Last week, DigiKnow looked at Shutter Speeds and ISO in photography and explained about fast/slow shutters along with when to use ISO.

In this weeks post, we continue with shutters and look at two techniques that use slow shutter speed which are fun and can make otherwise bland subjects look a bit more impressive.

Here, we look at zoom burst and painting with light. Both of these techniques are used in duller/darker lighting conditions to allow for longer shutter speeds. Both techniques use manual focus and need a tripod to keep the camera stable.

In this series, until now, you have been using Auto Focus (AF), i.e., half-pressing the shutter release button and the camera focuses on the subject the camera is pointed at. This needs to be changed to Manual Focus (MF).

Turn the camera ninety degrees to the right and look at the side of the lens. There should an AF (Auto Focus) and MF (Manual Focus) options with a slider. Move the slider to MF. You should now be able to manually focus using the focus ring (typically at the end of the lens (other lenses may vary, do check your camera/lens manuals)).

If you don’t have MF on the lens, check out the camera menus and other buttons to change from Auto to Manual Focus.

Typical use of slow shutters

Typically, when using slow shutters, photographers use tripods to keep their cameras stable. Lower ISO settings are also used to allow slower shutter speeds. Usually there are static elements within a scene that are sharp in the resulting photograph.

In this instance, the camera doesn’t move and the scene doesn’t move, however, if there is water running through the scene, it will look aesthetically more pleasing in the photo.

The reason I highlight the non-movement of the camera and subject is because it is a ‘typical‘ photography scenario. In the techniques that follow, zoom burst has a static subject and a moving camera part, whereas painting with light has a static camera and a moving subject.

Thus, something is moving in both instances, i.e., the camera or the subject.

Zoom burst

For zoom burst, you need an SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera with a lens that moves (i.e., zoom lens) such as an 18-55mm kit lens and a tripod. This technique is best captured in low-light conditions with a bright subject, i.e., a string of lights.

Set ISO to 100 to help achieve slower shutter speeds.

Turn the camera to Shutter Priority (S or Tv on the mode dial) and dial in 10″ (10 seconds). Set the lens to 18mm (i.e., zoom out) and manually focus on the subject (using a tripod). You may need to highlight the subject with a torch, or if indoors, have the room lights on, focus and then turn the lights off.

Remember, Shutter Priority is a semi-automatic mode. By setting the shutter speed to 10″ and ISO to 100, the camera compensates with the appropriate F-number under the lighting conditions.

Your intention is to take the photo and rack the lens smoothly for the duration of the shutter speed (10″). What is meant by racking the lens?

An 18-55mm kit lens allows the user to zoom in from 18mm to 55mm. The lens is movable. When this is changed during image capture, it’s referred to as ‘racking the lens’.

Practice this technique. It won’t be perfect the first time. It will help if the subject is central in the frame. Remember to manually focus on the subject before taking the photo.

Below, you will see my set up photo. This was a 10″ exposure and manually focused.

Set up photo with static subject and lights
Set up photo with static subject and lights

You can see the zoom burst result below. I pressed the shutter release button and counted for 5 seconds then racked the lens for the remaining 5 seconds:

Credit: Daria Casement - Zoom burst image with 2 seconds
Credit: Daria Casement – Zoom burst image with 2 seconds

The image below was taken at F22, 13″ at ISO 400.

Credit: Daria Casement Zoom burst of Titanic Building Belfast
Credit: Daria Casement Zoom burst of Titanic Building Belfast

Experiment with the length of shutters and whether you rack the lens for the whole duration of the exposure (shutter speed) or for only part of the duration.

Painting with light

For painting with light, you need a camera where you can set the shutter speed (compact / bridge or SLR), a tripod and several torches.

This technique is best captured in low-light/dark conditions.

Set ISO to 100 to help achieve slower shutter speeds.

Turn the camera to Shutter Priority (S or Tv on the mode dial) and dial in 10″ (10 seconds) to begin with. Use a torch to illuminate the spot/temporary subject where the light painting will appear and Manually Focus.

You will need someone to be a light painter and preferably dressed in dark clothing.

This takes some experimentation with shutter speed lengths. Short shutters, i.e. 10″, will not give the light painter much time to do anything but exposure might be good. A 30″ exposure gives the light painter much more time to create something but this could end up over exposed.

Experiment.

The image below was taken at F5.6, 10″ exposure at ISO 200. Time of day was just after sunset whilst light was still available.

Credit: Daria Casement Light painting
Credit: Daria Casement Light painting

When taking a photograph, we are taking a single image and the shutter speed for that image can be very brief or very long. What happens within the exposure time (shutter speed) results in the photo.

Think of cinematography where moving image is captured at 24 frames per second. Each frame can only be a minimum 1/24 of a second shutter but it typically faster, i.e., 1/50 – 1/125 approximately.

When something is moving, it shows in a different part of the frame and over a one second recording of film, it appears the item is moving.

In long exposure photography such as painting with light, when the exposure (shutter speed) is set to 10″, it records the path of the subject (in this case – light) and the resulting photograph shows the path the light has created through the space of the photograph.

The image below was taken at F7.1, 25″ at ISO 100. Parts of the image had static up-lighting. The multi-coloured lights at the bottom were two children with light swords walking through the scene whilst play-fighting.

Credit: Daria Casement light painting
Credit: Daria Casement light painting

I want to show you a final painting with light scenario and it starts with showing the subject, which by itself is otherwise bland and badly lit.

Set up photo
Set up photo taken at 10″, ISO 100

By using multiple 10″ exposures and a torch to illuminate parts of the tractor, it can be stitched together in post-production to use the ‘lit’ parts of the scene to create the overall result.

The image below used 15-20 images using the best bits.

Credit: Daria Casement - tractor painted with light
Credit: Daria Casement – tractor painted with light
Summary

These techniques can be mixed and matched to be more creative. Both zoom burst and painting with light are considered long exposure photography and require a tripod and it’s best to use Manual Focus.

In painting with light, light can be shone on to a subject or toward the camera for a different effect or mixed. It depends on what you want to achieve.

Either technique takes a little planning and it’s always good to search for other peoples results to help you with ideas. It also takes a little experimentation regards the shutters to get what you want.

Why not have a go at either or both techniques and hashtag them on Twitter: #MDBSelearnzoomburst and/or #MDBSelearnpaintingwithlight.

Next week

Next week, DigiKnow looks at another two shutter techniques: ghosting and double-exposures. We look forward to you joining us then. Don’t forget to join us on twitter: @MDBSelearn.


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