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Zenith Beach nocturne

November 05, 2016  •  7 Comments

Continuing my experiments orchestrating hardware and software technologies with wetware, here is a sketchbook exposé of an evening of multiple exposures and more learnings that will lead to refinement of a technique.

With my friends, Des and Roy, I was on Zenith Beach near Port Stephens (I have previously documented some of the activity in the blog post Filters and child's play).

A technique I've been exploring lately involves multiple exposures from the same tripod setting (without altering composition) during changing light conditions. I started making exposures after sunset and continued through dusk and into the starry night. My intent was to make a blended composite image that used the best (most interesting) parts of a selection of images.

Four images (below) made the shortlist from a set of 21. In this situation I'm looking for three characteristics in the scene photographed:

  1. A mix of static elements (e.g. rocks, tree trunks) and moving elements (e.g. water, branches) that can be rendered as motion blurred using long exposures.
  2. Changing light, such as the transition from daylight to dark.
  3. A pleasing composition.

Mouse *over the images below for relevant information about each. Notice how the dynamic range (contrast) of the images diminishes as the light in the sky fades away into the night.

*NOTE: Mousing over any images in my blog posts will reveal more information.

OBJECTIVE: Eliminate (mask out) the bright sky from the finished work, to reveal the stars, yet preserve the windblown blur in the vegetation...

(Untitled)Time: 18:4215s @ f4 & 164mm ISO 100 + 6 stops ND filter (Untitled)Time: 18:4810s @ f4 & 164mm ISO 200 + 6 stops ND filter
(Untitled)Time: 19:1130s @ f4 & 164mm ISO 200 + light painting (Untitled)Time: 19:1330s @ f4 & 164mm ISO 200 + light painting

...using a wetware enhanced version of Photoshop...

It's OK...only joking!It's OK...only joking!Perhaps a future version of Photoshop will contain these creative enhancements. Smart PSB is the longed for 'Smart Poor Sad Bastard' filter.

Here's a visual summary of the real work performed in Photoshop.

CompositingCompositingSummary of editing performed in Photoshop to blend four images.

And this is the result. A technique that is a WIP. Got a question or need clarification? Please use the comments section below.

(Untitled)Zenith Beach nocturneComposite of four exposures made under differing light and filter regimes over 30 minutes.

Yes, I sold buttons to earn a living, but I took pictures to keep on living. Pictures are my life—as necessary as eating or breathing— Alfred Eisenstaedt


Chris Prior(non-registered)
Thanks for sharing the technique and thought process. The screen shots reinforce how you can start with something with hardly any appeal to create something quite marvelous. You have certainly met your objective and I am sure this would look great in a big print. I particularly like the diagonal composition and the ratio of sky to bush. My brain now ticking.
Thank you for your thoughts, Denise, Eugene, and Robert.

Denise, it can help to have an assistant. You have a head start there. ;-)

Robert, of the eight images I shot at the tripod set, I selected four that had sufficiently different characteristics to warrant the work. The two light-painted images were painted from different directions (stage left and stage right) revealing different details. The first two images revealed more of the wind blur in the trees because there was sufficient ambient light when they were shot. Wind blur is barely apparent in the light-painted images. For me, the image has more appeal (and novelty if you like) because of the strong motion blur combined with light painting. Thank you for offering your honest opinion. Such insights help me to challenge myself and be objective about what I do. ®
Robert Dettman(non-registered)
Hmm. Interesting. I am wondering if you are making it too hard Rob. It's really difficult to tell from the dinky little images but I wonder if you couldn't have achieved a similar result with the 19:11 image alone or perhaps with the addition of the 9:13 sky. The key to the success of the image is the light painting which makes the first two images redundant - but then again I don't have all the information. What are your thoughts on this Rob?
From ordinary to extra ordinary. Great vision work and image.
Denise McDermott(non-registered)
Rob this is an interesting technique but I find it overshadowed by the wetware Photoshop version. That makes me laugh. More of us need that version when we get precious. Your image makes me want to get out in the bush and try it.
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