Proper prior planning…

They were such good sports.

I wrote in The Nautilus post about different photography methods and kind of where I am on the spectrum. In short, everywhere. This photo demonstrates one extreme: planning nearly every aspect of the desired shot. I was inspired by some photos I saw on Facebook. The photographer took some spring break shots on the beach of friends hanging around. Using a long exposure, he then had them run away out of the shot. The result is a transparent body.

Fun fact – I participate in Civil War reenactments.

So, I took the concept and applied it to what you see above. I researched the method as much as possible, but there really aren’t a whole lot of photographers doing this stuff. Exciting but also a little trial by fire.

The real difficulty with very long exposures is that the lighting has to be jussssst right.

In this case, I had an extremely narrow time frame in which to shoot these photos. Because we were in the middle of nowhere, there was no ambient light. No city lights in the background. No lamp posts. Nothing. Except for the Sun, of course…which moves…quickly. You can’t take photos like this in the middle of the day because the long exposure would just cause the entire shot to be blown out in white. I had two windows of opportunity:

Opportunity #1 time frame: approximately 5-7 minutes before sunrise until approximately 5 minutes after sunrise

Opportunity #2 time frame: approximately 10 minutes before sunset until approximately 2 minutes after sunset

As I was only going to be at this location with these subjects for two sunrises and one sunset, I had quite the learning curve. I had to make at least 7 very good shots working with a total time of about 30 – 40 minutes spread over two days. 

It was hard as crap.

I felt like a Hollywood director. I had everything set up long before sunrise/sunset and took test photos every two minutes so I could determine when the lighting was right. And when it was right, I yelled. Fortunately, I have wonderful friends. Very accommodating. I think they even had a bit of fun when I would direct them to “Be VERY still” and then “RUN AWAY!”

We repeated this business over and over, with me keeping very precise track of the shutter speed and how long they had to stay in the frame before I needed them to run out because they could be neither too transparent nor too solid in the final photos. I had only seconds to review the picture just taken and make adjustments.

But I did it.

I could have done it in Photoshop. But this was better. It is more realistic. And better.

You can’t tell a computer program to “RUN AWAY!!”


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