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Time Blend

Two images from the same area, but on two different days, are combined to make a more colorful photo.



Mudflats of a bay at low tide blended with a colorful sunset from a previous week. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes



The heavy clouds, dim light, and rain of winter offer fewer days of good light and blunt my enthusiasm for outdoor photography during that season. I still go out to photograph, though, mainly to maintain my familiarity with the camera.


One place I frequently return to is a nearby west-facing bay connected to the Salish Sea. Twice a day, the bay's water rises with the tide, and twice a day, it falls. The largest tides can empty the bay of nearly half its water, leaving anchored boats resting on its sandy bottom.


Looking westward from the bay's east side, the retreating water of low tide reveals low islands of rippled sand surrounded by shallow seawater pools. Such pools act as mirrors that reflect the western sky.


I returned the other day at low tide, about an hour before sunset. There were a few breaks in the cloud cover but no real hope of sunshine or color. The mirror-like tidal pools were nearly white with the reflection of steely gray clouds. Wouldn't it be nice, I thought, if there were a colorful sunset reflecting from those pools?




Mudflats at low tide on a gray day. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes




Previous week's sunset from the same general area. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes



Not long ago, a dramatic sunset with red clouds was seen from the same general area. What If I "painted" the clouds from the past into the seawater pools of the present?


I decided to give it a try. I imported both photos into Photoshop as layers. The red sunset photo had smaller dimensions than the mudflats photo, so I "scaled up" that layer with the Transform tool to make it the same width as the underlying layer.


With the sunset layer above the mudflats layer, I flipped it vertically to place the red clouds over the mudflat pools.


Using the base layer with the bright pools of water, I selected the brightest areas (the surface of the pools and created a luminosity mask. I then dragged that mask to the overlying sunset layer, Which allowed the red sunset to be seen only in the brightest areas of the base image, giving the first photo above — a sort of time blend.

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