I have always had a fascination with capturing movement in photographs, but I have never quiet been able to achieve the results I have been looking for, this issue has been twofold as a) I was never quiet sure what camera settings to use and b) I have often struggled to get the image looking how I want them too.
As I learn more about photography, and read many magazines, web articles and books on ‘how too …’, I am beginning to understand how my camera works and what settings should be used under certain circumstances, to receive specific results.
Having recently been introduced to filters (thanks to a comment from my tutor back during the first DPP assignment), I have been dabbling with them increasingly; I had recently read an article in Digital Camera’s Black & White Photography Made Easy magazine, where is states that by using very dark filters during the day, enables you capture the movement of water without the pitfalls of over exposure due to the lengthy shutter speeds needed, during the time when light is at a premium.
During my recent trip to Norway, I had the opportunity to photograph a river that was full to capacity and raging down from the mountains into the village where I was staying. Therefore, heading down to the river, with my trusty tripod and a mixture of filters in hand, as I had decided to spend some time playing around with my equipment, just to see what images I could come up with.
I do not own any Lee Filters (but they are now on my Christmas list), but I do have a mixture of Cokin pieces that I decided to mix together, giving me the darkest filter I could muster, which in turn would allow me to really crank up the shutter speed. Setting my ISO to 100 and my Aperture to f22 to allow for depth within the image, I set out using a shutter speed of 15”.
Due to the use of the filter, and the length of the exposure, the colour image is quiet red and the colours very muted, which is why I decided to carry on with the black-and-white theme and convert this image to mono.
Probably not a perfect shot, there are sunspots on the river and there are some blown highlights in the foam of the water, but I really do like the image and I like the black-and-white version so much more than the coloured one. The conversion has made this a very arty image, which I have built upon in Photoshop, using the colour channel sliders and the levels application.
Now that the bug had set in, I decided to increase my shutter speed further and concentrating on a different view, I took the next shot in my ever-increasing arsenal.
This time, my shutter was open for 25”, which actually feels like a lifetime, especially when you are trying not to move too much to ensure no shake is present in the images.
As before, the original colour image has a strange hue about it, which actually looks like it was taken back in the 1970’s with a Polaroid camera or something similar, quiet funky! However, to be honest, when taking the photos I was thinking in monochrome, so I am not that worried at how the original image looks.
I have conducted a little cropping so that the rock formation in the bottom right of the frame is on the third and in the levels application I recovered the histogram and increased the blue and cyan colour channel sliders to make the shot look a little more moody and dramatic.
Here the water if far more fluid than before, to a point that it could even pass for smoke, which gives the image an eerie effect and a sense of it being mid-winter over late summer.
With the success of these two images, I then decided to try some a little different, still on the theme of movement, but instead of using water, I wanted to capture the movement of the clouds.
This next image was a little more tricky to achieve as I was standing on a busy street corner, so had traffic and people to contend with, but nevertheless I mustered on, as this could be one of the only opportunities during the trip to see if this would work.
Using the same filter combination as before, I tried a few shots on the same camera settings too, but the shutter speed was not quiet long enough to capture any movement. I therefore made a few changes to my ISO and Aperture and set the exposure to 30”, pressed the shutter release and waited for an age to see the results on my LCD screen.
Thankfully I can rely on Photoshop to play around with my images when converting them to black-and-white, as I would not have been able to use any of the colour photos taken under these circumstances as the dense filter being used has really muted the colours, giving them a strong, red hue.
Using a more refined group of settings, I have managed to capture the movement of the clouds, although they do look more like messy blobs in the sky and not the streaking accumulation I had been hoping for, but I have achieved my initial objective. However, I came across an issue that I can only put down to the length of the exposure used, as I had not seen it in any of the images taken at the slower shutter speed.
In the top left-hand corner of the frame, there is an accumulation of sunspots, which I know were not marks on the filters or lens as they were meticulously cleaned before my photo-shoot began. In addition, there is a white line, a third of the way into the frame on the left hand side, which again was not present during the slower shutter speeds used in my water shots.
I have been able to make some recovery in Photoshop, but I put this down to exposure length; due to the sensor being open for so long, capturing anything and everything in the image. Even though everything was cleaned and in order, the tiniest imperfections will be captured at such long exposure times, rendering an image unusable (unless of course you know how to rectify this this in post processing, which I do not!). I have managed to inject a little life into the photo, but it has made me more determined to play around with filters and long exposures during daylight, as now I know what I am doing, I want to get it right.
The last thing I wanted to try here was to capture trailing lights – something I have done a few times in the past, and something I really enjoy doing.
In Kongsberg, there is a pretty bridge, and when I saw it, I knew that I had to take a black-and-white photo at dusk in order to capture some movement. Luckily, there is not that much traffic around at night, so I thought it would be possible to capture some subtle images with one of the many churches as a feature in the background.
There was no need for filters, these images were taken at around 9:30PM local time, so the sun had set and the lights around town were beginning to come on. Although there were few cars on the road, I have been able to capture some interesting trails as well as a few ‘ghosts’ who were out on a pleasant evening stroll.
Again, it was my intention to use these as black and white images as I wanted them to look dramatic, and I knew I could inject some life into the sky and foliage in the frame, however, the colour image does look quiet good too.
I do like this kind of shot, as it always amazes me that you can see the lights, but not the cars that left the trails behind. I have also begun to realise that if people walk too fast through your exposure, you do not capture them at all, and they only leave behind ghosts of themselves, which you can see evidence of here.
This final image was taken on the opposite side of the road, and in order to make things a little more moody than before, I have decreased the shutter speed, which has darkened things making the shadows more prominent in the frame.
This shot definitely has a different feel to it than the others taken, as it could be a still from any horror film made in recent years.
This image have been manipulated more than the previous shot; the blue and cyan colour channel sliders have been really cranked up, and the yellow slider has been moved to further enhance the lights and light trails, which were being lost to the dark a little.
I really enjoyed these exercises, they are all areas I have wanted to explore for some time and although I might not have received the exact results I was looking for, it has given me a starting point for getting things right next time round.
Over the past couple of weeks I have been playing with monochrome more and am really enjoying some of the results I see, which I will share more over the coming days …
Clapp, D. (n.d.) Moody Landscapes [Photograph]. Black and White Photography Made Easy: A Photo Masterclass from the makers of Digital Camera Magazine. 2013 p.32