The Shadow Light Project

April 11, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

The Shadow Light Project

A few months ago, I was inspired after reading an article entitled "Time Passages: Long Light: Michael S. Miller Takes It Slow" in Shutterbug magazine by a photographer named Michael S. Miller. In it, he talked about how he wanted to take long, outdoor exposure photographs in this digital age. He was inspired by very old photographs taken from an era long past, when it was the norm to take these kinds of exposures with big cameras and very slow film or glass plates. He called his work “Long Light”.

So, with that in mind, I decided to create my own long exposure project, thus “The Shadow Light Project” was born. This name was chosen because hopefully I would be able to record light and shadows in a similar style and look from that long ago time. A time that is now a mere shadow of today's world, and also as an honor to my first furry cat, Shadow. She was a beautiful black part Siamese that was only recorded on film; digital photography had not reached us before her passing.

The goal of this project is to capture and reproduce long exposures in its many forms. From realistic, to abstract, surreal and fine art. To honor those photographers from that very long ago time by continuing  to work in long exposure photography. To recreate as close as possible that classic historical look in the computer age with digital cameras and software. Even though I'm as guilty as anyone else of this, I have always found it oddly strange how hard we modern photographers work at making our digital photos of today look like film shoots taken from the 1940's and before.

I hope to create this project's work a bit differently from how I have shot and worked before. I like to shoot what I want, when I want, taking shots of opportunity. The old shoot and scoot style. I would also go out from time to time with a theme in mind and shoot based on that as well. I will still continue that, but now I'll be looking for Shadow Light subjects all the time, taking my new ND (neutral density) filters with me where ever I go.

I have always enjoyed taking some sort of long exposure photographs with the vast majority occurring at dusk or night, very few during the day. Instead of always seeing subjects frozen by 1/2000 of a second or faster, I wanted to capture and show motion. Yes, there are times when that 1/2000 of second is needed, but I wanted to do more, to live and work on the other side of frozen, to reside in the world of captured fluid motion. When I use my flash, I'll try working in a few exposures using its “second curtain” setting. With this set, the flash occurs at the end of the exposure not the beginning. This will cause streaks to appear in the photograph as the subject moves while the shutter is open and the late flash will freeze the subject at the end of the movement and exposure. Sometimes if there was no real movement by the subject I would add to it by panning, while in the second curtain flash mode. I would also do panning at sporting events. Capturing players as they would run past or speeding race boats splashing past, again all to show the movement. When those shots work, they are always my favorites.

Daytime long exposures were taken from time to time. Now the desire is to change that, doing it much more frequently. Equipment wise I had most of what Michael S. Miller used. I had to purchase a few new items, starting with two ND filters, one that cuts the light by 3 stops and the other by 6 stops. With these filters, exposure times can be lengthened by up to 9 stops when combined. The maiden use of these filters was on our recent yearly trip to Florida and they seemed to work very well. When needed, I'll use my UV filter as well. It will serve two purposes, to cut any possible haze, but mostly to protect my new filters. Since most of this shooting could be done in rather poor weather conditions I think using it will be prudent. In fact, the first shoot with these ND filters while in Florida was on a beach during a strong on shore wind and cool temps. Everything was getting sand blasted! The UV filter did its job nicely and only it needed to be cleaned off. Well, I had to shake sand out of my bag, shoes and any hair I had left and blow everything off. This filter is cheaper to replace than the ND ones.

Next I want to get a 10 stop ND filter for a few reasons. First it's the “guy thing” to have the most extreme anything. Seriously though, the less glass to shoot though, less distortion there could be in my mind. So, instead of adding two more layers of glass I will be only adding one and still getting longer exposures. Don't get me wrong, I will still be stacking filters in different combinations but when only one filter is needed I will always go that route first.

Then, one last item will be a small traveling table top tripod. This tripod might be able to be used in locations that may not allow a full size tripod or situations that one would not work. Also, it can be used for low angle set ups without the need to change out my full sized tripod. Last, it should be easy to pack in my camera bag.

The traveling netbook was good for doing quick reviews and deleting any really bad shots, but home is were the real monitor lives. So, as I flew back home, I couldn't wait to see how these exposures would look on the big screen. I was not disappointed! I have posted 63 photos from that trip. Next month I will have a follow up to this blog posting. In the mean time you can check out my first attempts for The Shadow Light Project. I hope these images bring you long enjoyment.

Doug 


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