Slowing Time

Pell Bridge, Newport, RI
Pell Bridge, Newport, RI

If only we can slow down time, we’d live a thousand years! Well, we might not be able to (outside of medical advances) but we can slow down time in the camera.

Whether you want to soften a waterfall instead of freezing the action or see streaks of car lights, it’s all about shutter speed. If your camera has “S” or Shutter Priority, this is where you can control how long the shutter remains open.

The longer it stays open, the more light it allows into the camera. When the light is moving, then you get what are called light trails. In the image provided, I waited until the sun set so that it was dark enough to allow more light into my camera without blowing it out.

Think of your shutter speed like a pail of water. If you let too much water in it, what happens? It spills out. What if you do not let enough water in the bucket? It doesn’t quiet fill up, does it? The same goes for the camera. Too much or too little of something is not a good thing.

An important key to note with slow shutter photography is to have the camera stable. Since the shutter is slow, the camera will shake if not steady. If you have a tripod, use it. If not, ensure it sits on a table, beanbag or some other support where it will not shake. Even with tripods, the camera can shake if it is windy. To help this, stabilize the tripod with some weight.

For the image I shot, I used “Shutter Priority” and set the f/stop as closed as possible. On this particular lens, it was f/22 (often the smallest aperture for manual lenses). With the light metering off the clouds, it gave me a shutter reading of 2 seconds. I know that 2 seconds is not enough time to get car lights streaking. I needed at least 10 or more seconds.

To resolve the issue, I needed to darken my lens to let in even less light over a longer period of time. I put on my dark polarizing filter which dropped it 2 stops and I decreased the compensation by 5 stops. This allowed me to shoot with a shutter speed of 15 seconds thus rendering a nice blur from both headlights and tail lights of cars going over the bridge. Of course, I waited until the scene presented itself properly.

The wind was very strong so to stead my tripod, I hung my backpack from the center column and placed my vehicle in front of the tripod which helped resist enough of the wind’s effect to help stop the vibration on this very windy and cold January day.

To see this and more of my photos, please visit Images by Duskin.

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Published in: on January 7, 2009 at 12:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

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