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23Mar/1244

Snow Photography and Special Effects (DSLR Tutorial)

 

Equipment

  • LED Lenser X21 Flashlight - This thing is a beast. Extremely reliable and bright. I use it all the time for all sorts of reasons. Definitely worth the investment. The X21 is a continuous lighting solution, not a short burst of light like flashes are. Continuous lighting lengthens motion, flashes freeze motion. Updated versions of the flashlight are available here.
  • Nikon D300s DSLR  -  Pay no attention to this, as any DSLR can produce the results you see in the video.
  • Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 Lens - Generally the best lens to have for a Nikon crop-frame DSLR and I've created many many images with it.
  • Manfrotto 055 Tripod - Mounting your camera to a tripod is absolutely essential in order to eliminate camera-shake.
  • Optional: You can mount the X21 to a tripod by using an X21 tripod mount. When I was outside, I didn't want to lug around two big tripods for both my flashlight and camera, so I conveniently mounted the X21 to a Gorillapod.

LED Lenser X21 Flashlight mounted on the Gorillapod tripod

Results

Long Exposure showing motion of snow falling at night time

On-camera flash freezing motion of snow falling at night

Long exposure showing motion of snow falling lit by flashlight AND on-camera flash freezing motion of snow falling at night

Steel wool long exposure light painting with on-camera flash freezing snow flakes falling

Long Exposure of Steel Wool Sparks at Night in the Snow

If you are wondering how the photographs of those flying sparks were created, take a look at my Steel Wool Photography Tutorial and I'll show you how to do it!

Camera Settings

As far as what camera settings were used, I mostly used Manual Mode set to a shutter speed of 5" with an aperture of f2.8 at ISO800 but these settings can change to get different results.

Depending on what you are setting the focus point on and how much light is available, you may need a focusing aid if the area inside the focus point is not bright enough. To do this, I like to set the camera to AUTO focus, shine the flashlight on the auto-focus point seen when looking through the viewfinder, take a picture to make sure the image is sharp and not out-of-focus, then turn off auto-focus to freely take pictures after that point.

Another Idea

Another idea I got only after it was done snowing would be to take a ~1 second exposure of the on-camera flash in burst mode, where it flashes rapidly multiple times. I'd love to try it at different speeds and show the results. I'm definitely thinking the faster speeds would look best. If you have a camera that has a burst flash mode feature - give it a shot!

Have fun!

Check This Out Next

Are you tired of taking boring photos of the same mundane subject matter? Wouldn't you rather take your photography to the next level and photograph things that catch people's attention? If you would like to get the complete scoop and learn how to take more creative and unique shots with your DSLR, pick up my Trick Photography and Special Effects e-book and video course today!

15Mar/1117

How To Take Psychedelic Photos of CDs

In this light painting tutorial I am going to show you how you can take long exposure photographs of water drops on a psychedelic colorful reflective CD surface with a Mini Maglite flashlight.

Pop

Hendrix

Equipment

I'm using a water dropper, a M2A016 Mini Maglite Flashlight, a regular CD, a Nikon D300s DSLR, a Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod, and some color gels. I also used an ND8 Filter so I could use an aperture of F11. The gels and ND8 filter are optional.

Camera Settings

I was using these settings:
Shutter Speed: 5-60 seconds
Aperture: f11
ISO: 100 (or "Low 1.0")
White Balance: "Incandescent" for correct color, or "Auto" for warmer colors

Instructions

Take the water dropper and place a bunch of droplets on the CD after you have put it on a table of your choice. The table I was using was a laundry basket with a thin black blanket over the top. Fancy!

Next, put your DSLR on a tripod and place it right up next to the CD. I was using manual mode with manual focus most of the time (but not always, a lot of DSLR cameras have an AF Assist Lamp in the front of the camera that helps focus in the dark, in situations just like this!)

In order to get my aperture to f11, I was using a simple ND8 filter in front of my lens. This isn't necessary, I just wanted my photos really sharp, and f11 is the sharpest spot on my lens. You can go down to f22 or smaller and skip using the filter if you want. Just use the highest f number you can and the lowest ISO number possible. This will limit the amount of light being exposed to the camera sensor, which is what you want in this situation. Maglites are bright!

Tips

Try making different patterns around the CD with the Maglite flashlight. A really cool one to do is to place the light level with the CD next to the table. This creates a perfect circular reflection in the circular water drops on the circular CD! Really cool.

Try pointing the light diagonally down on the CD, and just try different directions and distances away from the CD. You are bound to get a cool shot.

In order to help me be sure that I get the psychedelic rainbow colors on the reflective CD surface, I Temporarily widened the aperture on my lens to f3.5 and then went into Live-View Mode. This makes it easy to see exactly what the camera sees, so you know what direction to aim the light to get colorful rainbow effect. After you see the rainbow effect appear on the CD in your viewfinder or in Live-View mode, get out of live view mode, go back to smaller aperture you were using before, and then take yo' picture.

Video

29Jan/108

How To Create Physiogram Long Exposure Photographs

A physiogram is a single long exposure of a flashlight spinning around on a string that is tied to a ceiling. You heard me, simply find a way to attach your flashlight to a string or shoelace or something, then put your camera on the ground with the widest angle you can get (after getting the light in focus, then switching the focus off), turn out the light, turn on the flashlight, give it a good push, then take a long exposure of the physiogram. You can also achieve different kinds of effects by zooming in and out, or focusing in and out while the exposure is taking place. You can also use different colored lights, and blend them later in Photoshop. When you take the photo, I recommend using a 30 second (the maximum shutter time on most DSLR cameras, unfortunately) exposure, or, if you have a BULB mode on your camera, you can use that.

Examples of Physiography:

This last image was manipulated later on a computer.

You could theoretically create a physiogram with a sparkler too. Yep, a firework SPARKLER. How awesome would that be? I haven't done it before, however the idea would be to put your camera on the ground facing upwards underneath some protective glass. Tie the sparkler to a tree branch, weight it down somehow, and take the shot the same way you would take a regular physiogram.

You could also use a tripod pointing down at a mirror, with the light source above the mirror. This way you would capture the reflection, and you would be able to see through your viewfinder. I like using a wide angle lens and just putting my camera on the ground and taking the shot, however.

If your in a highschool photography class, this will totally flip people out. Most, if not everyone, will not know how you did it. At least that's how it was when I did it in highschool.

The Maglight Solitaire Flashlight is a neat little light that enables the head to be taken off, so it can be in "candle mode". This is great for physiograms and also any kind of light painting. You will definitely have an advantage when using it. You can easily change the colors later inside of Photoshop, or some other picture editing program by adjusting the Hue/Saturation and/or by creating a new layer with the blend mode set to Color, and then paint on that layer using a color brush.

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