A night of (combined) copper

Last Sunday night, I had a blast photographing the blood moon eclipse.  Probably drove all my Facebook friends nuts by talking about it so much.

Near the end of the night, with the clouds oozing over the horizon, I had to put a stop to the photography – I couldn’t get a decent shot of the end of the eclipse past the puffy clouds.

So, just for a lark, before I packed up my gear, I switched lenses on my Nikon Df camera and took a few long-exposure wide-angle shots with my 28mm f/2.8 ultrawide manual focus lens.

Hmm… they look nice… There’s a spot in the clouds where that red moon would really stand out, if I were to superimpose them together.

So what if I… took my best photo of the blood-red moon… and placed it in this picture?

Should be easy to do… a quick drop here inside and…


A night in copper
A Night of Copper. Moon photographed with Nikon Df camera, Rokinon 500mm f/8 mirror lens with 2x teleconverter; landscape with Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.


Nice picture.  I really like the way it turned out.

But unfortunately… now I have to confront my ethics.

I have to justify my actions.  I have to accept that the end may or may not justify the means.  I’m creating something that wasn’t a scene in camera.  And that’s a big difference.

Here’s my conflict.

Almost every picture I’ve ever taken over the past decade has been achieved in the camera.  All my splitfilm shots, my cross-processings, my photography experiments, they’ve all had as much of a simple explanation of “How did he do that” as “I rolled two films into one film spool and ….” or “I stood in a field and set my camera with a manual shutter release…” or “I dropped the film into a can of Four Loko and took pictures with it afterward.”

But now I have an ethical dilemma.  I’m creating something that technically didn’t happen in real time.  If I used pen and paper to create this image, if I used pastels or oils or charcoal to craft this construct, then that’s all well and good.  That’s the creation of my imagination made real by my tools.

Well, my camera is also a tool.  If I printed the red moon onto paper and then trimmed that paper, and then pasted it into the scene with a dab of glue-stick… it would be a photo collage, true.  But it would still be a real construct.

But I’m going to do this with photo imaging skills.  Not the greatest photo imaging skills, I’m still learning everything about PhotoShop CS6… but…

The second I produce this image with photo-editing software…

It’s at that point that I know there are people who will call me a cheat and a fraud and a hypocrite.

“Yeah, Miller, you couldn’t get that picture in reality, so you faked it.”

“Yeah, Miller, it’s just trickery on your part.  You should be ashamed of yourself.”

“If you were a REAL photographer, you would have been able to capture that image in camera, you phony.”

Easy now…

Look, if nothing else, I’m forthcoming with what I do.  If I make a mistake, I’ll confess it.  And if this picture was the result of a combination of images, then I’m willing to admit it and have it be judged on those results.

And I know that if I worked for the Times Union and submitted that photo for publication in the paper’s print edition, they would not accept it for publication in that it’s a composite image, and next thing I know Kristi Gustafson Barlette would make me walk down the Capitol steps while she rings a bell and shouts “Shame” at me.

So here’s my plan for this picture.  I’m going to put it in the short pile for future consideration for Competition Season 2016.  That being said…

If I do enter this picture at the New York State Fair’s photo competition, I will enter it as “non-traditional photography” in that it was a composite of two images.

I will NOT enter the picture at the Big E’s photo competition in that they specifically request that entrants be of one single shutter capture; meaning this picture is ineligible anyway.

Altamont Fair, Durham Fair, any other photo competitions… it’s fair game.  I might enter it, I might not.

But I’m more than willing to state this now, above board and without hesitation.