Ghostly double self portrait night shot in front of Carl’s Cabin in Sumpter, Oregon.
Our family pilgrimage to Eastern Oregon provided some unique shooting opportunities for me to play with night images. This this week’s Image of the Week was captured exactly four and a half hours after last weeks. I call this double self-portrait One Me, Two Me, No Me.
Sumpter is a very small town and I wanted to do some exploring on foot after we arrived in the wee hours of the morning. This small hunting cabin was very near where we were staying. It caught my eye right away as a good place to experiment with some long exposures. When I first started walking I took a few quick JPEG shots before heading to the Sumpter Valley Dredge.
On my way back from the dredge I set up for some more images at the hunting cabin. This time I shot in RAW+JPEG and experimented more with the light and ghostly self-portraits. In low light situations it takes a very long exposure for the camera to capture the scene in front of it. You can take advantage of that by moving things around within the scene during the exposure that will be ghosted in the final image. There was a street light that provided a few challenges just out of the top right of the frame, but the building had so much character I couldn’t resist it as a backdrop. Because of that side light I backed the camera down to 100 ISO to extend the exposure as long as I could and keep the digital noise to a minimum. I did have the aperture all of the way open at ƒ/2.8 to try to gather as much sky and background light as possible without introducing unnecessary noise. The D7000 was on my tripod and I used the remote control to trigger the bulb manual exposure.
With the camera all set up for the shot it was time to execute. From the previous exposures I knew that I wanted about a sixty second exposure. I triggered the camera using the remote from the left hand position as you view the image. I used the timer on my iPod to prompt me to move to the other spot after about 25 seconds. After another 25 seconds I walked out of the frame and closed the exposure from behind the camera. The camera then captures me and the background behind me in both locations giving the ghostly appearance. It is not able to capture me moving between the spots or out of the frame because I’m never in one spot long enough while in motion.
Split comparison of the corrected RAW vs. the JPEG (and what the original RAW looked like).
Back at the computer I made a few adjustments to the RAW capture to result in the final image. Out of the camera the image looked like the JPEG version with a significant color cast caused by the artificial light coming from the street lamp along with the heat generated on the camera’s sensor during the exposure. I used Apple Apertureto color correct the image with a white balance adjustment. I also made a curves adjustment to balance the whites and blacks in the image and boosted the shadows and contrast slightly.
A RAW capture gives you much more latitude to make these adjustments without compromising the quality of the image.
There are quite a few subtle details worth noting in the final image. You can easily see “through” my ghosted images to what is behind me while everything else in the scene is solid. The street lamp causes shadows from right to left across the scene, there was very little moonlight on this evening. There is a slight ghost of the street lamp and it’s light in the background tree on the right. You can see subtle star trails starting to emerge from the roughly one minute exposure (most noticeable in the bright star just up and to the right from the flag pole). Without the street light it would have been possible to do a longer exposure and have more pronounced star trails.
I did have an audience during this shoot. Four deer stood and watched me set up, they were only a few yards behind the camera as I shot. They were not willing photo subjects however, I couldn’t convince them to stay stationary for 30 seconds for a low light capture!
- RAW image with Nikon D7000 @ 100 ISO
- Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Lens @ 16mm
- 58.6 Seconds @ ƒ/2.8
- Sunday, September 16, 2012 @ 02:48
- Sumpter, Oregon, USA