Fun with Shutter Speed

Full Speed Ahead

Let me begin by saying that I was, um, inspired by an image from another photographer here on the island.  Until he returns my emails, I won’t mention his name or website.

This was taken from the top deck of a Washington State Ferry while crossing from Vashon to West Seattle.  The concept should be pretty clear – I wanted to show the motion of the water with a longer (slower) shutter speed but still get the deck as sharp as I could.  Never mind the fact that we were on a moving boat, bumping across the chops, and that steadily shooting the deck by itself would have been a moderate challenge.  No, the trick here was getting a balanced exposure.

You see, the longer the shutter is left open (in this case, to get nice, flowing water), the more light reaches the sensor and you get a brighter picture.  Since the water was already the brightest stuff in the scene, that normally would have meant closing the aperture until the exposure was correct.  That would have been fine if I was only shooting the water.  The deck, however, was still in pretty dark shadow (this might have been better if I was going the other direction).  Exposing for the water would have meant an almost black deck; exposing for the deck would have meant a glaring white splash of agua fría.

A graduated filter probably would have helped, but no one has purchased one for me yet, so what to do?  Well, I took the scientific approach I know so many professionals do and . . . guessed.

It takes about 20 minutes to cross the Sound at this stretch, so I had time to make a few guesses.  Eventually I got something I could work with.  Now that I see the final result, though, I’d really like to go back and try this again with the entire deck in sunlight.  I think the brighter rust against the blue water looks good.

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