Today’s Photo of the Week popped back up on my radar recently as it’s being printed on perspex to be hung in an office in Glasgow.
It might not be obvious at first glance that this was shot at about 11pm on a clear moonlit night but if you look at the blurred blades on the wind turbines and the EXIF data the clues are there. The only post production here is a little noise reduction.
You can see this was shot at a 30 seconds – the longest exposure without going into Bulb mode. ISO and aperture were set to made a good exposure at that time after a few practise shots.
This is one of those histograms that don’t fit the mould. The data is bunched at the left side but that’s what you’d expect from a moonlit image – it’s naturally going to be dark and low contrast.
Gear wise, this needed nothing more than a tripod. I didn’t even have my shutter release with me so I just used the cameras self timer.
This image was taken a few years ago as a Get Off My Ass mission – I’d not been out with my camera for a while and decided that tonight would be the night. I don’t recall what gave me the idea but I decided on shooting some light trails and fired up Google Maps to find a suitable location.
This bridge is just north of the M4/M5 interchange outside Bristol. I like this location for the curve of the road leading towards the RAC tower and the light pollution from the city giving the sky some interest. I took a batch of images, a couple to get the right exposure for the sky and the rest at 15 seconds to capture the light trails. You get surprisingly few cars in 15 seconds leaving sparse trails so 4 frames were layered in Photoshop (using the Lighten blend mode) to give better density.
Overall I am pleased with the image but looking back at it now I can’t help but see one thing: The blue mile marker sign on the left hand side! How did I not see that glowing reflective blue square when I first edited it??
Time for another Photo of the Week. This time an Aston Martin taken during the public grid walk before the Britcar 24 hour endurance race at Silverstone. I’ve published images with this ghostly crowd effect before but they are generally created from multiple exposures aligned in Photoshop and layered with stack modes.
It would have been much easier to use that technique on this day as the sun was bright and the car was wrapped in reflective silver vinyl but as I had my tripod and ND filters with me I decided to do it “properly”.
Even with my ND filter in place (I think it was a 6 stop filter) I had to drop my ISO to 50 and stop down to f/20 to get around a 3 second exposure. A nice side effect of being at such a small aperture is the starbursts on the cars highlights.
Ideally I’d have liked a little more blur in the people, but under the bright conditions, with the gear I had, 3.2 seconds was as slow as I could go.
What really lifts the image for me is the fellow photographer lunging in from camera right for a quick shot.
The word photography comes form the Latin ‘photo’ and ‘graphico’ and translates literally to “writing with light”. I took that literally this weekend and did some light painting. It was a full moon on a clear, frosty night and I happened to be staying in Wales, just a few miles from a small wind farm so the opportunity was too good to pass up.
Light painting is a simple idea and it doesn’t take much trial and error before you start getting good results. You will need your camera locked down for this as you are taking long exposure shots – in this case 30 seconds. A tripod is best but a bean bag on a car roof/gate post/sleeping cow would suffice.
Use your camera’s built-in meter and juggle your aperture and shutter speed until you get a good exposure. By “good” I don’t mean zeroed out on the scale in your viewfinder however. We are shooting at night here so obviously the shot is going to be dark and we will be painting in some extra light in the foreground so we need to stop the camera trying to make everything look like a mid grey. Minus 2 stops should be about right, but take full advantage of shooting digital and fire off a few test shots. You can shoot in Aperture Priority mode for this and use the +/- EV control or you can go Manual for more control or if you need an exposure longer than 30 seconds.
Once you are happy with the overall exposure, you can start adding light. This is where the trial and error comes in as this is no exact science and there’s no TTL – you are simply shining a torch on your subject. Obviously the bigger the subject and the further away it is, the more powerful torch, or longer exposure you’ll need.
For this example I was about 30m away from the wind turbine using a small, yet powerful and tightly focused LED torch.
About 5 seconds tracing the beam up and down the tower with the remaining 25 seconds spent highlighting the rotating blades seemed to yield the best results. As you can see from the image on the right, there is quite a marked difference when adding the light to the image.
Once I had this dialled in, I shifted my composition, gave things a little tweak in Lightroom and came up with the result below.