Do you love using ND filters for long exposures? Do you have trouble calculating exposure times for scenes with ND filters? Here’s one trick I’d like to share that relies on your camera’s live view exposure simulation which can be used in conjunction or possibly even instead of an external app. These are some groundwork rules to know before using this technique:
- Every doubling of ISO results in the sensor being more sensitive to one more ‘stop of light’.
- Every doubling of shutter speed results in one more ‘stop of light’ let through to the sensor
- (Every multiplication of 1.4 of aperture results in one ‘less stop light’ being let through to the sensor)
- All of the above , in default DSLR settings, are three ‘clicks’ of a dial.
- Long exposures tend to lead to noise , so try to shoot with low iso (iso100 would be ideal)
With these rules in mind, this is how I do a quick shutter speed calculation in the field.
- Compose your scene without the ND filter on and pay particular attention to using the desired aperture in your final shot to keep things as simple as possible.
- Place your ND filter on.
- Turn on live view (if you haven’t already) and set the shutter speed to 30 seconds.
- Bump the iso up until you have the correct exposure on live view
- Calculate your exposure time needed for correct exposure at low iso. For example, if iso200 was the correct exposure at 30 seconds, then a 1 minute exposure will be needed at iso100. If iso800 was the correct exposure at 30 seconds, then a 4 minute exposure will be required at iso100. If iso 6400 was the correct exposure at 30 seconds, then a 32 minute exposure would be required (but I think at this level of darkness, the camera’s live view simulation would start to KO itself!)
- Take the shot .
- If you are shooting at dawn, you might need to factor in changing light during your exposure. I would shoot slightly SHORTER than the calculated exposure
- If you are shooting after dusk, you will need to factor in loss of light and I would shoot slightly LONGER than the calculated exposure
See the video below for an example of how quick this can work for you in the field, and the final image :
The month started off with an appropriately foolish status update on facebook. I stated that I was quitting my day job as a doctor and transitioning to the world of instagram fame . Many people reading that thread believed I was stating the truth and were giving me heart warming support! I took it well and truly as a compliment that people felt that Marianne and I could pull it off as full time ‘everlook photography’ but in reality, we both enjoy the stability of our regular jobs.
I had started this year with an intent to create a few field videos mixed in with a description of the shooting rationale while browsing lightroom and to finish off with an in depth description of post processing steps in photoshop. Four months in to the year and I still have the raw footage left unused due to a lack of motivation and a stronger desire to look after my own needs. At times, a personal need can be to look after the needs of others, but a busy schedule at work meant that I was doing enough of that during the day. After hours, has been left more as ‘me time’ as a result. Hopefully, the creative educational juices will get up and running again some time soon though. Stay tuned, but we may have some discount codes for Nisi filters available to bundle with educational content.
Shooting opportunities were good at the start of this month. An overnight solo trip to shoot the stars and dawn and Lake Bonney was very fulfilling and this was followed up by a four day family trip to Kangaroo Island where we based ourselves at Vivonne Bay. During this road trip, we managed to shoot some of the local icons ‘properly’ to make up for previous attempts which were not so successful in 2007 and 20012. Hopefully, we will be able to explore more of the island, particularly its east coast and north coast in future trips. These are some of the highlights.
On the editorial front, we managed to snag a cover for Australian Photography Magazine’s May cover as well as a full page image in Australian Geographic. Fingers crossed for some articles in Australian Photography later this year!
The rest of the month was spent sorting and editing images from these trips. Lately, with increasing instagram engagement and requests for prints from various sources, I have been much more careful with editing. In the past, my emphasis on editing was to rapidly have images to show on social media to keep ‘momentum’ going (whatever that means in the social media world). This would often mean editing on the fly on laptop screens or perhaps not so careful editing whereby and requests for print would result in a complete redo of the image. These days, I’m preparing every image as though someone will request it for a large print. This takes more time up front but less time trying to recreate an image from scratch should the original file be imperfect.
