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  • How'd They Do That? :: Jefferson and Washington(s)

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    Jefferson and Washington(s)
    by levyj413


    Sometimes inspiration strikes at random times. I didn't set out to take this shot. Rather, I was looking for a nice reflection to enter in Night Shot IV. The trick with shooting Washington, DC buildings is that they've been photographed a zillion times. Finding something new is the challenge. I'd done well with the Jefferson Memorial, and I had a specific idea I wanted to try with the Washington Monument.

    After shooting the Monument, I was pretty happy. But looking across at the Jefferson Memorial, I wondered how I could get both into the same shot. From where I was standing, they aren't visually close to each other across the Tidal Basin; in fact, they're about 90 degrees from each other. I realized a multiple exposure might work. I'll admit up front there wasn't any artistic motivation; I just thought it might look cool. And it would be fun to do this in a basic editing challenge, so people would know it wasn't just a composite.

    The first step was to figure out what exposure looked good for each building. I decided to go with F/8.0 to give myself the greatest DOF because from, the Washington Monument was quite a bit further away than the Jefferson Memorial. On the S2 IS, manual focus is a pain, but it was required in this case to get both as focused as possible on one setting. As it turned out, I found only one focus setting that worked. Added benefits of the narrow aperture were more leeway on the exposure timing and the nice stars on the lights.

    A few test shots showed that at F/8.0, a 4s exposure would make each building look nice. Now, how to do get both in one shot?

    The first thing to know is that I used a pan head tripod. That means the head swivels in all three dimensions, but only one at a time, as opposed to a ball head that moves in any direction at any time. I needed to just swing the camera horizontally, without tilting up or down or moving up or rotating.

    The second thing was to figure out where to point the camera to get the buildings in a nice composition. I just looked down the lens barrel and found spots on the horizon that let me point about the same place each time.

    Third was the composition. Almost as soon as I started, I thought having two Washington Monuments would be even better than one; again, just for the fun of making people scratch their heads wondering about it. A few test shots showed it looked best with the tall Monuments on either side of the squat Memorial.

    Tip: if you do something like this for a challenge, click the button to submit your original right away, even in the submission form before voting begins. That'll get your validation going quicker because the Site Council will already have it when the inevitable validation request comes in, as opposed to you having to send it in afterward.

    With the exposure and the positions figured out, the last step was getting the timing and camera motions right.

    As you read the description below, keep this diagram in mind:



    The S2 IS has a maximum exposure of 15s, and it took every last bit to get this right. I used a 2s delay to eliminate vibration.

    Shot 1: Jefferson Memorial. After the shutter opened, I counted to 4 and covered the lens with my hand. Then I swung the tripod head around to the first Washington Monument position.

    Shot 2: I moved my hand away and counted to 4 again. Once more I covered the lens with my hand and swung to the second Washington Monument position

    Shot 3: I moved my hand away. When I did it right, as I counted to 4, the shutter closed.

    It took about a dozen tries to get everything looking right, with no lights shining through either of the buildings, everything sharp, etc. I had two options, and I chose the one that had the Jefferson Memorial off-center.

    This was a lot of fun!

    One shot, it didn't take much editing in Photoshop to get the final entry; this was a basic editing challenge, after all. Just some sharpening, curves to enhance contrast, a selective color adjustment layer to make the black sky blacker, and a minor crop.

    Here are some reasons this worked:

    • It's night - couldn't do a long exposure during the day.
    • There's a black sky - couldn't avoid ghosting of one image through another against a complex sky (like a city scene).
    • The two subjects were an easy tripod swing away from each other, along the same line.
    • The two subjects are similarly lit, so were exposed the same amount of time. You could do it with two differently-lit subjects, but you'd have to count differently.
    • Nothing's really in front of each subject. The lights along the water's edge didn't get in the way of the subjects. With street lights, other buildings, etc., things will overlap.

    Here's the entry and some outtakes to help make the setup clearer.

    Entry:

    This shows the Washington Monument in one of the positions so you can see the lights around it. If you look closely, you can find the ones closest to the Monument around both copies of it in the final shot:

    Here's the Jefferson Memorial by itself:

    The creative process isn't always linear. This is a shot where I just tried two Washington Monuments:

    It's really important to keep your hand over the lens until you've completely stopped panning:

    If you don't pan quite right, the buildings collide (I also had trouble with the Washington Monument landing on top of the buildings to the right):

    If you try this, please send me a PM - I'd love to see your shot!




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