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Life After 30…(seconds)

Unless you have ventured out and purchased a remote for your shiny new SLR you probably don’t do much past 30 seconds.  Don’t get me wrong I have a fond place in my heart for the (30″/f3.5 @ ISO 400) it is a great for getting started.  But it is only my test exposure to see what kind of light I am working with.  I do this because light meters can lie to you in the dark.  It doesn’t understand long exposures.  I will fire off a 30″ at f3.5 even if I am sure that it is way too dark, Example “New Moon.”  I shoot a location first at (30″/f3.5-4)  that is a great way to see what the light does to the landscape “over time”.  There may be hidden pockets of light or reflective surfaces that wern’t viewable to the naked eye.  But there is other life over 30 seconds.

Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon

I am going to walk you through my approach to “BULB” mode photography, there are many writers out there that will speak very highly of themselves and their knowledge of long exposure photography but they will only have a couple simple examples of this work, but they almost never share it.  They will talk to you about rules and theory, this is without clear examples is only going to steer you down the wrong path.  For example if you were to read many articles and blog posts you would be led to believe that light behaves in the same way at night as it does during the day.  This is totally wrong, starting with this post I intend to prove that light behaves different at night because it is moving.  I didn’t read this somewhere I discovered this by simply doing it myself, and observing the images that resulted.
I was one of the lucky Photographers that got to learn how this works on the fly.  I was in Anza Borego and found that in the desert with no moon there is almost no light for my foreground.  So I was forced to move to the “Bulb” option.  To explain to you the actual visible light conditions I will simply say that I couldn’t see my feet, it was that dark.  I didn’t know what to expect and I was not confident that my Nikon CCD could take it.  Well it did, and now years later I am an addict.
Go out and play, have a great time pushing your camera to it’s limits. My camera’s limit seems to be 30 min, I was very sad to find this out while planning a 45 min shot.  Make use of your in camera noise reduction as well as your software.  I know there are many photographers out there that say don’t use the in camera noise reduction and you should rely on Noise Ninja or Photoshop.  The problem that I have found with that is many newbies don’t understand how to use software based noise reduction. With Nikon and Canon both continuing to improve the in camera programing I would say trust Nikon and Canon with knowing how to clean up their own files.
WARNING:  20 min exposure = 15 -20 min of noise reduction.  Bring your patience!
This was my very first 15 min exposure.
15 min / 3.5 @ ISO 800
“Desert Stars”
 Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon
These images are rough, I tried to add a black border to simply frame the shot but they are what I had in the back of the camera otherwise.  You can even see that there is even still some vignette distortion on a couple of the shots.  This is because I want you to see that I actually know what I am talking about.  It is one thing to read a few web articles or books and regurgitate the information.  But I actually do this work and have many thousands of examples of all of the different styles that I discuss.  I want you to trust your own eyes when you go out to try this, don’t just read articles like this one or others and think well those are the rules if I follow them exactly the images will always be perfect.  There are so many variables that exist even between shots that you will never fall into a perfect “textbook” set of conditions.  Use my numbers and conditions as a guideline nothing more.  And for goodness sake don’t trust your light meter at night!
There are a couple different options that you have and if you can get your hands on the wireless remote!  it is $ 15 bucks and worth every penny.
Go wireless, it cuts down wind resistance and camera shake.  (Just don’t forget which pocket you put it in)

Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon

***
         “The Milky Way”
          Pushing 20 min
Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon
***
“Star Glow”
   22 Min
 Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon
This is a recent long exposure shot that I made, this is where I realized that my camera maxed out at 30 min exposures.  My film cameras don’t have a limit so when I chose to go to one hour or so I will bring the Rolleiflex or Graflex 4×5.  I have also found that there are less limitations on higher end Professional level DSLR cameras.  The best way to get better at this is do start where I did and then experiment.  I have found that creating images with more narrow apertures have less vibrant colors.  The details that you get as a trade off isn’t noticeable.  I have an article on the way that is meant to prove that the rules don’t apply in the same way at night as they do during the daytime.
30 min// f : 40 // ISO 100
Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon
***
 La Jolla Pier
60 seconds // f: 3.5 //  ISO 200
Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon
Beware of anyone who speaks with authority and doesn’t show you their own work, they are aren’t showing you because they don’t know themselves they are just online researchers.  There are many things that you can learn from reading a book or taking a class but without real examples and personal exploration it is useless.
 Happy shooting and remember, to in addition to your camera bring a stopwatch tripod and your remote.! 

[via Photography Tips]

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