Try Daylight Long Exposures With HandlePod and a Neutral Density Filter

 

Why would you put a dark filter over your camera lens to let in less light? It can make autofocus difficult, complicates exposure calculation and makes hand holding the camera impossible because of the long exposure. So why do it–to let the camera record subject motion over time. Long exposure photography records movement in a photograph and the results can be artistic and pleasing if done properly.

Using ND Filters

A neutral density filter may compromise the point-and-shoot convenience of today’s automatic cameras. Because it cuts the light by as much at ten stops it is best to first compose, focus then turn off auto focus before mounting the filter. Check this YouTube video for more detail on using a ten stop ND filter.

Exposure calculation can be complex, but a modern DSLR or mirrorless camera will usually calculate exposures accurately up to thirty seconds. Set the ISO to the lowest setting and use a narrow aperture (f11 or f16). With the camera on manual and a fixed ND filter it is possible to manually determine the exposure without the filter. Then mount the filter and adjust the exposure time by the given number of stops. Guides are available on line to calculate ND filter exposure.

Variable ND Filter

ND filters come in a range of 2 to ten stops. Variable ND filters are also available. A variable ND filter consists of two polarizing filters one of which rotates above the other. It can reduce the light from about two to more than ten stops. The problem is that manually calculating the exposure for any given setting is virtually impossible.

One way to deal with this is to set the camera to aperture priority and let the camera choose the exposure time. This is a less than accurate method and will require testing and adjustment. Also, exposures over thirty seconds are not possible and must be done manually with the bulb setting.

Choose the Appropriate Subject

Neutral Density Filter

This two second exposure of the Pacifica pier was taken in daylight with a variable neutral density filter.

Flowing water, clouds and people in motion are subjects that can benefit from long exposure photography. Waterfalls and ocean waves make excellent long exposure subjects when done properly. Experiment with exposures of one to five seconds for waterfalls and streams and decide what gives you the most pleasing effect.

Longer exposures of ocean waves can turn the water into a smooth, flat almost surreal representation that stretches the bounds of reality. Done right, the results can be very artistic. The same goes for clouds which can turn the sky into soft, billowy streaks.

People in motion can also work for long exposures. People in a crowded square or busy intersection become streaks of color and interesting shapes. Given enough time, people can vanish completely, giving the scene a deserted look.

For more information on long exposure photography, check out this excellent guide in BWVision.

Camera Stabilization is Essential

ND filter and HandlePod

HandlePod secured to a rail with elastic cord for long exposure with a neutral density filter.

Using a neutral density filter to increase exposure time in daylight to many seconds eliminates the possibility of hand holding the camera. Use a tripod or other sturdy alternative support to keep the camera steady during long exposures. HandlePod is a light weight, pocket size support that can be used effectively with ND filters for daylight long exposures described in this article by Mirrorlessons. A neutral density filter and sturdy camera support opens up a new realm of photographic creativity.

Stick Your Camera to Rocks and Trees with HandlePod and Sticky Putty

HandlePod was conceived to be tied or held against man-made objects—poles, railings, walls, buildings, etc. These have flat, round or angled surfaces that the four feet of the HandlePod can straddle and engage solidly. Out in nature the available supports are not as accommodating. Rocks and trees can be rough and uneven. While it is possible to nest the HandlePod into an uneven surface, getting all four feet to engage the support can be problematic.

Adhesive Putty Secures HandlePod to Anything

HandlePod on a rock

Bridge camera on HandlePod is secured to uneven rock surface with adhesive putty.

The previous blog introduced a flexible putty that can stick the HandlePod to practically anything. It also engages and molds to any rough surface no matter how uneven. Using this remarkable putty, HandlePod can use anything for support without regard to how solidly the four feet contact the object. The putty will mold around any uneven surface and stick securely for solid support. Rocks and trees can provide camera support with complete reliability.

Natural Supports Can Be Vertical or Sloped

HandlePod on a tree

Adhesive putty supports HandlePod on rough, uneven tree bark.

The putty is sticky enough to adhere to vertical or steeply sloped objects. It will cling to tree bark or stone with impressive tenacity. In fact, if the surface is uneven and cracked the adhesion is better. The putty can be pushed into cracks and crevices for greater surface contact.

Be sure to test adhesion first. A smartphone on a tripod adapter or a point-and-shoot is generally pretty safe. A bridge camera or mirrorless is heavier so make sure the putty holds securely. It can support a consumer DSLR but be careful. Be certain the putty holds before walking away to take a selfie with the timer. Leave the camera on the support for a short a time as possible. The putty will sag and deform very slowly but will not suddenly release.

