Aimlessly Pontificating on Photography

Posts tagged “long exposure


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NOTE: This is republished from a note I posted on Facebook on May 20 (with minor edits here), before I started this blog.

Afternoon Repose

The picture on the right is a good one. No point in false modesty. It is good not only because the composition is good, but because the exposure is exactly right and the focus and sharpness are perfect. Seen full size it looks far better than the little thumbnail on the right.

How did I spot the shot? Most people (non-photographers) would just have walked past it. I spotted it because I have been working hard at improving my photography for the year so far. Not only actually taking photographs, but looking at photographs from good photographers and reading voraciously.

Do what I have been doing and the odds are, you will never walk past a shot like this; or an equivalently good scene for the various different types of photography.

There is an unending supply of talented photographers around and the ubiquity of cheap digital cameras has allowed a vast number of people to explore their talent. It is hard these days to make your voice heard in the huge volume of good photographers now trying to be heard at the same time.

There are a few things that are key; lots and lots of practice, lots and lots of superior photographs in your portfolio and knowing the rules (and when to break them).

This one photograph, good as it is, is not going to get me anything. A few people will see it, a smaller number will like it, and nothing much will come of it. This is the reality of competition.

What will get me recognition (and you too if you are interested) is relentlessly producing good quality work, recognising that any kind of success can take a while and lots of self promotion.

Have a look at my photographs here.

And while I consider my picture above to be good. Have a look here to see what I consider to be a great photograph (photographs that can change the world). The depressing nature of that scene and others he had to witness were thought to have contributed to Carter’s despondency and later suicide.

The making of . . .

Apple Exposed

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This is one of the very early images in my project this year to take a photo every day for the year.

It was taken on 17th February this year while I was sojourning in Canada.

Only a month and a half into the project I was lost for inspiration with the scenery around me. It was the middle of winter in suburban Canada and I had no one to take me to any of the interesting places.

There was good and bad in that situation, I wasn’t guaranteed a good picture, but I was forced to step outside my comfort zone.

The setup for this shot should have been fairly simple, but to compose it I needed a tripod ideally, as this is a long exposure. Didn’t have one so my big heavy DSLR with a big heavy 105mm macro lens attached had to sit precariously on a plastic storage container with the lens cap under the lens to keep the camera level.

I had seen an article, I can’t now recall where, on a portrait photographer who took long exposure photographs of her subjects in total darkness, while selectively lighting them with a handheld flashgun triggered manually. Her photos were very interesting so this is what I wanted to try (except without a breathing subject to annoy).

I placed my camera to compose the image, set it in manual mode, stopped down to give me the maximum exposure length without going into bulb mode (shutter remains open until you determine it should be closed). It was evening, but not night, so there was still a degree of ambient light and lots of clutter in the background. Stopping down radically to f/20 also helped obscure the background clutter. So the settings were, manual exposure mode, f/20 aperture and 30 seconds shutter speed. Manual flash, handheld, triggered via the “Test” button on the flash.

The reason for the long exposure is to have maximum control of the lighting via the flashgun. Unfortunately it is a trial and error process. I can’t remember now but I must have taken at least a dozen shots, fine tuning the exposure.

If you look at the apple, you will see three highlight spots, I didn’t manage to aim the flash at the same spot each of the three times I triggered it. This matters on a highly reflective surface like the apple, but may not matter as much if you are taking a photo of subjects that are not shiny and reflective. I also didn’t particularly care for the straight line of light cast by the flash in the foreground. Another flash exposure aimed at the counter in the foreground with the flash set at low power would have probably eased that harsh line.

After importing the images into Adobe Lightroom, I had to boost the black levels a bit to hide the background completely and fiddle a little with the exposure and contrast, not much was done.

The technique is a very intriguing one, but requires a fair bit of patience. While my image might not be great, it is sufficient to see that the technique has some merit and is worth some additional experimentation.