Photo: Long Exposure in Windy Conditions

Do you find yourself packing it in when conditions aren't optimal? Or do you see difficult conditions as a personal challenge?

After shooting the sunset at Logan Pass in Glacier National Park, I took one last shot. The light was fading fast and it was awfully windy - but those conditions would work in my favor if I could create the image I wanted.

So, I set up my tripod low to the ground, framing my shot so that I was really close to the pretty purple and yellow flowers that dotted the hillside. I guessed that I needed about fifteen seconds to get the effect I wanted, so I chose my camera settings accordingly... f/11, 15 seconds, ISO 100). I made sure my ND Grad filter was adjusted appropriately to help even out the exposure. And then I stood back and waited while my shutter was open.

The fading light meant I needed that long shutter speed - and the high winds ensured that a long shutter speed would blur anything that moved while the shutter was open. Fifteen seconds was just right to blur the colorful flowers, and get a bit of motion in the clouds. My concern was that I'd end up with too much blur... and I wanted to be sure that you can tell those are flower in the foreground. My shutter speed selection ended up being just right. Just enough blur to produce an interesting effect - and not so much that you can't tell they are flowers. To me, the scene feels like something out of a story book.

I always enjoy playing with the conditions I have at hand. Rather than seeing the wind as an obstacle - or the fading light as a problem - why not take those conditions and turn them into tools... something you can use to create a better photograph? Rise to the challenge!
Photo: Singin' the Blues

Field Techniques: Creating a soothing image with filters and field work.

This shot required very little special post-processing... just setting the correct color balance, and a bit of subtle mid-tone contrast. The real work of creating this particular image happened in the field... well... on the beach, actually. :)

This is a mid-day shot - I took it around 2 pm. Deep blue storm clouds were moving in. The water at Bahia Honda in the Florida Keys is this incredible turquoise or emerald color (depending upon light conditions and how rough the water is) and the sand is smooth and white. I wanted something different for this image. +Jay Patel and I were playing around with our cameras... and this is the result.

There were a couple of problems with this scene as I stood there. First, the waves weren't big enough to blur out easily... but they were too small to look good frozen in time. No matter what I did with my camera settings, I wasn't getting a very interesting image. Second, there were strands of dark seaweed floating in the water. They created distracting streaks in the water, and left my test shots feeling pretty unappealing.

The solution to both problems? A whole lot of Neutral Density Filter. I used my own filter, and also borrowed Jay's. The filters significantly reduced the amount of light entering the lens - by about ten stops in all. So, in order to get a correct exposure, I had to use a long shutter speed. 10 seconds at f/11 produced exactly the effect I wanted. The waves were completely smoothed out, so that the water seems calm and almost surreal. And all that floating seaweed? Well, it moved around so much with each wave that it blurred itself into oblivion! I didn't have to clone out a single strand.

Even the clouds are softer - because they shifted during the long exposure. The rock in the foreground provides a clear point of interest, and since it is in clear focus, the scene doesn't feel too blurred. Sometimes it's helpful to have a sharp foreground object when you blur an image like this - it helps to anchor the scene.

So - what do you think? Was the technique successful? Does the image work for you?

Have you ever used a Neutral Density Filter? Or a long shutter speed to produce an effect like this? If not - maybe you should try it! It's kinda fun! :)
Photo: Ten Seconds To Takedown

Some of you have asked to see the photo of the wave that took me out on our Iceland trip, so I went ahead an processed it for you. It's not one of my favorites from the trip... but half a minute later I was blacking out on the beach... so, I guess I'll keep the photo as a reminder of the power of nature.

See that big wave coming in out there? That's the wave that would take me out ten seconds later. At this point, I still thought I was ok. I was ready to back off if I needed to - but I didn't feel threatened. You can see that there is a bit of water at my feet - but not enough to worry me. I assumed that the pull of one wave retreating would substantially reduce the power of the incoming wave... as had been happening all morning.

Unfortunately, that's not what happened. The water at my feet didn't pull back - you can see that it is shifting to my left. The next wave came in, climbed past me up the beach, and I pulled back to get out of the water. I realized I couldn't move fast enough, so I braced myself to avoid being dragged under. No problem. The waves gently picked up all those pretty pieces of ice, and they floated past me. And then, the waves reached their peak - and in a rush, they returned to the sea. All those giant ice cubes shifted direction and came straight for me. An incredible impact to my right knee took me down. The tripod and camera underwater - along with my f-stop bag, and the iphone in my pocket. I was hit by at least four icebergs... but I only remember that first one.

Anyway - it was a rough morning. For the whole story, you can check out the post on my blog. Some of you have already read it. :)
Photo: ... and here's the photo from the takedown itself. I can't remember hitting the shutter release.

The photo I took ten seconds earlier... just in case I'm confusing you because you didn't see the last one.

Kinda pretty isn't it? :)
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