Monday, August 8, 2011

How to make Beautiful Timed Exposures

The Wonders of Timed Exposures
"Taking pictures at night without flash"

"The Cima Club" Downtown Las Colinas Copyright 2011 Jonathan Guzman

Here's a list of things you will need:

Tripod-Sturdy, Aluminum. Able to withstand a windy day. I use a Bogen Manfrotto 3021 Series
Lightmeter- must be able to meter incident light  (The Sekonic Flashmaster or Gossen Luna Pro are a favorite among photographers, although I find the Sekonic easier to use. 
Camera and Lens- Single Lens Reflex, Twin Reflex, DSLR, or Rangefinder. Must have manual focus capabilities, bulb setting or shutter delay capabilities up to at least 30 seconds.
Shutter Release Cable- Optional but highly recommended, especially for cameras that do not use vibration reduction for Image Stabilization features (such as film).

What to do-
1.Set your ISO to where you will have the finest grain possible. (For film users, find a film with low ISO). Preferably 100 to 200 ISO would be recommended.
2.Place the camera on the tripod securely. Connect the shutter release cable if you have one for your camera. For film users, this is a must.
3.Meter the incident light that is coming from the subject. You do this by pointing the light meter towards your subject, with the head facing your subject. Incident right refers to light coming from a specific direction, ambient light is light coming from all directions. There are normally two different light meter heads on the light meter to measure each one.
4. Plug or dial in the light information into your camera. (Example: the light meter says to shoot at 2.8 for 30 seconds. Therefore, my lens aperture will be 2.8 and I will keep the shutter open for 30 seconds either with the bulb setting or shutter delay.
5. Focus in your subject. If your subject is a landscape, just set the lens manually to the figure 8 symbol on your camera. If it is up close, you will have to manually focus it in the dark, preferably with the help of an assistant to flash a light source on it, so that it will be in focus. Auto focus will not work properly and has a high failure rate in this kind of photography.
6. Snap a picture, then wait, then release the shutter release cable (if applicable).

The end results will look like the pictures below:
Texas State Fair Ride. 2011 Jonathan Guzman
Downtown Fort Worth. 2011 Jonathan Guzman

Who said there weren't any cowboys in Texas? Normally I don't use this photo as an example, but here we have an example of a one second exposure with the flash firing. Notice that all the background colors are there, as well as the "ghost" of movement in the image. Its always good to show the exception to the rule.

Following these guidelines and making them your own will result in more beautiful and interesting pictures at night or in low light settings. Please feel free to comment your questions and I will be glad to answer them.

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