A HARSH, blown-out sky can make a real mess of a photo but in some lighting situations it is unavoidable.
With digital, ways around this – taking multiple shots and merging them, or making different exposures from the same RAW file and combining them, are well documented.
So I asked myself, why couldn’t I do the same with film? And the answer was that I could.
Using a negative that I had shot around midday in the harsh Arabian sunshine I scanned it first for the shadow detail in the boat:
Then I scanned it again (without moving it in the scanner) with the settings adjusted to pull all the information I could out of the sky (and maybe out of a bit of the background fog in the negative):
From here it was a simple affair to drag one layer on top of the other and align them perfectly in Photoshop (there are plenty of tutorials about how to do that on the Net), I went to the blue layer, selected everything from the bottom of the buildings downwards and, after applying a large feather value, I deleted it.
The blue cast over the flag needed selective erasing as did the mast and then I tweaked the colour balance a little in each layer so that they looked right together before flattening the image.
Finally, a minor adjustment with NIK software’s “brilliance” control and a little work on the image contrast and I was done:
Previously (this photo is a couple of years old) the best I could do was strike a compromise between the sky and the detail on the boat, which was still an acceptable picture but was certainly inferior to this version.
All in all, this is a bizarre marriage of old and new. The camera I used was my Ensign Commando folder from the 1940s and I think its low contrast lens helped to retain detail in the shadowed area of the boat.