By putting images up for viewing on social media, it does expose the images to all sorts of critique and the latest issue I’d like to briefly mention is the idea of ‘kitsch’ art . I’ll admit I had never heard the term kitsch before I saw it appear on one of our images on 500px. I was certain that it had negative connotations and in some definitions, the theme of ‘poor taste’ comes into play. In other definitions, it refers to taking the easy option in terms of depicting popular scenes in a popular style. Regarding the latter, I find it no insult whatsoever to consider our images ‘kitsch’ just as I have no issue with popular music or watching marvel cinematic universe movies. Excluding popular tastes from ones repertoire of enjoyment is an individual decision but I find that making an attempt to enjoy all forms of expression has far more potential for happiness than restricting one’s vision. I find I delete as many songs from a ‘popular’ playlist that I will never seek to listen to again as I do from an ‘indie’ playlist. Seek not to deride but to accept other’s presentations of joy and your life will be ever more the fuller
Amidst the landscape shooting, Marianne and I were also involved with her brother’s wedding. It was an opportunity for us to take some family photos of the kids in particular (and to remind us why we gave up doing formal wedding photography!)
Thanks as ever for looking and though May will be quiet in the field, it will be hectic with some writing assignments to finish off and preparing for our first stall appearance at a the Red Umbrella Market on May 29. See you there if you are in Adelaide maybe?
Adelaide goes crazy in March. Adelaide is a sunset city. Its coast faces west and experiences some amazing conditions , particularly when the weather turns stiflingly warm and muggy. This happened for an extended period at the start of March madness this year and rather than being dbreezied* at home, I headed out a couple of times make use of the ongoing late sunsets offered by a prolonged daylight saving period.
*dbreezied : a term invented by USA photographer David Thompson : adj. The feeling of having the wind taken out of your sails when amazing light occurs and you, as a photographer, are nowhere near a landscape shooting possibility. Possible uses : “OMG did you see that nuclear sunset, here is a #dbreezied shot taken from my backyard”
Since returning from my last trip to Tasmania, I had been waiting for my metabones to return from BH. I might add that the returns process to BH was 100% painless and administration free. During this period, I had not been doing any shooting but the beckoning light lured me back toward the perfectly functional 6D sitting in a drawer waiting for use. Those who follow us may have realised that I have been doing a lot of complaining about the sony A7r2 in the field and loving it in the post process portion of image creation. The chance to go ‘back’ to a canon body was a real acid test in terms of whether it would feel like ‘going home’ or whether in actual fact, the sony did have its good points. I have mixed feelings.
In the field, the reliability of not having to play around with the metabones was a definite bonus. I did however notice a few things I preferred about the sony in the field. First was the ability to change iso directly through a dial (one button less than the default canon settings). Second , was the ability to have easy access to timed bracketed shooting. I know I could probably do this with the canon with some setting up but it’s nice that sony included that option in their default shooting modes. Lastly, I definitely prefer the Hejnar L bracket set up which places the camera and lens in a similar position that a lens collar and footing would. This is particularly relevant for me since I shoot with a remote which can get in the way when setting up an L plate attached to the camera body for vertical images. In reality, shooting with sony in the field wasn’t as bad as I had made it out to be , particularly since I now have an almost 100% foolproof ‘fix it’ routine for metabones errors. My main anxiety in the Tasmania trip was that I would have no backup should the sony fail in the wilderness.
Strangely enough, going back to canon raised another issue with post processing images. Sure the sony has the clear edge on resolution and dynamic range over my 6D but colour optimisation is not its strong point (particularly in the red spectrum). I’m not 100% sure why, but they seem much easier to ‘extract’ from canon RAW files than playing around with white balance and tints on the sony files. It just seems that much harder (albeit definitely possible) to portray a real golden colour or intense reds working with the sony files.
On the filter front, I’ve now acquired a Nisi 15 stop filter to experiment with. So far the conditions have been unkindly grey since I received this dark and cool piece of glass so I’ll probably have to wait until an upcoming weekend away to Kangaroo Island before I can reliably report back on its utility. As ever, watch this space!
In other random thoughts , I’ve been wondering why landscape photographers seem to act in a self destructive manner? I can’t imagine anything good coming of the quarrels that exist (mainly to do with post processing but some even to do with ‘turf wars’.) It’s OK for people to have different opinions. It’s OK for people to debate. It’s not OK to assume that your opinion is somehow more valid than the next person’s even if that opinion is the oft quoted ‘do what you like’ stance. Like it or not, whatever we as individuals do has an impact on the collective group , be it a tiny ripple or a tidal wave. Food for thought
Next update after a 4 day quickie to Kangaroo Island, then it’s time to hunt for some autumn colours locally!