Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lens Cap Trick

Many moons ago (literally) I was looking through the rift in the mountains that opens out onto a view of the plains from my mountain home, and noticed that the moon is always a few degrees out of the view. I never was able to capture a moonrise on the horizon from the comfort of my deck. There are only a few times a year that it gets even close but sadly it seems to avoid the spot that would give me a great 'huge moon illusion' right on the horizon or just above it. I guess that I only have about 5 or 10 degrees of horizon to work with.

Then one night sitting in the hot tub ruminating on the problem I had a duh moment and realized that I could place the moon anywhere in the frame that I wanted it using what I then dubbed a "blind pan" or "black zoom." I figured I could expose the moon, cover the lens, then re-frame the shot (thus pan and or zoom) and expose a different background. You don't have a view thru the finder while the mirror is locked up, and so the blind or black part. I tried a few times and in theory it worked, but the results were ugly. Moons superimposed on trees or mountains etc. But after more trial and error, I learned I could compose both parts of the shot individually to get each exposure and position correct, then go on to the actual double exposure.  My first useable post:

Passed over
Which obviously had many "pans."  You can see the curved tripod path that put the moon on an impossible trajectory. It also has flaws like the light that is supposed to be coming from behind the trees but isn't blotted out by them. In spite of this  I got pretty excited about it and kept trying. After a ton of bloopers, my first post to Flickr went stratospheric (still #1 in Explore for Nov 6, 2006

Alien Shore
Okay so now I was hooked. I later discovered that this was a fairly old trick using film and exposing the moon over a roll, then rewinding and double exposing the backgrounds later. My digital camera at the time did not have the double exposure function, so this was the only way for me to achieve it. I also learned that this technique had been used for firework displays to get more explosions on a frame. It helps to have a lens with a large range, so that the moon can be captured at maximum zoom, and then a low end wide enough to capture a decent background. The dream lens is of course a Sigma 50-500mm. Okay so I don't own one but I have owned 300m and 20mm lenses at the same time. Thus lens swapping was born (at least to me - I don't claim to have invented it). This entails using the long lens to snap the moon, then cloaking the camera (I use a dark towel) whilst removing the first lens and then attaching the wide angle. Making sure the direction and focus is set, snap the towel off the gear - just like a magician would pull a table cloth off a fully set and stocked table - just kidding, and then let the background expose. Here is an example of this:

Welcome to Vancouver, Ganymede
Blind pan and Black zoom are sort of clumsy phrases and never really stuck. I started playing around with other things that could be used besides the moon and got into light painting using various light sources.

This caught on and the term lens cap trick was adopted by the community. That is what I will be calling this technique from now on. Only a few that I know of have tried this with the moon but there are lots of great light painting examples. First one of mine (well it's not Explorer kind of great but I like it). This one incorporates a still of a Gumby model and then a camera toss which I will blog later about:  

Gumby Weeeee
Some of my favorite examples on Flickr include light paintings by ectro, Hyphy Hands Lincoln, and Hob. Or just do a search to find your own faves: lens+cap+trick search.

Check out the Light Junkies group for more information on light painting. Here is the official LCT tut from my profile on Flickr:

Zoom in on the moon and take as many shots as needed to understand where your exposure time needs to be to keep from "blowing it out" (losing the detail).
Then do the same for the second exposure and make sure you have some kind of reference so you can know where to aim.
Finally, point back at the moon and lock the shutter release. After the determined exposure time, cover the lens and then re-aim to the second spot. Zoom out and uncover the lens for the determined second exposure. Release the lock. Pray. Repeat as needed. Or just take 2 photos and layer them in Photoshop. But what's the fun in that?

I'd like to showcase some of the artists that have attempted this with the moon. All photos used here with the permission of their respective copyright owners.

Jon Steele (mccullin4):

Rohit Markande:

Eric Yeadon (The Capturer): 

Mike Ross (TxPilot):

1 comment:

  1. This is an interesting technique I have shamelessly copied from jah. I will do so again.

    I have nothing against photoshop or its related software. I use it all the time. I dont believe in sooc its nearly dead and those diehards who insist on it are deluded.

    One should embrace the software the DSLR, chimping etc. But remember they are tools to be used with disgression. Too few nowadays use experimental techniques at the time of shooting. They forget the innovation and what can be achieved at the crucial moment.

    To combine the skills of experimental shooting techniques with the digital software is true art.

    Too few people do this. Perhaps they will reap the financial reward. Sadly I doubt it as most are interested in the image itself not the techniques used to create it.

    We should probably merely seek self fulfillment and pursue things the hard way.