Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Night Photography, Miyajima Island, Japan

The watery shrine and famous 'floating' torii gate on Miyajima Island is on the list of Japan's "most beautiful spots" to visit (Japan has a lot of lists covering the 'most beautiful things..' available to see).

HDR of the Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima Island
We arrived on the island by 4pm so set off with tripods to shoot the torii gate at high tide - actually, although this is a fabulous photo subject, the rest of the shrine, called Itsukushima, is also very interesting.

Photo Tip:
to enhance the smoothness of any watery shots, shoot at f22 and the lowest ISO number available. The long shutter speed has the effect of smoothing out ripples and currents to give a glass-like surface.
To make this more effective, use a Neutral Density (ND) filter to extend the shutter speed. The result is a water surface that looks almost mirror-like, even though you can't see this with the naked eye. ND filters come in ND4, ND8, ND16 and ND64 strengths. I'd recommend an ND64 for bright light but an ND8 for evening shooting. An ND64 filter is almost opaque and reduces the exposure by a massive eight f-stops. Because of the long shutter speeds it is necessary to use a cable release or the self-timer.
Another benefit of using an ND filter is that, because of the extended shutter speeds it creates, people move through the frame and barely register - moving people almost disappear.  With 20-30 second exposures movement barely registers so you end up with a virtually blank frame - you might get some ghosting if the people stand still for any length of time but otherwise, it's a good way to simplify a composition...

HDR of Japan's most famous 'floating' torii gate off Miyajima Island, standing in three metres of sea water - with Miyajimaguchi on the mainland in the background. Here the HDR effect helps exaggerate the cloud formation.
Daylight? No, this was shot at 7pm, well after sunset.  Most of the illumination comes from the powerful spotlights along the shore to my immediate left. A long HDR exposure helped fill in some of the details in the darker wooded slopes in the background.
Same view as above but slightly closer - note the flat sea and mirror-like surface created by forcing the shutter speed to extend as long as possible - in this case 30secs @f22.
One of the many shrines that dot the island. HDR at dusk.
Rear view of Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island. Despite the long 20 second exposure I still got blurry figures under the arches slightly right of centre frame.
Same place, but a slightly different take on the scene. 
Although the sky was heavily clouded and dramatic, the HDR process certainly helps
add drama to this scene

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