Every year right before Memorial Day, the local Boy Scouts go out to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetary and put flags on all of the graves. Over the years, I have gotten some good pictures of both the event and the cemetary with the flags on the graves. This year, I would like to try something new. Here is what I am after and how I was thinking of going about it.
What I am thinking is trying to "ghost" the people putting the flags out. What happens is a hoard of scouts and parents come down a hillside with 8 inch high flags and put them about 12 inches in front of every tombstone. They pause for a second or two by every grave to put the flag in the ground before moving on. Since they are mostly kids, they move rapidly between the graves. What I am thinking is with a slow enough shutter speed, I can get a variety of densities on the ghosted images of the kids planting the flags on the graves. I'm hoping for a feeling of the permanance of the graveyard with the ghosted scouts showing respect that is largely forgotten the rest of the year. I plan on getting well ahead of the crowd and setting up on a tripod and am thinking that I probably need to drive the shutter speed into the 5-7 second range to accomplish what I am looking for.
The cemetary is right on the coast and it is usually overcast at that time of day/year. From the spot I envision shooting, I will have about 2/3 grass covered hillisde and 1/3 tree broken skyline. I was planning on using a 50mm lens.
Now, I'm going to try a few experiments before May. I'm going to have to because I don't think that I'll have more than 2 or 3 shots before the tide of scouts overruns me. Here is what I'm thinking as a starting point for my experiments:
ISO 100 Film
Lens stopped all the way down (f22 I believe)
Hoping for dim light of an overcast morning
Now, I am also thinking that I could use a 2 stop graduated ND filter that I have to decrease the light from the sky but am almost wondering if perhaps I should invest in a 2 or 3 stop ND filter.
Anything you can suggest? Has anybody else tried something like this before?
I had something of what you are planning years ago...At the time I was living in Colorado and I wanted a moonlit night scene of an Arapahoe Basin Ski run with a skier registered in the scene. What I did was set my base exposure based upon metering the actual scene for about 2 minutes (including reciprocity considerations) and had a sound trigger set to trip the strobes as the skier came to the proper position. The reason for the use of fill light was that there would not have been any other way that I could determine to stop the skier and register the proper exposure of the surroundings. I wonder if you might not try something of that nature for your planned shot. No need for a sound trigger. Just manually trigger the strobe and use ND filters to give you a long exposure. Determine your strobe ratio balanced to surrounding scene to underexpose the figures of the boys. If you use color film I might mention to be aware of color shifts based on reciprocity considerations. Hope that something in all of this rambling will trigger a furthering of your idea. Good luck.
Would you consider using a multiple exposure technique that I have used many times with great success although not in the situation you describe. Because the gravestones are static you can break down the exposure required to record full information into shorter times. Each time you make an exposure as a flag is placed you will record a ghost image of the person placing it. Over a period of time you will reach a point when the correct exposure has been given to the static objects in the image but will also have a number of ghost images in the photograph. You will need to carry out some experiments as to how many multiple exposures you give and how long they should be. I would think that you will have to use an ND filter to help you give longer exposures. If you look in the Gallery section at my photograph of Rocks and Water you can see the effect of that technique on running water. If you need any advice on how to calculate the exposure please contact me direct on email@example.com and I'll send you a copy of a section on multiple exposures from a book that I've just had published. I'd include it here but I think it'e perhaps a little too long for this forum.
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Wow. First, let me thank you. I am learning more in a short time here than I have in years. Some great ideas here so let me address them one at a time:
1. Using a long exposure and strobes: First, I would love to see that picture at A-Basin sometime. I skied there many times when I was at school (University of Colorado, Boulder). Although I like the concept, I'm not sure I have the correct equipment and, if you read my thread in the Lighting section (which, in retrospect, should have been posted here, is there any way to get it moved?), you will see that I have a great deal of trouble with artificial lighting of that nature. I am thinking of trying some high speed photography at some point, but I am going to have to get more comfortable with flashes and strobes first.
2. Multiple Exposures: No, I hadn't considered that and I don't know why. I looked at your rocks and stream photograph and was stunned. I had seen it before and had assumed that it was a simple time exposure. I had never considered that this effect could be achieved through the use of multiple exposures.
Regardless, I like the idea. It would simplify my problems greatly. I took some multiple exposures when I was much younger but haven't done so recently, although I've been considering it again and reading up on it. I have sent an e-mail to you accepting your gracious offer of help calculating the correct exposure.
3. Pinhole: Although experimenting with it again appeals to me at a certain level, I literally did it twice when I was in High School and I simply don't have the confidence to start with it in this application.
4. B&W vs. Color: Well, I had pictured it in my head as a color photograph. I thought that the scout uniform colors would add something to the overall effect. However, upon consideration, there is really no reason why I couldn't do both. I can scrounge an extra tripod and cable release and I have a second body that I am planning on leaving loaded with B&W. There is really no reason I couldn't shoot it both ways. Now, I must admit that it has been years since I shot Black and White regularly (since High School when I was doing my own developing and printing) so I'm not used to thinking in Black and White anymore, but you have me thinking in that direction and I think it might be fun to do it both ways.
5. IR: I've never taken any IR pictures and, to be honest, I haven't found a source for IR film in San Diego (I've looked a bit because I've always though that it might be fun to try). My lack of experience with the film makes me nervous about trying it here.
In the circumstances you've outlined, I would stick with what you know and are familar with (ie don't use IR for the 1st time for this! My main reason for asking colour or B&W was you can get slow emulsions in B&W (25asa and slower, wack on red filter, polerizer... instant real slow film ) but I don't know what's available in colour. Also, in colour you're going to have colour casts probably (although that may add to the effect) Either way a ND filter will still be required. Whatever you decided, a practice run (or 2) is definetly in order!
Just for your future knowledge, there's a few IR films available (Ilford SFX, Konica, Maco and Kodak) They all have different characteristics and a few things you must be careful with (Kodak needs to be loaded/unloaded in the dark) but otherwise they pretty much are like a normal B&W film (you need a filter too) There's also a E6 colour IR Slide film (Kodak). Don't know much about that, only used a couple of rolls 20 years ago!!