Saturday, June 25, 2016

Portraits by Moonlight

The moon has stood as a silent sentinel over the nocturnal affairs of man for thousands of years in its never ending dance around the sun with planet Earth. Every twenty-eight days it reaches opposition and reflects the full brunt of the sun’s light over the night. Although not nearly as bright as the sun, the light of the full moon has its own magic and is sufficiently brilliant to allow photographs to be made.

My first experience with photography and the moon came when I attempted to photograph the moon itself. Surprisingly, it did not require a long exposure at all. In fact (as I discovered) a good exposure of the moon can often be taken at f8 - f16 and shutter speeds of 1/30 to 1/100. It is only the night sky around the moon that is dark, not the moon itself.

When I decided to try to shoot portraits by the light of the moon, I was astounded to find almost nothing anywhere on the World Wide Web about it. Oh to be sure there were a few crazies out there like me who had dabbled in it and even someone with a few tips for capturing landscapes in moonlight, but I was shocked to find I might be the first to think portraits taken in the light of the moon might hold special allure. Try as I may I could find no information anywhere on the subject so I began as all pioneers do by heading out on my own.

After just a couple outings and maybe a dozen exposures I arrived at what I was looking for. The photograph above of my son Noah was shot with my Pentax K-S1 on “Auto” with a +4 overexposure set on the EV compensation wheel to end up with a 1 second exposure at f2.8 with the ISO @ 12,800 using the 40mm f2.8 Pancake lens. This lens is beautiful for portraits as well as other situations calling for a fast, short telephoto lens. The autofocus worked splendidly once I got the hang of “sighting-in” and focusing in the dark. I even tried “live view” to no avail but the focus assist light was just enough for me to compose and the camera’s AF to properly do its thing.

As you can see the image is not unlike a regular daylight photograph but there is “something different” and unique about the lighting that makes it easily distinguishable from similar daylight portraits that might be taken in the same spot. If you didn’t already know it was taken in the light of the full moon you probably would not identify it as such but you would immediately recognize that it was different and perhaps think it had been shot under some kind of special studio lighting.

This image was shot a couple days before the full moon. It is noteworthy that the amount of light varies greatly from day to day and increases 2% to 3% each day until it reaches full (100%) at the exact moment of the opposition or “full moon” so that this image was taken with only about 95% of the moon’s full lighting capacity. That may not seem to be a lot but over the course of a couple days it can easily mean a difference of a stop or more.

My immediate plans are to collect a gallery of these moonlight portraits to gain more experience and expertise and eventually to try to duplicate the work on film. That will of course be the ultimate challenge since there is no film available at ISO 12,800.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

On the Streets!

I don't do a lot of street photography anymore but when I do this is what it looks like. This was shot on Kodak Tri-X with the Pentax ZX-7 (my favorite black & white film and my favorite 35mm SLR) one rainy day while waiting in the car in the parking lot while my ran in the store to pick up something.

I just couldn't resist as these lovely ladies all decked out in their finest shopping attire strolled by in the rain. No raincoats, no umbrellas, and they didn't even speed up their saundering selves but just slowly sashayed by in utter defiance of the weather.

Street photography is a bit risky these day with folks seemingly so agitated much of the time. I've had women accuse me of trying to take photographs of their children (I wasn't at the time) like that was some kind of crime in and of itself. I can remember when people were flattered if you wanted to take their picture.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Speaking of Fire Hydrants!

Here is the other Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day (WPPD) shot that I am really happy with even though it was not the one I submitted to the WPPD gallery. Of course I have taken this same (or similar) shot of the fire hydrant in front of the old state capitol before with various cameras and films and even have some digital images of it but I think this may end up being my favorite.

This image was shot with the Holga Pinhole Camera on Kodak Portra 400 processed and scanned by The Darkroom. The exposure was 1 second and I had to get down in the gutter (literally) with the tripod to line up and take the shot.

The only way this gets better - maybe - is if I shoot it again with the Holga WPC on Ektar. Ektar is my favorite film for pinhole. Its almost like Kodak had pinhole in mind when they came up with that emulsion but unfortunately I was out of it when WPPD snuck up on me this year. The WPC will shoot a 6x9 or 6x12 negative meaning the image would be either 1.5 or 2 times wider than the 6x6 negative produced by the Holga PC. This could be a much cooler image or just one with a bunch of distractions on the periphery. In any case that will have to await my next film order to stock up on Ektar again.