightly ill. I used the old trick of taking the top part, above the water line, flipping it upside down and laying it down over the water while reducing its opacity so that the texture of the water shines through. It’s an obvious fake, but it’s still pretty in a “Bible Illustration” sort of way:

The "Too fake reflection" sunrise

This is my favourite fake of the week. I got lucky to have a ship pass by as I was sitting there behind my tripod. When I got the image up on the screen it needed a lot of help. I have bashed the colours so severely that they look as if they need a long stay in hospital. The ship reflection is also an upside down overlay as in the image above. It’s gaudy, cheap looking, and cheeky.

The "Fake Ship Reflection" sunrise

But, you can’t say that it’s not interesting. (okay, okay, you can, but I won’t believe it)

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2 Responses to “Suspicious Skies”

  1. james buckley Says:

    Remember the BP building very well. Used to go there after school, Ela Beach Primary 1972/3, on most days and sometimes nick a few fishing hooks. Then I’d meet my old man, Jim, at the bottom pub. He worked next door to BP at their shipping agency. My mates and I used to fish off that brown wharf after going to the Skyvue Drive Inn on Friday nights. Great memories!
    Would be great if we could chat. Have lots of questions.

  2. MadDog Says:

    Thanks, James, for that amusing bit of history. It’s just the kind of comment that I crave. Naught boys nicking fishing hooks from BP – I love it. Email me at I’d love to hear more stories and answer your questions. If you have any old photos and a way to scan them, you can email those also and I’ll put them up on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi and give you a by line.