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Steel Wool Photography

I’ve been wanting to try steel wool photography for a while. Since I’ve continued to wake up in the middle of the night and sometimes struggle to get back to sleep, I decided to go out and shoot some more. This time trying steel wool shots.

This is easy to do – just get some steel wool. In my case I used super fine grade (I think it’s packaged as “0000”), get a lighter or 9V battery to get it to burn, a whisk to hold the steel wool, and your camera setup. You definitely need a tripod and a good place to shoot. Also a good idea to have some water or a fire extinguisher handy in case sparks start something burning. Trust me, there’ll be plenty of sparks if you do it right.

While I’m thinking about it, there’s a chance you’ll get burned, or at the very least, hit by some of the sparks. Gloves, long sleeves, and maybe even a hat are a good idea. You’re literally playing with fire, something we were all taught as kids not to do. To get the best spark effect, take the steel wool piece and spread it out a bit before lighting it. Definitely pick a spot where you can do this safely, and hopefully without getting in trouble.

Setup focus, then switch to manual. In my case, I shot at 30 second exposures, about the max time I found the steel wool would burn well. I was alone, so my camera remote shutter release was critical. Otherwise you’ll need to use your timer or bring a friend to help you. So far f/8-f/11 seem good f-stop settings.

I intend to try this again, after scouting some more spots, mainly intending to find darker locations. Light pollution is definitely a challenge here. And since I tend to shoot before sunrise, waiting for later sunrise times should help.

Here are the results:

 

Light Painting the Car

I’ve wanted to shoot sunrises and sunsets lately, and really haven’t felt like going to the Mississippi River to do it. But I’ve struggled to find a good location that has the foreground, etc. that I’d like. I was out Friday night, on short notice without a chance to plan where to shoot, and at first seemed like I’d just wander around and shoot nothing worthwhile.

Then it hit me – use the car as my subject, and try my hand at light painting the car. I’d seen others do that and wanted to try it, and luckily thought of it. So I parked the car and tried a couple of light painting methods.

red car light painting - redred car light painting - white

Not bad for a first try. I like the red on red from the top image, and I also like the headlight and tail light starbursts from the bottom image.

Next time I’m out at night and complaining about having nothing to shoot, maybe I’ll try light painting whatever’s around.

Photography Cure for Insomnia

Louisiana State Capital in Baton Rouge

Sometimes I have trouble getting back to sleep after waking during the night. Instead of tossing and turning, I started going out and shooting.

I’m not an experienced enough photographer yet to have settled into a set style or genre, but night photography seems to be my thing.

So I guess it’s ok that I go out and shoot at night, except of course missing out on some sleep. In a way that doesn’t matter because I’ve found I can clear my head while I’m out shooting, and when I get back from a late night shoot I usually go back to sleep quickly. Sometimes the shoots wind up being an early start to shooting a sunrise.

I’ve done everything from my first try at star trails, more interstate light trails, and more light painting, and even started working on time lapses.

Check these out:

light trails on Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge
Late night light trails on Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge
Louisiana State Capital in Baton Rouge
early morning shot of the Louisiana State Capital in Baton Rouge

I will get some others uploaded when I can, just to show a broad selection of the different shots I’ve gotten.

As a matter of fact, I’m writing this while out on a shoot. I have two cameras going right now, so maybe I will get something worth posting later.

Late night photography probably isn’t the textbook cure for insomnia, but it’s helping me.

Splash Photography

A couple of weeks ago I decided to try water splash photography during a brief (but pretty strong!) thunderstorm. This was my first real try at this, and that pretty much spur of the moment.

I picked a spot where the water runs off one of the ridges on our roof line, positioned the camera and tripod, and went to work. I used the self timer and then got in place. A couple of comments on my own shooting/setup – I don’t have a speed light, and I think that could’ve helped freeze the water. I think I’ll pick up one soon and try some different projects.

