Tips to Clip: August 2012
Time Exposure Tips
“I bought a DSLR to use on my videos, but I am becoming a fan of making still photos, especially time exposures, and could use some of your famous tips,” writes Dan Parker of Denver, Co.
The secret to making most time exposures is keeping the camera steady. The most basic stabilization method is, of course, to use a tripod. To make it even steadier, avoid using the center post riser and achieve the necessary height by extending the legs.
Movement and vibration can also come from your pressure on the shutter release or movement of the camera’s mirror. The first can be cured by using a cable release or the camera’s built-in self-timer. Mirror movement can be eliminated if you set up the shot, then lock the mirror in the up position before triggering the shutter.
If your camera does not have a mirror lock option, place a black card in front of the lens, open the shutter, wait a second or two for everything to settle down, then remove the card. Reverse the procedure when the exposure time has elapsed. The card should be close to but never actually touching the lens.
And before you write, yes, I know the Nikon I used in the photo has a mirror lock.
Two of the best deals on inexpensive lighting can be found in your local hardware store. They are fluorescent lights and quartz work lamps.
If you need a lot of light, try the quartz work lights. They usually draw about 500 to 1000 watts and will substitute for many types of professional instruments when it comes to providing general ambient lighting. Their light can be softened by bouncing it off a wall, ceiling, piece of poster board or anything else that is handy. Just be aware of the heat these lights generate and the possibility of blowing a circuit.
If power or heat presents a problem, think about fluorescents. They are especially helpful to ease the harshness of overhead lighting and to fill in faces when shooting in a large office. To match the color temperature of the overheads, borrow lamps for your fixtures from the building maintenance people. I have attached handles that allow my work lights to be operated handheld or put on a light stand.
Packing It In
Attaching laminated business cards to cases with locking wire ties makes it easy for Bill Rodrigues of Louisville, Ky., to identify his equipment. Bill also says he helps new employees learn exactly what goes into each container by listing the contents on a laminated card.
I do the same thing but in another way. I attach a photograph of the equipment layout to the inside top of each case. This lets a helper know not only what equipment goes into the case but also how to arrange the pieces so that they and each piece of foam padding fits properly.
(A quick safety note here: when you cut the excess plastic off the wire ties, the result will usually be a sharp end ready to scratch your hand. Dull the tip by heating it to its melting point with a match, soldering iron or shrink wrap heat gun.)
The last time you paid an airline an excess valuation fee to cover equipment that you were checking through as baggage, did you have the feeling that someone was laughing at you?
Next time you travel by air, take a close look at the small print on your ticket and ticket jacket. You will find that on most airlines, the insurance you are buying specifically excludes coverage for “cameras, video and electronic equipment ... contained in checked or unchecked baggage.”
It seems most ticket counter employees don’t know the policy they are selling is useless to you.
The answer is to be sure that your own equipment policy provides adequate coverage while traveling, then turn down the airline’s insurance.
I was visiting the video control booth at a local sporting event recently and saw a technician cuing an outside vendor’s tape for use on the scoreboard screen. Superimposed on the first 30 seconds of bars was a character generator message providing a phone number to call in case of a problem with the tape. I’ve seen this done at the beginning of satellite transmissions, but this was the first time I’d seen it on a program that was physically shipped. Seems like a good idea.