Saturday, June 5, 2010

Enchanted Gardens

Cycling past the Boston Public Garden last night, it looked so magical that we had to stop and take some night pictures. When people see pictures like this, they often assume that the wild colours are some sort of special effect - infrared photography or Photoshop. But in fact this is an entirely natural outcome of what's known as "long exposure photography." No flash, no special effects - just you and your camera.

To take a night picture, the camera is placed on a stationary surface and the photographer sets a long exposure time (the duration for which the camera's shutter remains open). To give you a point of comparison, daytime pictures are typically taken with an exposure time of less than 1/100th of a second. Night pictures are taken with with an exposure time of 5 full seconds or longer.

In order for long exposure pictures to work, both camera and subject must remain completely still - or else every movement is recorded as a motion blur. Facial expressions are the hardest to keep still and features tends to come out blurry. Bicycles on the other hand, are quite capable of standing motionless and are very patient too - which makes them perfect models for night photography.

Looking at these pictures has made me realise just how comfortable I've become cycling at night. Especially now that it's so hot during the day, that is certainly coming in handy. On Friday and Saturday nights, drivers tend to be more distracted and erratic - so being aware of that (and having one's bike lit up like a Xmas tree) will help you stay safe.

22 comments:

  1. Summertime night riding...yes indeed. Very late afternoon set out, late-ish dinner somewhere on the way, circuitous route home. Beautiful!

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  2. Incredible! reminds me of Mary Poppins backgrounds!!
    Nice Kodachrome colors...

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  3. The top image is beautiful. Wonderful colours.
    I'm liking the new layout too!

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  4. stunning boston garden photos, and your banner is beyond words!

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  5. The night photography is absolutely gorgeous, and I also love the new "header" on the blog - The picture is beautiful.

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  6. Hmmm...thought I commented last night but I guess it got eaten?

    Anyway, lovely photos! A long exposure is so hard to work with but you've handled it brilliantly - good idea turning the face away; I'll have to try that one :-)

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  7. These photos are fantastic!

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  8. Really beautiful photos! I've always wanted to take photography classes to learn more about little things like this.

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  9. Do you have a way to take test shots or do you use a meter and then hope for the best?

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  10. Beautiful! I'd love for you to do more of these photography-related posts with accompanying explanations. This is great. I've taken a few long exposure shots with varying success. In California I wanted to get the motion of the waves as a rolling mist, but it was the middle of the day and no matter how narrow I set the aperture, the picture was totally overexposed - like pure white. Duh, Dottie :) I guess that's why night long exposure shots work so well.

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  11. p.s. Your new header is gorgeous!

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  12. Thanks for the comments about the pictures. Of course the Co-Habitant is the one who took these, so the praises are for him.

    Steve - These were done with a digital camera, and a small point and shoot at that - so they are their own test shots, in the sense that they offer immediate feedback.

    Dottie - Oh, the ocean wave thing is impossible to do during the day unless using a camera that allows for ridiculous aperture settings. After dark it should work with an exposure time of (I think) several minutes. The Co-Habitant knows more about it, so maybe he will chime in.

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  13. For moving water during the day you need dark gray filters over the lens called neutral density (ND) filters to block out the light, allowing long shutters at regular apertures.

    For night time city park shots, all you need is a point and shoot with a manual mode (many of them have it), a bench or small tripod and a few minutes of time. Set the point and shoot on a bench, and make sure you don't move it too much as you press the shutter. It really doesn't matter what you initially set the aperture and shutter to because you will see your results in a few seconds.

    Most of these shots were taken at around f/2.8 or so, with a shutter of around 8 seconds. The ISO (film speed) should probably be dialed down to the setting that gives the best quality, unless you are taking pictures of people and want to keep the exposure not longer than a few seconds.

    You definitely don't need tutorials for this. City parks have plenty of artificial (and sometimes star/moon) light for pictures, and it takes no special "skills" to achieve night shots, just a willingness to do it and the patience to wait a few seconds to see the results. I suppose you also need to know that longer shutter (more seconds) means more light and so does a smaller f-stop number (i.e. 2.8 is bigger than 4, 4 is bigger than 5.6, and so on).

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  14. ps. love the new banner pic.

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  15. good traditional photo techniques utilizing that oft overlooked but often spectacular effect... differing lighting temperatures. That being said, I really like "available light photography". Wonderful pictorial as usual!

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  16. It's a shame bicycles are banned from the Public Garden, aside from night time when no one is about to enforce the ban.

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  17. Thanks Astroluc!

    Anon - Bikes can be walked through the Public Garden, just not ridden. We were law abiding : )

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  18. Gosh those pictures are really stunning. I cross the Yarra River (in Melbourne) most nights and always stop for a few seconds to admire the view of the bend in the river. You've inspired to take my camera along next time.

    Joyce aka Miss CycleStyle

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  19. Nice photos. Your blogg just got better and better! :)

    For photography I think, it would warrant the set up of a separate blogg/website for there's a lot to talk about and share ... the use of lenses, filters & techniques.

    Btw., I use remote switch (cable release )to prevent camera shake when taking long-exposure photographs and close-ups.
    L.

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  20. Lem - When we do "real" photography, we use tripod, cable release, lights, the whole works. We do have a photography website, but it doesn't dispense technical advice. (I think if I did that in addition to everything else, I would have no time for any actual work!)

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  21. Most point and shoot digitals have a timer function that allows you to delay the shutter, typically used to get yourself into the shot, but works great when you are taking a long exposure, eliminating any movement you might create while pressing the shutter.

    great colors!

    iron fish

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  22. Lovely!
    To me the "suspended animation" nature of these evokes Cindy Sherman's film stills. There's a sense of capturing a moment of hightened reality- partly because of the averted gaze, partly because of the bicycle about to move, and partly because of the funky color temps of the park lighting.
    Very nice!

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