When I took my Black & White Digital Imaging class earlier this year one of the assignments we had was a personal project. Essentially, we had to create a miniseries of images centered around something of our choosing. Here’s what I came up with.
The idea I first had was to do daytime long exposures in the middle of downtown, effectively erasing all the moving cars and people and making it look sort of like a ghost town. One problem (probably not what you think). There are parked cars all along the sides of the street. This had crossed my mind once or twice, but I didn’t fully realize just what that would mean visually. It means that it really didn’t look like a place that had been deserted or forgotten about. There were these perfectly clean and nicely lined up cars all over. It actually would have been pretty cool if they were all beat up and crooked, like people had just abandoned them. For some reason though, I don’t think I could’ve gotten the owners to agree to me damaging their cars to make it fit more with what I had in mind. I could have grunged them up in Photoshop, sure, but they were still too perfectly lined up.
So that idea went out the window. Luckily, when I had gone out to shoot for this, I also got a bunch of pictures with motion streaks in them from cars that were passing by. I decided to go with it and have the theme be on all the motion, the fact that people are always rushing and they just go, go, go. Life doesn’t stop for anybody and it can be pretty crazy at times; sometimes you’re just stuck watching it all speed past.
How I Did It
You might be thinking, “wouldn’t doing a long exposure during daytime be even more of a problem?” Technically, yes. Unless you have an ND filter (neutral density). And I just so happen to have a variable 10-stop one (or at least it says it’s a 10-stop). For anyone unfamiliar with ND filters, they’re basically just darkened pieces of glass (or resin depending on what kind you get). Since it’s “tinted” a neutral color you won’t be affecting the color balance, just blocking out more light and therefore extending how long you have to keep the shutter open. You can get them in specific set amounts, such as ones that block out just 2-stops of light, and stack multiple together if you need more light filtered out. Or there’s the variable version, like I have, where you can adjust how much light is being blocked by rotating the top piece of the filter.
Since it was still pretty bright out (I even shot right into the sun) I had to use the filter at the far end of it’s light blocking capabilities (10-stops) as well as close my aperture down as far as I could get it (f/22 in this case). Doing that I was able to get exposure times up to 15 seconds with the sun still out full blast.
When I processed these I worked to give them a pretty harsh and “tiring” look overall. The lighting was pretty harsh anyway and I wanted to emphasize the dull and weary feeling you get from the grind of always rushing about. I think I accomplished that pretty effectively since, if you ask me, the images are almost depressing when you look at them too long.
And now, the main attraction. The actual photos! Full screen viewing and prints available for order in the Nonstop gallery.
Full screen viewing and prints available for order in the Nonstop gallery.