Tag Archives: Light


30 May
Beavertail Lighthouse - RI

Beavertail Lighthouse – RI

Let me start by saying, I’m not a “water” person.  I’m definitely an “I like my feet to be on solid ground, where sharks and alligators can’t eat me” kind of person.  I am also an “I almost had a panic attack while kayaking the other day” when my friend pointed out a snapping turtle in the water near us.

That being said, as much as I love being dry, I am drawn to be close to the water. It’s a powerful, beautiful force of nature and it makes a great addition to most photos.
Being at Niagara this weekend reminded me of how incredible, impressive and intense water can be.  There is a spot on the American side (in the Cave of the Winds) where you can stand under just a sliver of the Bridal Veil Falls.  The water slams into your skin, and the wind from the falls pushes you around on the deck – it is an experience that always takes my breath away.

As I walked away from the Bridal Veil this weekend, I turned to my friend and explained my feelings about water.  I don’t love the idea of being in it, but boy do I respect it.  And I love, love, love to photograph it in its various forms.  In fact, in the next few blog posts, you will definitely see some photos from the weekend.  But first…!

Today’s photo is one I’ve been sitting on for a few weeks.  It wasn’t what I envisioned when I drove to the coast in Rhode Island to take photos.  I have hopes of a colorful sunset on the horizon, rock formations in the foreground, leading lines, and somewhere in there, a lighthouse.  What I got was fog.  And some crazy powerful waves.  And lots of wind.  And raindrops on my camera lens.  And dangerous footing.  And about an hour of reflection – when nature acts up, it reminds me that we are just small (but mighty!) creatures in a gigantic (amazing, beautiful, wonderful!) world.

As I’ve had time away from the photo, it’s grown on me.  It is a pano, with only the rocks processed for HDR.  This was taken around 8:45pm, so obviously long exposure was used.  Also, as us photographers all know, the details make the shot.  It took me a few versions of this image before I realized I was missing the light from the lighthouse.  With it being socked in, I was hard to make out exactly what it was without the light so I had to begin counting the seconds per rotation.  Seven seconds per revolution, two second timer to allow the vibrations from my finger to dissipate.  So I set my focus, and began counting…at five seconds, I’d press the shutter and hope for the best. =)

Long Exposures

21 May

Let me hit you with some knowledge.

Long exposure is another way of saying “keeping the shutter open for a long time”. This can be done for a few reasons – to compensate for low available light, as one of a many exposures for bracketing, or to capture the idea of motion on film…errr….sensor. Let’s look at all of these briefly, shall we?

Most DSLR cameras give us the ability to control how much light hits the camera’s sensor. We can do this by adjusting the aperture (size of the opening through which the light travels), or time value/length of exposure (the length of time the aforementioned opening stays open). The aperture size and length of time the shutter remains open will help determine the overall exposure of the image captured.

For example, this image was taken with an f/1.8, 50mm lens. The only available light was a street lamp on the other side of the road, diagonally across from the old abandoned gas station. Although this image was shot in RAW, I did not make any adjustments to the exposure while editing. The only thing I’ve done to this image is sharpen and reduce the vibrance in LR, as the original had a strong yellow cast from the lamp light. Despite being taken right around 9pm at night and being shot at 100 ISO, the wide open aperture and long exposure gave me plenty of data in the final image.  (See the final edit of this photo here.)

Settings: f/1.8, 8 seconds

Settings: f/1.8, 8 seconds

The next scenario in which you might need a long exposure is when bracketing, something generally done when shooting for HDR. The short version – HDR is a high dynamic range image that is the product of several exposures of the same scene run through an algorithm that pulls the best data out of each and creates a composite final image. (Phew! Mouthful! And confusing. You can read more about that here.)

Lost in the Woods

Lost in the Woods

The above photo is an example of an HDR image.  When I bracket exposures for an eventual HDR image, I use the same aperture, focal length, focus, etc for the entire series of exposures. The variable was the time length.

The smaller time value lets in less light to under-expose the scene, there will always be one standard exposure and at least one longer time value to over-expose the image.

