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Multiple exposure landscapes

John Gravett returns with more exposure advice this time we're looking at multiple exposures.

|  Landscape and Travel
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Words and pictures by John Gravett of Lakeland Photographic Holidays.

Key equipment: Stable tripod, remote release, subject with movement – either waterfalls, trees, clouds are ideal.

In an earlier feature, we showed you how to make use of 10 stop exposure reducing filters to lengthen shutter speeds in order to highlight movement.

For those of you with Pentax or Nikon bodies, there is another way of showing movement by using multiple exposures. As I am a Nikon user, I'll refer to the Nikon menus, but the same basic technique applies to Pentax. So far, Canon have not included multiple exposures on their cameras, but the same effects could be achieved by layering photos together in Photoshop and adjusting the opacity of each layer to suit. Multiple exposures differ from continuous shooting or bracketing in that it is the ability to take a number of shots on the same file – so for say, a 10 multi-exposure shot, you still only have one photo image in the camera.

All pro and top-spec amateur Nikon bodies since the D200 have offered the provision of a multi-exposure facility, with the D200, D300, D700, D2 and D3 variants all allowing a maximum of 10 multis, the D80 and D90 have provision for 3 multi-exposures.

Multiple exposures Multiple exposures

Multiple exposures can be used to photograph moving subjects in two different styles:

Firstly, they can be used to extend the shutter speed (without causing over-exposure) to enhance the movement of the subject in situations where the light is too bright for a single, long exposure. (Use auto gain ON). Good subjects for this technique include slow-moving water (cascades rather than large waterfalls), ripples on a lake, which can be smoothed out, and clouds moving across a sky. If a 10-shot multi-exposure is set, and the metered exposure is, say 1/20th second at f22, the effective exposure on the completed multi- will be 10/20th seconds, or a half-second exposure at f22 which, by using auto-gain, is still exposed correctly.

Crummock single exposure: single 1/250th sec shot.
Multiple exposure
Crummock 10 shot multi: 10 at1/250th to smooth out the lake surface.

Often fast flowing “big drop” waterfalls don't need as long an exposure as smaller cascades, and multi-exposure techniques on these show too much subject movement and loss of flow detail, so choose your subject with care.

Langstrath valley
Langstrath valley multi 10 at 1/30th at f/29 to show more water movement.

Rannerdale 10 shot multi
Rannerdale – 10 at 1/1600th to show frozen movement .

 Single exposure 1/1000th sec
 Single exposure 1/1000th sec.
10 shots at 1/1000th sec.
10 shots at 1/1000th sec.
10 shot multi at 1/15th @f22
10 shot multi at 1/15th @f/22.
Single shot at 1/15th @ f22
Single shot at 1/15th @ f/22.

Secondly, they can be used to combine a range of very high shutter speed shots, giving an effect of a very sharp image with a sense of movement. (use auto gain OFF). With auto gain off, the multi-exposures work the same way as film does, so you have to compensate for the build-up of exposures, (table below). Set exposure compensation to -3 stops, try to get a shutter speed of around 1/1000th second and shoot an 8-shot multi. With a waterfall on a sunny day, the combined high shutter speed retains the feeling of sunlit sparkle, but the 8 exposures preserve a feeling of movement, rather that simply “freezing” the waterfall. As well as waterfalls and cascades, sunlit trees blowing in the wind make a really good subject.

Tree multiple exposure shot

Number of exposures Reduce exposure by (exposure compensation)
2 -1 stop
4 -2 stops
8 -3 stops

Adjustments needed when shooting multi-exposures with auto gain turned OFF.

So make use of the multiple exposure mode on your Nikon or Pentax bodies to obtain new and exciting images.

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nateem 8 Thailand
25 Jun 2012 4:46AM
"Secondly, they can be used to combine a range of very high shutter speed shots, giving an effect of a very sharp image with a sense of movement. (use auto gain OFF)."

Would turning the auto gain OFF and using the compensation table above create a different result from turning the auto gain ON?

Thank you very much.

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