Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Thematic Photographic 80: "Abstract" v.7.0 Intentionally Abstract

"Bus Stop"
Raleigh, NC - August 2009 (Click to embiggen)

Thematic Photographic hosted by Carmi - Button Image by Smarmoofus Hosted by Written Inc.

This is what happens when I sit around waiting for a thunderstorm. I'd heard rumbles, seen flashes, and the conditions were right for me to get some really glorious lightning shots, so I hauled my gear out to RDU International at midnight one steamy night last August and set up at the observation deck. When you're shooting lightning, unless you have a mobile shelter you can take with you that can accommodate a tripod yo're stuck with finding a spot that's more or less weatherproof with a good field of vision and a minimum of light pollution on the ground. The observation park at RDU is almost tailor made for this. Field of view is probably 270°, and there's almost no obstruction between you and the visible horizon. Plus it's under cover, and -- bonus -- you cna eavesdrop on the air traffic controllers, which will give you an idea of whether the storm is actually going to put in an appearance or not. On this night, it ultimately turned out to be "not". So I spent about an hour waiting and experimenting with various long-exposure techniques. There were the light-streaks-of-moving-vehicles. Ho hum, old news, right? Okay, some uber-long exposures that on film would have resulted in reciprocity failure (one of the many things I love about shooting digital at night... that's a non-issue). And heyyyy... how about some zoom panning?

If you're not familiar with the technique, this is the short version. Using a zoom lens (obviously) with a fairly wide focal length range, you rack the lens either fully in or fully out, open the shutter, and then zoom the full length (usually) of the lens's range. For this shot I used a 75-300mm "kit" lens that I don't use much anymore, but keep around "just in case". For what I was shooting, it didn't make much difference if I started at 75mm and zoomed out to 300mm or started at 300mm and zoomed in to 75. I tried it both ways and the results looked pretty much the same. I used the "Bulb" setting for shutter control, meaning the shutter stayed open as long as I held the button down, but you could use any shutter speed that would give you enough time to rack the lens fully. And strictly speaking it isn't necessary to twist the lens its full length, but that's the easiest way to keep focus if you want the subject in focus at the end of the shot. Set focus to manual, and rack the lens fully in or out (depending on what you're going for). Then rack the lens to the opposite end to start your shot. In theory, when you hit the end of travel, your subject should be sharp with a "cone" of zoom lines leading up to or away from it. In this case I didn't really care about the subject itself (a Park-and-Ride bus stop), I just wanted the light trails.

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1 comment:

Mama Zen said...

Very cool. It looks like a runway of light.