The Relativity of Darkness

Mandeville, Louisiana breakwater at dawn. Canon 16-35mm 18mm, 3 minutes @ f7.1, ISO 200. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Mandeville, Louisiana breakwater before dawn. Canon 16-35mm 18mm, 3 minutes @ f7.1, ISO 200. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

LIGHT AND DARK

My personal photographic journey has taken an interesting and slightly mysterious turn these last few months, down a path that’s involved a lot of long, long exposures. Opening the shutter and leaving it open changes your world: the reality of what you are photographing is still reality, only now it’s a reality that involves time in a different way. Recording a scene over a period of time, letting the one photograph sum up what has occurred in the scene for that bit of time, is of course what we all are doing, whether you’re shooting at 1/2000th of a second or for 200 seconds. But it does become a different view of that reality when the shutter stays open for a long time.

Remember when you first read or studied about geology? How you had to try and imagine geologic time, things taking place over eons? Shooting long exposures reminds me of that a bit. It definitely slows you way down mentally when thinking about composition and framing.

So here’s a simple image, shot before dawn in one of my favorite shooting spots. It was actually still quite dark, too dark to focus. I framed this as much by experience as by actual vision and set my exposure by guesswork (actually turned out to be a very good guess). The colors come up out of the dark, similar to the way photographs used to appear in the tray of developer: an image you couldn’t see with your naked eye, but a real image, real light, nevertheless.

Darkness is a relative thing, it turns out.

Mandeville, Louisiana breakwater before dawn. Canon 16-35mm 18mm, 3 minutes @ f7.1, ISO 200. This is the black and white version of the same image. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Mandeville, Louisiana breakwater at dawn. Canon 16-35mm 18mm, 3 minutes @ f7.1, ISO 200. This is the black and white version of the same image. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: Gallery

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

6 Comments on "The Relativity of Darkness"

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  1. Ulf says:

    I prefer the b/w version. Thats great!

  2. Thanks Ulf! I think I do too.

  3. Randall says:

    That’s very cool! The color version has what my wife would call “Maxfield Parrish” blue.

    How did you take care of the focus issue? was is just the “best you could manual”?(which turned out very well)

    I like both versions. Nice work.

  4. Thanks for commenting, Randall. I wrote a recent post about always carrying a flashlight for night work, and the torch came in handy for this shot. I know where infinity focus is on that lens (which isn’t actually all the way racked out) and I set it for that.

  5. Marco Fiori says:

    Loving the blue one, think it provides that little bit more context.

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