Saturday, February 21, 2009

Long exposure images.

I’d like to re-visit a subject that I have only wrote about once before, and only briefly.

The whole idea of long exposure photography intrigues me, and I do love to practice it as often as time and weather allow. I have always enjoyed using introduced light as a brush while allowing time to develop the rest of the image. I use torches (flashlights) most of the time as a great slow burning light introduction tool, but flashes are fun to use also.

One of the problems that I often run into is light spillage, or light contamination. While I am careful to only illuminate the subject matter that I wish to paint with light, it often spills around the edges of objects, or some of the light reflects into the foreground or the background of a long exposed image.

I have tried many methods of controlling the spill of light, starting with the experimenting of many different types of torches. I settled with incandescent bulb types, those with bulbs instead of L.E.D. lights, for their quality and temperature of light. I fell in love with torches that have a focusing beam. Perfect for this exact use are the “Mag lights”, of varying sizes. These are reliable and the beam can be adjusted from wide coverage to a small spot.

However, the problem of unwanted light spillage still remained in my images. I tried to use my hands to shield the light into a certain area, but it proved way too hard. I have tried all sorts of tubes, as snoots, but it only made the effect of spillage smaller, and did not get rid of it all together.

The solution? Well, as I was making my grids and snooted grids for my flash heads, I gave making one for a torch a shot. I wrapped a round-cut grid (of black colorplast) with black foam paper, and then wrapped that in black scotch tape. This was easy enough, and it only took about an hour to put together. It isn’t pretty, but it works unbelievably well!

The images below show the beams' spill over of light, before and after. I was amazed at just how much light spilled over even at its’ sharpest focused spot, and that was at a very close distance. The spillage only gets worse as the distance to the subject increases. Once I slipped the "form fitting" gridded snoot onto the end, the spillage was completely gone!

Why the re-visit of long exposure (or bulb) photography? Well, as fate has it, I am lucky enough to be going to Arizona for the first time. The misson for the trip is to meet my real father, also for the first time. We are both very excited to say the least. Second, I plan on spending many nights out in the desert taking long exposures. If I could only figure out what equipment to leave behind.... I can see myself explaining to the air marshals, exactly what this thing in my luggage is!

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