Michael Breitung Photography


Time Blending Tutorial

A few weeks ago, on the way back from my yearly Waterfall Workshop I made the usual stop in Heidelberg to photograph sunset. Since I had photographed this scene a couple of times already, I wanted to try something different.

Time Blending

Some of you might be familiar with the term Time Blending. It’s a special exposure blending technique, which is usually used to combine several photos of the same scene that have been taken over an extended period of time. Typical examples are the combination of a blue hour photo with a photo taken at night – with the stars or the Milky Way in the frame. Or a combination of a sunset photo with a twilight or blue hour photo of a cityscape.

The latter is what I wanted to create in Heidelberg. I wanted the sun and light from just before sunset and the city lights with the lit up Heidelberg Castle in one photo.

In the field

To achieve this I arrived well before sunset and took my time to find the perfect spot and properly compose my photo. Then I just sat there and waited, enjoying the beautiful evening.

Just before the sun vanished behind the hills in the background I took the first set of photos. The moment before the sun dips behind the horizon is the perfect time to capture a beautiful sunstar, as I did here by using a small aperture.

Sunset Panorama of Heidelberg

I also used bracketing to ensure I captured the complete dynamic range. Then I waited again, another 30 – 40 minutes until finally the castle and the city began to light up. This moment presented the perfect equilibrium between the warm glow in the sky and the artificial lights in the city.

To ensure that I would later be able to easily blend the photos I used a cable release and avoided touching the camera during the whole time.

Twilight scene from Heidelberg with the castle lit up

Post Processing

Eventually I got two photos of the same scene taken at different times around sunset. I first worked on each photo individually, applying my usual post processing workflow. The resulting photos, which I show above, are completely finished and ready to go into my portfolio.

But, as I said, I wanted to take it a step further and combine the two scenes. For this to work it was important to have similar color and brightness in both photos. I tweaked minor differences during the blending, but it really helps, if the starting material is already similar. In this case the warm glow in the sky of the photo taken during twilight nicely blends with the sunset sky. Same goes for the orange light on the castle.

In the following video I show you exactly how I did the blend.

It’s certainly a matter of taste, if such a photo that bends reality is to your liking or not. But from time to time it’s good to experiment and also go a little beyond the boundaries of a natural photo.

Also, while it might be impossible to capture this scene in one frame, I wouldn’t say it’s an unrealistic scene in terms of what someone would experience up at this viewpoint throughout the evening.

Sunset and Twilight shown in one photo

In those terms Time Blending is just a tool to compress time and to capture what a person might experience over an extended period of time – just as video does. And it opens up new ways to be creative with photography.

Panorama Post Processing Start to Finish