Standard Exposure - f/22, 6 seconds

Standard Exposure – f/22, 6 seconds

Over-exposed - f/22, 30 seconds

Over-exposed – f/22, 30 seconds

(The above two images were shot on a tripod to keep the camera stable and the images lined up while the shutter was open.)

The final scenario – one with infinite creative possibilities – is using a camera to capture the idea of motion, generally done by following the motion of an object within the frame. For example, the water in above photos is soft, because it moved while the shutter was open.

Main Street Diner

Main Street Diner

In this photo, the cars long since passed through the scene, but camera captured the trail of the tail lights as they moved through the frame. It was created by putting the image on a tripod, locking my focus and (using a timer to allow the camera vibrations to dissipate) opening the shutter for a long exposure.

Every camera is a little different, so you may have to look through your manual to learn how to adjust your time values. For Canon DSLR users, setting your camera to “TV” (time value) lets you set the time (and the camera will automatically compensate the aperture for correct exposure). Setting your Canon DSLR camera to “AV” in low light (to control your depth of field and the degree of sharpness of the image) will generally end up with a long exposure as well.

For a Nikon DSLR, you adjust the time value by turning the dial to “S” (shutter priority). The aperture is adjusted by turning the dial to “A” (aperture priority).

If you are confident in the philosophy behind each setting, we recommend taking the next step – shot in manual where you can control both! Eventually, you will find the ability to control both allows you to both fine tune your exposures and create more consistent images.

However you get to it, the key to this collaboration is to have a long exposure. Practicing this technique will also inherently teach you about the other settings within your camera, as aperture settings work in concert with time value, and adjusting one will affect the other.

These above examples are just a few of the many, many things you can accomplish with a long exposure image. Certainly, while Nick and I are happy to continue to give examples and inspiration, we are most excited about seeing you express yourselves creatively! We want to see what you do with this technique.

Show us what you can do, friends!

Break Down

13 Jan

Did you hear the second guitar riff?  The one buried in the back of the song, beneath the drums, lead guitar, vocals, mandolin, lap steel, banjo, oboe and didgeridoo?  Yes, conversations like this really do happen in my life…the musicians in my life are very passionate about their craft.

Did you feel the horse shift his weight from his front end to the hind legs when you reset the head and sit deeper in the saddle?  Can you feel his muscles relax as you ride through the serpentine?  Did you push him into the circle with the inside leg, while holding with the outside leg and supporting with your seat?  Yes, I have conversations like this with my barn-friends too.

It seems that with most things we are truly passionate about, we become interested in the smallest details, appreciating the little things that others may miss.  In part, I think this is because mastering the details is a step on the road to mastering a craft.  Photography, of course, is no exception.

As we’ve already discussed, one of the things that separate the photographer from the hobbyist is the work a photographer will put into getting an image just right.  “Good enough” is never good enough.  One of the driving forces behind that, I think, is passion.

Often, I find myself appreciating the minute details of other photographer’s work – the decisions they made on depth of field, exposure, etc  are both interesting and educational to me.  I remember watching one of Trey Ratcliff’s videos in which he talked about editing an image down to, in essence, the pixel.  Such intricacy and detail was a striking example of the work a photographer puts into getting an image right.  I have since carried that lesson with me, determined to apply it to my own photos.

This week, I took a drive to Portland, ME and stopped (of course) at the iconic Portland Head Light.  It is a highly photographed lighthouse, with limited options for POV because of safety fences (which of course I respected!).  As I looked through the camera, I kept thinking, “This angle’s been done.”  So, I determined that if I couldn’t come at the lighthouse in a way that was fresh, I would at least make my version – which ended up being a composite of both two exposures and a pano series – accurate to my vision, down to the smallest detail.

Portland Head Light

Portland Head Light

Turns out, that meant three days of editing.  At times, that also meant editing to the pixel.  I must have re-blended the exposure layers 15 times until I have happy with the masking gradients.  In the end, however, I think it was worth it.  It may not be revolutionary, but dang it, it’s solid! =)

Item of the week (because it’s nice to think about being warm!):  http://www.zazzle.com/cozumel_postcard-239914153140274747