When creating imagery of any night landscape, you are taking your camera and the other equipment you own and pushing them to their limits. With that in mind, should photographers be upset when their favorite imagery is put together in post?
What if elements from the image are not in the same scene at the same time, do we have an obligation to state this or should we let the image and it’s creator stand on their own merits?
If you’ve ever photographed any nightscape, the Milky Way, or astrophotography image, you’ve probably learned that there is only so much a single photograph can bestow on a final piece of art. As you venture down this road there will be a number of ways that your creative output will become better and be invigorated by the increases in your technical aptitude behind the camera and in post. These combined eventually allow us to start creating imagery that meets our artistic aspirations. What if your aspirations are not based on the scene that you have in front of you, and you want to go beyond the “reality” of the place?
When shooting a landscape without the full effect of the sun, we see a vastly different space in non-light-polluted areas that has soft blue hour and golden hour light, directional lighting with filling ambient from the moon, hard light from a full moon, and lastly almost no light at all besides the star light itself. These different types of lighting shape the landscape in new ways and can allow us to create art our eyes have never really experienced before. The technical knowledge to take advantage of these different types of lighting allow photographers to create surreal scenes that emote a different level of engagement with our natural world and cities alike. The issue that people seem to have is that these images aren’t always able to be created with one single frame, but does that matter?
Photography is a scientific art that gets stretched more with each new tool that’s created. Today we are looking at better sensors with better dynamic range that are still simply tools integral to capturing our vision of a subject. Night time imagery is a combination of in-camera capture and then the corresponding post production to create engaging — as well as inspiring — imagery. These scenes are sometimes captured within minutes, hours, days, or even longer. They also don’t have to be created from the same scene if our compositing end goal is stretching the “reality” of the place. The crux of the matter is: if the image is completely believable, should a viewer be told that it was taken maybe years apart? Does it matter if it was hours apart, or in a different a different place if it serves the creator their vision.
I believe that there is no obligation to explain the creation of an image if you are not teaching that knowledge. The viewer is not empowered by having the information to capture the image behind the art itself. The impact is many times lessened with the lack of wonder that’s been created and the value of the imagery is lowered. Does this mean that EXIF details and composition techniques should be moot behind imagery? That, I believe, is up to the photographer whether to decide to share or not. Part of creating is wonder and the impact of that wonder on others, and that for me is the most meaningful part of photography.