Make sure to have at least one towel nearby – you’ll need one for you, and for the camera body and tripod. If you need to clean water from your lens (and you probably will) it’s best to use the right kind of lens cleaning cloth. I was soaked, and was pretty happy to have a towel right there.

After I got my shots, just a quick trip into Lightroom to crop and export.

No great technique or post processing, just some fun trying something different.

Light Painting

You may be noticing a recurring theme – I really enjoy long exposure photography, especially at night. I love reading/watching tutorials on different photography and video topics. Light painting is, well, awesome. And there are a ton of different light painting tutorials out there.

A while back I was up in the middle of the night because I wanted to try capturing lightning in the night sky. That didn’t quite work out as planned, but I decided to kill some time by trying some light painting.

I started with a DIY lightsaber of sorts – a clear plastic tube used to store fluorescent light bulbs, some semi-transparent wrapping paper (blue), 2 small flashlights inserted into each end of the tube, my trusty Nikon D5300, tripod, and wireless remote. The 2 flashlights, tubes, and paper cost around $30. And I have enough to try many different color combinations – single or multiple tubes, you name it.

I picked a spot nearby with a bridge leading to a man made island, with a beautiful tree, fairly well lit at night. A couple of comments on my own shooting/setup – I should’ve worn darker clothing, and also should have set the ISO lower. I thought I’d overridden the Auto-ISO feature (I intended to shoot at ISO 100), but I didn’t. One thing’s for sure, I’ve made plenty of mistakes while shooting, and I have learned as much from my failures as I have from my good images.

I’ll try again soon and see what difference lowering the ISO makes. Each shot was at 30 seconds.

No great technique or post processing, just some fun trying something different.

Windshield Photography

I really enjoy long exposure photography, especially at night. A while back I saw some blog posts showing images captured while driving. Before I go any further, if you’re going to try what I’m calling windshield photography, put safety first and photography at least second. The author suggested having a friend drive while you ride in the back and take pictures. I’ll give that a try when I get a chance. For now, all the shots here are ones I got while driving.

So I thought I’d give it a try. Nothing fancy. I placed my trusty Nikon D5300 on my dashboard, set the shutter speed, guessed on manual focus, and off I went. One improvement I’ve thought of since would be to use a remote trigger, keeping both hands (mostly) free to drive.

The shots above are from two different rides around town. One was a rainy (very early!) morning commute, while the other was just a usual Friday night.

I knew I’d have some camera shake thanks to our fine roads (don’t get me started), so it was more to see what light trails I’d get based on different locations. Some of the best images came while driving around curves and by sitting at traffic signals in the rain.

While shooting in the rain, I keep my windshield wiper speed down so water droplets would build on the windshield, adding a different bit of bokeh to the traffic light shot.

No great technique or post processing, just some fun trying something different. I hadn’t yet heard the term windshield photography used, so I thought I’d see if it sticks.

Hyperlapse Calculator App – Download on the App Store

My latest photography app, Hyperlapse Calculator, is now available on the App Store!

AppIcon-1024@1x

 

This app is an extremely useful tool for hyperlapse photography and timelapse photography. Hyperlapse Calculator allows photographers to input standard video format frame rates of 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 50, 50.94, 60 frames per second, select a standard clip length (in seconds), and calculate the number of photos required.

Pretty useful if you’re going out to shoot and want to figure out how long you’ll be on location or if you have enough memory on your SD card because you forgot your spares, whatever.

Photographers can also input the hyperlapse location distance (in feet), and the calculator determines the distance you’ll need to move between shots. Hyperlapse Calculator does the math for you, so you can concentrate on getting setup, getting your shots, and getting your hyperlapse done.

Hyperlapse Screen Shot iPhone 7 Plus

The app includes a time lapse calculator, and it works in a similar way. Photographers select from standard clip lengths and frame rates, and the time lapse calculator tells the user the number of photos needed for the time lapse clip.

Timelapse Screen Shot iPhone 7 Plus

Two very useful apps in one – great for beginners and experienced hyperlapse and timelapse photographers.

