NW Photo & Video | Taking Time Exposures

Taking Time Exposures

Vietnam War Memorial Time Exposure


Our family took a trip to our Nation's Capitol during a fourth of July weekend. I have always heard about the emotional power of the Vietnam memorial. Indeed it is powerful. My stepson's father is a Vietnam veteran who lost comrades in the war, and he has given us an even deeper appreciation for what it represents. I took some photographs during the day, but it wasn't nearly as inspiring as it was during the night.


I came back after midnight and saw many people walking through the memorial. I spent time studying it to find out how to best compose the subject.


Then I checked out the lighting to be sure the subject was evenly lit. In this situation, I could see the black granite walls were well lit by lights embedded in the stones below. As you observe the lights are shooting from bottom upwards. Then there are the lights above the memorial that are located on the street. These were perfect for illuminating the grass and the background.


Imagine for a moment that all the street lights were missing. The grass and trees would not be lighted. It would still be a significant historical monument to record, but the excitement of the image would be diminished.


For photographs done at night, one must have a camera that can expose a chip or film for lengths of time between 1 and 30 seconds in length. This calls for a camera with manual settings. A point and shoot camera will not do the job. One must also have a sturdy tripod.


In photographing the memorial I used a tripod with my camera at an ISO setting of 400. I set my camera lens at f/8 so that I would utilize the sharpest point of my lens as well as giving me sharpness from the entrance of the memorial to the exit. If I had set it at f/1.8, then the image would be sharp at some points but out of focus at others.


Finally, I set my exposure for approximately 6 seconds and utilized my self timer so as to avoid any camera vibration that might take place when depressing the shutter button. Then I looked around to make sure no one was going to bump into my camera setup while making the exposure.


When it was all clear, I pressed the button, listened to the beeps until the shutter was automatically released for six seconds.


When I viewed the image on the camera screen, it was too dark, so I decided to increase my time to 7 seconds. I kept changing the time by one second increments until I got to 16 seconds. At that point, the images were looking brighter and good enough to stop shooting.


When I got home to my digital darkroom, I was thrilled at the 14 second mark. It was just the right exposure, and I used Photoshop to enhance the image even further.


By studying the photograph carefully, you might notice that there is a woman sitting in the light of her cell phone. There are what appear to be ghosts around this memorial caused by people walking slowly in front of it and pausing for a moment. These brief pauses were recorded on the chip.


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 If you would like to own this photograph of the Vietnam Memorial, contact me for sizes. We offer 16 x 24 through 36 x 60 on Canvas or Dye Sublimation Metal.


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