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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Taking It Slow


Water Done Softly • Time-Lapse Drama • Getting More MMs • Traveling With The Big Glass

Labels: How-ToColumnTech Tips
This Article Features Photo Zoom

George Lepp gave this coastal landscape a misty, dreamy look by using a neutral-density filter to slow the exposure in bright conditions. Montaña de Oro State Park, California.
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II, 30 seconds at ƒ/16, ISO 50

Water Done Softly

Q We'll be photographing along the West coast, and I'd like to get that misty look where the waves are moving in and out. I have a polarizing filter, but I don't think that's going to give me a long enough shutter speed. Any ideas on how to slow everything down during the day?
G. Temple
Via email


A There are so many options when it comes to portraying the subject of moving water. And it's one of my favorite subjects! The creative choices range from stop-action, tack-sharp drops of spray, to flowing water, to extreme renditions that turn a crystal-clear, raging stream into ghost-like streaks between banks of verdant green foliage or crashing waves into a gentle fog. These effects are, for the most part, dependent on the length of the exposure: the shorter, the sharper; the longer, the softer.

The starting point for longer exposures is the lowest ISO and the smallest ƒ-stop (ƒ/22). These two factors combine to reduce the amount of light that's recorded by the sensor. To compensate, the exposure must be lengthened to allow sufficient information to be captured. Unfortunately, on a bright day, the lowest ISO (50-100) and the smallest ƒ-stop (ƒ/22) won't suffice to allow a dramatic long-exposure effect because, even after 1⁄10 second, the image may be overexposed. A polarizing filter might darken things down enough to gain us another two ƒ-stops, or an exposure of about 1⁄4 second, which is fine for suggesting movement in streams and waterfalls, but won't give the misty or fog-like effect along the ocean.

What we're looking for is a 10- to 30-second exposure, and to achieve this, you'll need an extreme neutral-density filter. I often use the Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter (www.singh-ray.com), which can be adjusted to provide from two to eight stops of neutral density. Singh-Ray also offers a five-stop neutral-density filter (the Mor-Slo) and a new 10-stop neutral-density filter (the 10-Stop Mor-Slo), both of which can be used alone or in combination with the Vari-ND. At this point, your viewfinder will be so dark that you won't be able to see through it, so you need to compose your image before you place the filters for capture. Check the results on the camera's LCD, a huge advantage of the digital age!

Time-Lapse Drama

Q Lately, I've noticed that time-lapse movies have all kinds of moves and pans instead of just staying stationary on a subject. How is this being done, and how difficult would it be to add some new moves to my own time-lapses?
J. Crenshaw
Via email


A I'm incorporating more motion into my time-lapse movies in two ways. One involves equipment, and one is a software solution.

In the equipment department, the most popular are motorized time-lapse rails in the 4- to 6-foot lengths (see "Moving Your Moving Pictures" in the July 2013 issue of OP or at outdoorphotographer.com). There are many available from motion-picture equipment sources. The camera attaches to a head on the rail and is moved along the span by a belt. A computerized system fires the camera, moves it to a new position, then fires again. Depending upon your settings, it can take many hours to transverse the length of the rail. The rail can be positioned either vertically or horizontally and the camera can move up, down, left or right. This adds an element of movement into your time-lapse and slightly changes the perspective during the capture.

A recent addition to time-lapse equipment options is the motorized revolving panoramic head. The camera rotates around a central point, moving in very slight increments over a period of time. The unit I'm using is called a Radian (www.alpinelaboratories.com). I control it with my iPhone, but it works with Androids also. With the smartphone app, the photographer selects the angle and direction of rotation, the total duration and the elapsed time between movements. The unit can be used to capture horizontal panoramas or, with an L bracket, vertical panoramas. You can see an example of a 180º time-lapse panorama I recently captured using a fisheye lens at Smith Rocks State Park at www.vimeo.com/67527488.

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