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06-21-2011, 05:47 AM - 1 Like   #1
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Long Exposure Technique

I was wondering if anyone could give me some advice about long exposures. In a few days I'm heading to Labrang Monastery in the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, China. It's a pretty cool place, but I'm not going there to photograph the monks or the architecture so much as to capture the pilgrims.

Here's what I mean: Circling Labrang are two inner and outer "koras," or pilgrim paths. Many Tibetan pilgrims come here to walk the koras, sometimes repeatedly prostrating themselves as they do. This is what I want to take pictures of - ideally, introducing the dimension of time into the photograph.

So, once I choose a spot with good geometry and enough human traffic, is it better to take one long exposure or multiple exposures on one frame? I've seen Alexey Titarenko's St. Petersburg work and that's definitely an inspiration:

ALEXEY TITARENKO | PHOTOGRAPHY

What do you think he's doing here? The mass of people looks a bit "chunky" and I thought that might be the result of multiple, somewhat long exposures. If it was one very long exposure, wouldn't the movement look smoother? I don't know.

I'll be tripod-mounted, obviously. I'm shooting Acros @ 80, and the darkest filter I have is yellow-orange at two stops. I don't have any ND filters, but I could get some in a pinch. Oh, and Acros doesn't require any reciprocity compensation for up to 120 seconds.

I don't own a digital camera so I can't practice long exposure techniques that way. If anyone understands what I mean and can give some advice, it would be greatly appreciated...

06-21-2011, 06:52 AM   #2
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Alexey's photographs are impressive and intriguing, thanks for providing the link!

As he shoots film, unless he has a camera that allows rapid double & more exposures (i.e. a manually cocked shutter) it doesn't look like these are multiples. (However, as I have several manually cocked shutters, this gives me ideas ) Like shooting waves, often there are areas of relative stillness, or of repeated occupation, like the banisters. On stairs also people tend to move in a synchronized manner so the mass ends up with built up areas.

Do you have a polarizer? You can add that to the yellow-orange for an additional 2 stops.


On looking at his pictures at greater length, I think he is using long exposures, but not necessarily much beyond 1 sec, most of the time. In my experience, even 1/4 sec is enough to 'break up' a pedestrian, i.e. the moving bits barely register and anything momentarily still registers.

You might take a look here for some ideas:
http://www.flickr.com/groups/slow/

Last edited by Nesster; 06-21-2011 at 07:20 AM.
06-21-2011, 07:26 AM   #3
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That's a great photo. From looking at it, I think you're thinking in the right direction, multiple long exposures.
06-21-2011, 07:32 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nesster Quote
On stairs also people tend to move in a synchronized manner so the mass ends up with built up areas.
This makes sense... more density on the stair (where people pause) and less in between. I'll have to think about this some more. I have a polarizer, but I've never stacked filters on these lenses before. I'm afraid I'll come back with filter rings in the four corners of the frame.

Thanks, and by the way, Titarenko used a Hasselblad 500 C/M: The ASC: Street-Wise: The Photography of Garry Winogrand and Alexey Titarenko John Bailey's Bailiwick

06-21-2011, 07:55 AM   #5
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I don't think that exposure from Alexey Titarenko is that long - the people in the background are reasonably sharp. This looks to me like people have been queueing for something and the doors have opened.

As for your monks, it sounds fascinating - do post what you come back with. If they stay sill for fairly long periods I guess you're looking at a really long exposure, and perhaps buying lots of ND filters you might not need again.

Instead you might want to try image averaging. Basically you take lots of normal exposures and blend them in PS. This might render the pilgrims a bit too sharp unless you can get away with, say, 1/15th or so.

It's a really easy technique - I've only used it to reduce noise in high ISO shots, but it creates blur too. This article is very useful. Noise Reduction By Image Averaging

EDIT - just read the last line - you don't have a digital camera. Sorry! Will leave this post as it may be useful to others.

I reckon if you can get down to 1/4 sec you'll get some nice results.

