Exposure, Locations & Technique

A brief article explaining where and how some of the pictures were taken.
The intention originally for this website was to keep any text and information away from the images, as my preference is for the clean appearance of an image without the distraction of any surrounding wording. I have written this brief article in response to various feedback that I have received, and it give details of some of the locations and various techniques that I have used in making the pictures on this website. I now appreciate that such information and the technical details of a picture can be of interest. Please contact me for further information regarding any aspect of my work.

As all of the cameras I now use are completely manual, I have to use a hand held exposure meter for my exposure readings. For many years I used a Weston Euromaster until it became to unreliable with age. I now use a couple of Gossen Lunasix F meters, which are excellent with a long exposure range if a perhaps little on the bulky side. When I can, I try to meter in the incident mode with the diffuser set in place. This means I am holding the meter as close to the subject as possible with the dome pointing back at the camera and measuring the light falling on the subject rather than the light reflected back from it. This method of metering is not practical for distant landscape work where I have to use the reflection metering method without the dome, and point the meter away from the camera at the subject and interpreting the resulting exposure readings accordingly.

Still life
The majority of the still life pictures are taken around my home and are usually set up inside our garden shed which has a large south facing window that normally gives good natural light throughout most of the day. Nearly all of the subject matter for these pictures have been found either in our garden or sourced locally in a nearby woods. By collecting objects of interest, such as odd bits of wood, dried leaves and seed heads I have a large collection at my disposal from which to assemble a composition. The picture backgrounds used in the close up work include an old piece of grainy wood, a rusty baking tin, a black t-shirt, a white mount board and a small unglazed tile.
The series of pictures taken of the frozen flowers, were created using an old rectangular black baking tray that I rescued from a skip. The paint inside the tin had started to flake and peel, the rust alone made for interesting abstract pictures. These images are made by half filling the tray with water then partially freezing in a freezer draw. To make the compositions, objects are placed in the partially frozen ice as the water solidifies, and the tray is then returned to the freezer draw until the water has completely frozen. Most of the images have been taken with a 35mm Nikon F2 and the 55mm micro Nikkor in natural light with the exposures calculated using the Gossen light meter in incident mode with an additional allowance made for the lens extension of the micro lens when close focusing. As an alternative to photographing the frozen flowers inside the baking tray, I removed the block of ice and photographed it either on a small light box or held in it in place with tape against a window using transmitted natural light.

Other close up images included on the site are dried leaves lightly stuck onto tracing paper then taped in place on the inside of the shed window. These have been taken with transmitted natural light with the 6x6 TLR Mamiya C220. Using a twin lens reflex camera (TLR) for close up work is not ideal. Although it has the ability to close focus there is the issue of parallax at close distances which can be a problem. My technique for solving this is a simple one providing the camera is mounted on a tripod and is parallel to the subject matter. I focus using the viewing lens as normal, then raise the centre column of the tripod up by 50mm, this is the distance that separates the two lenses on the camera. Alternatively you can guess the framing by the cut off on the focusing screen, but I find moving the camera to be a more accurate method. Measuring the exposure for transmitted light, using the Gossen in incident mode and again there is the need to make allowance for the bellows extension.

Long exposure
Recording the passage of time using a long exposure is challenging with film. Not only do you have to pre visualise the image without the luxury of a digital preview, there is also the question of reciprocity to contend with. That is the failure of film to respond in low light, requiring more exposure than is indicated by the exposure meter. Film manufactures usually supply reciprocity failure guidelines for their films, and the amount of exposure increase needed is arrived at usually through trial and error and personal testing.
With the coastal work, I will use a range of different contrast filters from 25A red to a variety of neutral density filters. Depending on the lighting and the result I am trying to achieve I will use either a 2, 5, or 10 stop neutral density filter. When using a neutral density filter, If I were shooting digitally all I would need to do is apply the filter factor to the exposure reading and make an exposure at that final reading. However, with film there is the issue of reciprocity. Ilford have produced an exposure increase factor for all their films that work very well. I have exposure and reciprocity compensation charts worked out for each make of film I use made up into a small chart that is kept in my camera bag for an easy reference guide.

As an example, if I am photographing a seascape, with FP4 at box speed of 125 ISO, and I have a situation where the metered exposure is 1/30th @f16. If I wish to use a 10 stop neutral density filter for the effect that it will bring to the picture. Adding the 10 stops will bring the exposure down from 1/30th to 30secs still @f16. Then using my reciprocity chart for FP4, 30secs now becomes 2mins 45sec @ f16 for a correct exposure. Because my cameras are manual and without any batteries to drain, this length of exposure is achieved by using the Bulb settings along with the mirror lock up and a cable release.
By rotating the outer dial on the Gossen meter I can quickly apply a filter factor before checking with my reciprocity table to calculate the final exposure.

Most of the long exposure coastal work has been taken over a number of years, with the majority taken at remote locations around the coast of Pembrokeshire in West Wales, in particular the beaches featured are Marloes, Newgale, Westdale, Nolton Haven and Druidstone. There are also other pictures on the website taken at Llangwm, Nine Wells bay, Abermaw, and various other location in and around South Wales and Pembrokeshire. The landscape images have been taken at a variety of locations including Dartmoor, the Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire, Gwent and the area around South Wales.