160925 Water III - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

This is something that I keep coming back to.

Daylight long exposures over water is a subject I spent a while on about two and a half years ago. I made a project out of the results – a 'project' is something that involves an artist's statement – and wrote about the process a couple of times. These photos are closest to what I was originally trying, which was black and white, rather than the colour series it evolved into.

Another thread that I returned to with these photos is an unusual level of post-processing. This photo has been mirrored and expanded to remove some pesky clouds and the Scarborough bluffs. I love the stark simplicity of the results, but it's tough to get a fully cloudless sky.

The rest of the photos are more straightforward, with tonal adjustments and not much else. Even the vignetting is mostly natural, whether it's a result of the lens, the light, or the large stack of stepping rings needed to bring a 77mm filter down to fit on a 46mm thread.

These photos are taken with my infrared-modified Coolpix A and between ten to thirteen stops of ND filters, plus the inherent light reduction of only using the frequencies above 830 nanometres, give or take. These exposures lasted between three to ten seconds, from f/5.6 and f/11. I try not to stop down too much because there's a bit of dust on the AIR's sensor that can't be removed.

Getting the level of shadow detail right is tricky. I want the rocks in the foreground here to almost-but-not-quite merge into the blacks, but it looks different on every monitor. Even the two that I use for editing give substantially different results. My favourite person points out that this is the reason to show them as prints, and she's right, but the idea of printing these is scary.

When I photographed the Horizon series I sought out stormy days at the end of winter. Once I had to spike the tripod into the ground behind a line of boulders to protect it from the wind that was gusting to eighty kilometres an hour, and then go hide behind a few trees because I couldn't comfortably stand upright. But bad weather makes for good photos, and it solves a huge problem that happens in good weather:

Sailboats.

Boats that are small and distant can be cloned out, but ones that just tack back and forth directly in front of the lens are harder to remove. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't.

This just means I'll have to try this again in the winter.


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