Friday, January 28, 2011

Photography Tips: Long Exposures in a Tourist Trap (Cave)

This series of photos was taken in Gyokusendo Cave Okinawa, Japan last Thursday. A friend and I figured a weekday would be the best time to go in order to avoid busloads of tourists. We were wrong.

There was a steady flow of Chinese, Japanese and Korean tourists and gazillions of students stomping through the place on field trips. It seemed as if the teachers, or whoever is supposed to supervise these rambunctious youth, just dumped them in through the hole at the entrance and wandered over to the exit to round them up an hour later when they emerged.

After I (not-so-silently cursed) under my breath because my well-composed, long exposure shots got ruined from the metal walkways shaking, it dawned on me. The tourists are supposed to be having fun.

I was working. That's fun, to me but, I take it seriously. So, I had to compromise.



GET AWAY FROM THE METAL AND WOODEN WALKWAYS THAT PEOPLE SHAKE.



PLANT YOUR TRIPOD ON FIRM GROUND AND USE A TIMER OR CABLE RELEASE.



ZOOM AND FOCUS ON A POINT HIGH ABOVE THE HEADS OF THE TOURISTS.



TAKE PLENTY OF SHOTS FROM THE EXACT SAME POSITION AND EXPERIMENT.


THESE PHOTOS WERE TAKEN WITH APERTURE F/11  2.5 - 5 SECONDS ON SHUTTER.

All caves that are designed for tourism have some sort of interior lighting. It's just a matter of moving around to where you can take advantage of it for your camera's exposure.

Stationary lighting makes it fairly easy to adjust exposure but, the pinwheel-colored lighting above, controlled by motion detectors was a bit more challenging.

In high contrast photography with a DSLR it's always best to shoot underexposed photos and bring the exposure up in editing afterwards.

Reading the lightmeter in my viewfinder, for these shots, I underexposed from -1 to -2 on the Exposure Value (EV) scale. I do this by changing the shutter speed and leave the aperture set at f/11.


This time of year, in Okinawa, it also pays to carry a lens cloth or plenty of lens paper. Check the camera lens frequently for moisture from condensation as you are passing through different levels of the cave. A few times, my lens fogged up and was dripping with water.

The most valuable advice to remember from this photography tip: If you plan on taking long exposures in a tourist trap, like a cave, do whatever it takes to avoid tourists.

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Related Link: GYOKUSENDO CAVE
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