Clean Up Is Not a Problem

Using the putty on natural surfaces will undoubtedly leave dirt, sand and wood in the material. Most of this can be wiped away or picked off by hand. The little bit that might remain is not important. Fold, knead and massage the putty so that the dirt vanishes inside. This will not affect its performance.

HandlePod in the Natural World

Hiking or backpacking in the wild is a perfect venue for using HandlePod and adhesive putty. Stick your camera on any available support and step back for a self portrait in a glorious natural setting. No need to pack a heavy, bulky tripod when any rock or tree will do the job.

Stick Cameras to Anything with HandlePod and Amazing Adhesive Putty

As useful and versatile as HandlePod is, it won’t stick to anything by itself. Wouldn’t it be great to just press it on a wall and have it stay put, defying gravity like magic. Of course no small camera support will do that except one. Read a review of the MonsterPod here. But HandlePod could never do that–not until now!

The solution came about literally by accident. More on that later. I had thought about sticking HandlePod to objects for some time. But how? The first idea was to use duct tape. This was an awkward and less than elegant solution. Doable, but it had its limitations.

Then the solution fell into my hand or my hand fell into it. The stuff I found is firm but easily moldable. It is just tacky enough to adhere to almost anything. It will mold to uneven surfaces. It will cling with enough tenacity to support a smartphone, point-and-shoot, mirrorless or even a consumer DSLR with certain precautions. Yet it pulls off easily and leaves no residue or mess behind. This material is the final addition that makes HandlePod a universal camera mount that will stick to almost anything and stay in place by itself.

Stick Your Phone Anywhere

smartphone HandlePod

Smartphone on HandlePod attached to a wall with adhesive putty.

Use a smartphone adapter on HandlePod and slap it against a wall, a tree, a column—anything. HandlePod’s elastic cord works great, but some things are too big to wrap it around. Now size doesn’t matter. This amazing adhesive putty will attach your phone to any solid object in seconds. Then set the timer and get in the shot or use a remote smartphone shutter release.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uneven Surfaces Not a Problem

HandlePod

Compact camera attached to a tree with HandlePod and adhesive putty.

This point-and-shoot on a HandlePod is stuck solidly to tree bark. It won’t come loose until you pull it off and leaves no residue behind. The putty may pick up small pieces of wood or a bit of dirt but this can be picked off easily. If anything remains it can be massaged into the lump of putty and not affect its performance.

Larger cameras like a bridge or mirrorless will also work but test adhesion to the surface first. You should be able to tug on the HandlePod rather vigorously without it pulling loose. Be sure to press the putty onto the surface as firmly as possible.

 

 

 

 

What About a Small DSLR?

HandlePod DSLR

A consumer DSLR attaches to a wall corner with HandlePod and adhesive putty.

You can attach a consumer DSLR with some precautions. A flat surface is not advisable since adhesion may be limited. But a cornered surface can work quite well since there is more surface contact and it pulls at an angle. Doors, window frames, buildings—anything with an outside corner works well.

Press the HandlePod into the corner so that the putty molds around both surfaces and extrudes under the mount. Press the putty further around the corner with your hand. Test the adhesion. If it feels solid, mount the camera and shoot. Don’t leave it in place for long since weight may cause the putty to deform and sag slowly. But it will not suddenly release and drop the camera.

 

 

Other Uses Abound

HandlePod

Video camera on HandlePod is attached to the dashboard with adhesive putty.

The ability to stick your camera to any solid object opens up a world of possibilities. Want a dashboard camera in your car? Mounting a video camera on the dash is quick and easy. Bicycle handlebars, forks and frames come to mind. The possibilities are endless. All it takes is HandlePod and a few ounces of this extraordinary miracle putty.

 

 

 

 

So What Is This Miraculous Stuff?

I said that I fell into this discovery by accident which is literally true. While walking my dog I tripped on a crack and pulled a ligament in my thumb. After casts and splints were off the doc gave me some material I could squeeze and massage to strengthen my hand. It is called Theraputty and is given out routinely in hospitals. I noticed it was mildly tacky and would stick to just about anything. I pressed it on the back of a HandlePod and viola! A camera mount that would stick anywhere.

Theraputty comes in a range of stiffness. The black color is Extra Firm and is the material that works best. A four-ounce container is the perfect size. It is available from a number of suppliers and can be bought on Amazon.