Last edited by Northern Soul; 06-21-2011 at 08:23 AM.
06-25-2011, 11:43 AM   #6
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I agree with nesster. Looks like a long enough exposure to allow some blurring, but not long enough to render them a "mist", as a much longer exposure would. In the stairway image from the top of the stairs it looks like the motion of the people was quite variable.

For your purposes I would suggest trying out as many shutter speeds as possible. Maybe some multiple exposures too. Might as well try both filters too, even if it means vignetting. You can always crop them out.
06-25-2011, 12:20 PM - 1 Like   #7
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To get an idea of blur and shutter for walking speed, this is 1/4 of a second




And this is 45 seconds. No people at all. And there were a lot of them walking by the fountain and up the stairs during the shot.



06-25-2011, 12:43 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote


To get an idea of blur and shutter for walking speed, this is 1/4 of a second




And this is 45 seconds. No people at all. And there were a lot of them walking by the fountain and up the stairs during the shot.



I remember the second shot and am glad that you shared it here! Give it enough time and people simply disappear!

This same issue often comes up regarding moving water. The optimum shutter speed is hard to pin down, but if done successfully, the results can be striking.


Steve

06-28-2011, 03:18 PM   #9
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1/4seg you can easily make beautiful photo after ... in very long exposure is more difficult
06-28-2011, 09:04 PM   #10
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How I might approach this -- film or digital, doesn't matter:

Use a tripod with a mounting rail. The lens needs a hood, preferably rubber, maybe trimmed with black velvet. If they're still made, obtain a variable-speed electric motor assembly, the kind that turns a disc with colored gels in front of a spotlight. These used to be popular with XMas tree displays. Blacken the colored gels and leave a clear one, occupying some fraction of the disk. Mount the motor in the tripod rail just ahead of the camera. The turning disk should closely brush against the velvet-trimmed hood, to form as good a light seal as possible.

That is the working rig. Now, load slow film, or set the lowest ISO, and use ND or IR or other dark filters. Set up the rig; focus, etc. Start the motor. Open the shutter. Wait awhile. Close the shutter. Inspect the results. When the clear gel is in front of the lens, the exposure is long enough for blurred motion. When the greater blackened areas are in front of the lens, people continue moving. Next time the clear gel is up, everybody is somewhere else, still moving.

Thus you get the chunky blurs seen in Alexey's photos. Vary the blur and chunkiness by changing the motor speed on different shots. It's a pretty simple mechanical gimmick.
06-28-2011, 09:24 PM - 1 Like   #11
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In dull light you need nothing more than f/22 & ISO100 to get slow enough shutter speeds to blur motion (the one below was ~1/20 from memory).




With an ND 6 stop and strong daylight I can get down to ~1sec exposures. This shutter speed lets you capture a lot of motion, but more importantly still have some static people in the scene.




Once you get over 2 seconds, then you have little chance of capturing static people and they all becomes ghosted. My ND 10 stop for instance can get me down to 20 seconds in bright daylight at which point individual people are barely even ghosted (although a crowd would be visible), but you are able to capture other interesting effects.




So depending on what you want to capture depends on what you should buy.
07-10-2011, 01:21 PM   #12
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Amazing techniques and tips. Long exposure is something I have yet to try in film. What kind of ND filter should I use for strong daylight, like middle of the day.
07-10-2011, 06:16 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by ColdEye Quote
Amazing techniques and tips. Long exposure is something I have yet to try in film. What kind of ND filter should I use for strong daylight, like middle of the day.
What shutter speed do you want to achieve? That will tell you which ND to buy. No point buying a 10 stop if you need 1/2 sec, and no point buying a 4 stop if you need 15 seconds.
07-10-2011, 06:19 PM   #14
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I'd say 1/15th, and the longest would be 1 second. i usually use iso 400 film. :P
07-10-2011, 06:30 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by ColdEye Quote
I'd say 1/15th, and the longest would be 1 second. i usually use iso 400 film. :P
Probably ~5 or 6 stop then, we're talking strong daylight though.
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