Download on the App Store by going to iTunes and searching for Hyperlapse Calculator, or click the link below. Hopefully one day I’ll develop a version to run on Android devices.

 
If you get it, please let me know what you think, and send suggestions for other apps!

Interstate Highway Light Trails

Capturing light trails seems to be a photography rite of passage. At some point, I think every aspiring photographer gives it a try. I’ve always been fascinated by long exposure photography, particularly at night, and so I jumped at the chance to capture interstate highway light trails.

I went out shooting one evening in downtown Baton Rouge, and after the sun went down I decided to head to one of the interstate overpasses and catch some light trails. Luckily for me, there was no traffic where I was standing, and I got some pretty good shots looking back towards downtown Baton Rouge and the Louisiana State Capital.
Interstate Light Trails
interstate light trails with the Louisiana State Capital in the background
Then, using some great (and free!) photo editing tips from Nathaniel Dodson (here’s the link to the video tutorial), I made some easy edits in Lightroom, and finally settled on the above image.
It was fun to try, and I’ll be sure to do it again the next chance I get.

Spring Flowers to Break Up the Meeting Monotony

Practice, practice, practice.

If you’re an aspiring amateur photographer like me, you need to shoot as much as you can. A great way to make sure you’re ready to do this is to have your camera (or phone if you like) with you as much as possible. Then you can shoot whenever you see something that catches your eye, and all the practice will help when you go to shoot something you really want to do a good job capturing.

Not original advice, and I’m not taking credit for it. There are a ton of great, free tutorials and blog posts that talk about exactly that – shoot as much as you can, even getting outside your typical shooting style. But no matter what, carry your camera with you, and shoot a few times each week, or even every day.

So that’s what I’ve done some here lately. My photography has improved over time, and I really want to get some great shots on our next family trip.

This shot is a from a field across the road from one of my projects. Spring is finally here, and the flowers caught my attention as I walked out of a meeting last week.
spring flowers
I was bummed out because I was in that I’m-gonna-be-stuck-in-meetings-all-day rut. Seeing this field of flowers lifted my spirits, so I grabbed my camera. Took less than 5 minutes.

And of course I tried to get a little fancy with the out of focus flowers filling part of the frame.

Disney Coffee Cup Bokeh

One thing I really like about the online photography community is the willingness to share great photo ideas, tips for post processing, and software tutorials. Sure, some of the authors are trying to sell something by offering a cool tutorial or plug-in set for free, but most of the time, I find the content really helpful. I usually at least check out what it is they’re trying to sell.

Whether the tutorial is someone’s effort to get their work “out there”, or sell something, sometimes you run across something to try. In my case, I thought I’d try a coffee cup bokeh trick using just a few items: my trusty Nikon D5300, tripod, Disney coffee cup, and a string of lights. I’d seen this done a few times before, but seeing this again on Pinterest this week led me to do this again.

Disney Coffee Cup Bokeh (5 of 5).jpg
35 mm, ISO 125, f/1.8, 1/10 sec

The weather this week was terrific – until the weekend! I’d been wanting to shoot something, anything, but didn’t feel like getting out in the rain. Soon I’ll try that again. My  foray into shooting a rainy commute to work will have to wait until another post.

Nothing too tricky here – position the light string far enough behind the cup to get some nice bokeh, and make it look like the lights are coming from the cup. I shot this in a fairly dark room to add a late-night, comforting feel. Or tried to, anyway.

After shooting, I brought this into Lightroom, and really didn’t make any edits other than adding a little vignette. I also shot in manual mode (with Autofocus though!), because I’m trying to get away from Auto mode. I may never totally do that, but I want to get more of an idea how a shot will turn out before I start working on it in Lightroom or Photoshop, and the only way I know to do that effectively is to force myself to use Manual mode when I can.

I’ve seen this done with champagne flutes, wine glasses, you name it. Give it a try. It’s a great rainy day/evening project you can do with minimal setup and gear.