To greatly expand the versatility of HandlePod and turn it into a stick-anywhere camera mount consider adding Theraputty to your kit.

Look Ma No Tripod, Get That Low Light Shot Anyway

Night and low light photography without a tripod falls into two categories:

  1. Using some type of tripod alternative camera stabilization device.
  2. Camera settings that maximize light gathering capability for a minimum shutter speed that can be hand held.

Both approaches have advantages and drawbacks. Using a small tripod alternative device offers the camera stabilization and long exposure advantages of a tripod. But unlike a tripod, these devices are limited to surfaces and support objects in the environment that can accommodate them. For a further discussion tripod free photography click here.

Use Supports If Available

Depending on how they are used or attached, the availability of supports may be limited. Bean bags and mini-tripods need a more or less flat, level surface at the desired height. Clamps, Velcro straps and bendable minipod legs only attach to supports of a minimum size. Suction cups need a smooth surface like window glass or a car body. All have limited applications and lack the versatility of a sturdy tripod. But they also avoid the weight and bulk of a tripod.

Long Exposure

Long ten second exposure with camera mounted on HandlePod that was held on a rail.

The photo above was exposed for ten seconds at f16 and an ISO of 200. Notice the lack of noise or grain. Another benefit of the smaller aperture is an increased depth of field and the star effect around the lights. Of course such a long exposure could never be hand held. In this case the camera was mounted on a HandlePod that was held on the railing surrounding the pier.

Hand Held Is Possible

Adjusting the camera to allow a hand held exposure is possible with some sacrifice in quality. The photo below is a comparison of hand held and stabilized images. The image on the left is a segment of a similar shot hand held at 1/40 second at f4.5 and an ISO of 12,800. Notice the grain and lack of star effect compared to the image on the right which is a segment of the stabilized exposure.

Hand held vs stabilized in low light.

Hand held on left compared to stabilized long exposure on right.

Using or not using a tripod in low light is not an all or nothing situation. There are alternatives as we have seen. A light weight tripod alternative like HandlePod provides the long exposure capability of a tripod without the weight and bulk. It offers noise-free low ISO and the increased depth of field of a narrow aperture. The drawback is you must find support objects that you can hold it against or attach it to. But there are usually plenty available.

Shoot at Night Without a Tripod

Where tripod alternatives or support objects are not available, it is possible to crank up the ISO and open the aperture to allow hand holding in just about any light. This will work if the increased noise is acceptable. It is a less than ideal solution, but will get the low light shot when hand held is the only choice.

In the absence of a tripod the best solution is to use one technique or the other—stabilized long exposures using an alternative like HandlePod on a solid support, or high ISO, wide aperture camera settings that allow hand-holdable shutter speeds. The light and situation will determine the choice but using one or the other will save the shot when a tripod is just not in the works.

Use Your Feet to Take Panorama Photos of Close Subjects

The previous blog described use of the panorama feature either in-camera or post processed in software to achieve a wide angle panorama. The basic technique is to stand in one place and pan the camera left to right for a series of overlapping images that can be spliced together. This works well for wide vistas and distant landscapes.

Mural art made of a four-photo Panorama stitched together in Photoshop.

But what if the subject is small and distance limited? That is the case with the above mural painted on a home in San Francisco’s Mission District. It is in a narrow alley famous for artwork decorating walls, doors and fences. It is difficult to get far enough away from some of these murals to take in all the artwork in one photo unless you have an extremely wide angle lens. Panning the camera from left to right as described earlier will work, but there is a better way.

Let Your Feet Do the Wide Angle Work

Start at the left side of the subject and take the first photo. Walk a few steps to the right and take another overlapping photo. Continue moving to the right and shooting until you reach the end of the subject. The photo below shows the four overlapping photos that make up the mural panorama.

mural panorama

Four overlapping photos used to create the mural panorama.

 Merge Images in Photoshop Elements

The four photos were stitched together in Photoshop Elements using Photomerge and Panorama to combine the images. The software does an excellent job of merging the images seamlessly. The illustration below shows how the different photos are broken up and the overlapping edges trimmed to match the adjoining image.

 

Photoshop panorama

Pieces of the individual photos shows how Photoshop breaks them into edges that match.

 

 

It is best to use the fill command to fill in blank areas of the photo. It does a reasonable job but usually you must crop off some of the filled image. The software introduces some distortion which can be corrected with the distort command.

And there you have it, a wide angle panorama created with your feet instead of an expensive super wide angle lens.