Exposure, Locations & Technique

A brief article giving a background to some of the pictures.
My original intention for this website was to keep any text around the pictures to an absolute minimum.
I prefer the clean appearance when you view an image without such distractions. Although I do appreciate that where a picture was taken and the technical details can be of interest to some people, I have always felt that explaining why a picture was taken and printed a certain way to be of more interest rather than exposure, equipment details and location. However, in response to the feedback I have received I have now written this brief article on exposure, and some of the locations and various techniques I have used in making the pictures on this website.

All the cameras I now use are completely manual, that means I have to rely on using hand held exposure meters for my exposure readings. For a number of years I used a couple of Weston Euromasters until they became unreliable with age. And have recently acquired a Gossen Luna Pro, which is an excellent meter with a good exposure range although a little on the bulky side. When I can, I try to use this meter in the incident mode with the diffuser in place. This means I am holding the meter as close to the subject as possible with the dome in place pointing back at the camera. This way I am 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, pointing the meter away from the camera at the subject and interpreting the resulting exposure readings accordingly.

Still life
The majority of these pictures are set up around my home, normally in the garden shed that has a large south facing window that usually gives good natural light throughout most of the day. Nearly all of the subject matter for these pictures I have found locally while out walking. By collecting things that appear interesting to me, such as bits of wood, leaves and seed heads that are all then dried. I have made a collection of objects that I can use to make a composition from. The picture backgrounds can be anything and vary from a very old piece of interesting wood, a rusty baking tin, a black tee shirt, white mount boards 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 and that alone has made for interesting pictures. These compositions were made by half filling the tray with water then partially freezing it in a freezer draw of our large freezer. To make the composition, objects are placed in the partially frozen ice as the water solidifies, and the tray was 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. All the pictures are taken with natural light and the exposures are calculated with a the Gossen light meter in incident mode, with an 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 Mamiya c220. Using this camera for close up work is not ideal, as it is a twin lens reflex (TLR). Although it has the ability to close focus there is the issue of parallax at close distances. My technique for solving this problem 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 when you use 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. The amount of exposure increase 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 10stop neutral density filter. When using a neutral density filter, If I were shooting digitally all I would have to do is apply the filter factor to the exposure reading and make an exposure at that final reading. However, with film there is reciprocity to be taken into account. Ilford have produced an exposure increase factor for all their films that work very well. If worked out for each film choice and made into a small chart, it can be kept in your camera bag as an easy reference guide. They are only a guideline and from experience I have made my own compensation charts for each film type that I use.

As an example, if I am photographing a seascape, with FP4 at its box speed of 125 ISO, and I have a situation where I have a metered exposure of 1/30th @f16. If I wish to use a 10stop 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, 30secs now becomes 2mins 45sec @ f16 for a correct exposure. As my cameras are manual and do not have 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 Luna pro 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. The majority have been taken 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 around South Wales and Pembrokeshire in particular. Landscape images location are from Dartmoor, the Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire, Gwent and the area around South Wales.