Muppet Moments 08: Too, Too Dark!

April 07, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

If you’re a regular reader to this blog you may have noticed that I like long exposures.  I like the silky effect on waterfalls, smooth glassy water, and streaking clouds.  Ok, I know it's not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it!  I also have a bit of a thing about water, check my Flickr photostream where probably three in every five photos include water; the sea, rivers, waterfalls, rain drops and so on. 

The Lower Laithe Reservoir, near Haworth, West Yorkshire: f/11, 30 secs, 27mm, ISO100

Combine the fixation with water and long exposure and you can guess what filters I’ll usually be reaching for.  The Big Stopper or Little Stopper from Lee.  I've read that some people experience a bit of a colour cast, I must admit, with these from Lee, I never have.  Maybe masked by my limited colour vision (I am colour blind with most colours), but any cast that may appear can always be corrected if you’re shooting in raw...so, no biggy!

I try long exposures a lot, with varying degrees of success, often failing horribly and falling into the clutches of one of my most daemonic and persistently present muppet moments.  A muppet moment that I seem intent on repeating almost every time and not learning from.  One day, I will!  İnşallah, as they say here in Turkey.

The problem is the long exposure (LE) at dusk, or at night.  It comes down to lack of patience perhaps, or trust in my camera techniques.  Often a long exposure in dim light, with even the Little Stopper, can easily run into minutes, and for some reason I am so hesitant to allow the shutter to keep running.  Checking my Lightroom catalogue, the longest LE I have is 461 seconds, it probably should’ve been longer. 

The technique should be solid enough...

  1. I line up the shot on the tripod
  2. Check Image stabilisation is off
  3. Using live view or mirror lock up to ensure no camera shake from the mirror flip
  4. Check that the image is level
  5. Zoom in on live view to check focus
  6. Make sure focus switched to manual
  7. Set to ISO100
  8. Take a meter reading for my chosen aperture, note the shutter speed
  9. Put the shutter speed/aperture/ISO into a phone app (I use Photopills if you’re interested)
  10. Adjust the ISO if speed too long for the scene (too much blur etc)
  11. Switch to Manual mode (or BULB mode if > 30 seconds)
  12. Dial in the settings recommended by the app
  13. Use a cable or remote release to start
  14. Use the stopwatch on my mobile to time the exposure
  15. Use the cable or remote release to stop the shutter after the correct time has past
  16. Review a splendid image on the rear screen (hopefully)

So where do I go wrong?  Why do I get the shots such as this?

This shot took 60 seconds but it should have been at least 4 minutes.  The image doesn't look too bad but I cannot use it full size because the quality has degraded, especially in the important foreground rocks.  It was severely under exposed.  To get the result you see above, I've had to push shadows and exposure along way to the right.  The shot was too, too dark!

So, why?

Simple, because I DON’T follow the steps above!  I know them, but: knowing the same as doing is not!  Which is how Yoda might say it! 

One critical step is not followed correctly that always results in the exposure being ended too soon, and a dark shot being presented on the rear screen. Step 15, emphasis on the correct amount of time!

The only reason for this is that I am trying to be too quick and save time.  But it’s a false economy.  If I trusted the technique to get the shot correctly first time; I wouldn’t have the rework of taking a second shot with a longer shutter speed.   MUPPET!

Next time I am fixing up the LE composition, I am going to follow those steps I have written above...to the letter...and wait for step 15, to the second!

Don’t be a MUPPET, Wait!

Hopefully I can guarantee more correct exposures by just trusting my technique and having a little more patience.

Have you had any experience of this or similar LE exposure problems?

Share your thoughts, send me a comment!

Best wishes

The Frustrated Photog.


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