My Work, Photography

Long Nights, Long Exposure: November at the No.1 Ladies Photography Group

As if we needed a further reminder that it was full-steam ahead into winter, not only have the nights drawn in dramatically but this week also saw a serious temperature drop. It was appropriate then, that the subject of our monthly meeting of the No.1 Women’s Photography Group at Gainsborough Artworks was something that embodied these concepts fully. Having just hurtled through two autumnal milestones, Halloween and Bonfire Night, using them as inspiration for our photography this week seemed apt before looking forward to the festive season.

Pumpkins and sparklers

With this in mind, we were all tasked to keep hold of our pumpkins and try to discourage the kids from using the last packet of sparklers so we would have plenty of props for our night-time shoot. The concept behind this week’s theme, other than utilizing topical items, was shooting in low light – something that is ever pertinent now the clocks have gone back. Long exposure times were the order of the day as we attempted to allow as much light as we could through the camera to capture the perfect image of our pumpkins and sparklers.

After a brief introduction by Dawn and Jane explaining the theme of the week and how the set-up in the studio would work, we chose our pumpkins and got to work on a studio style shoot. We each selected a small work space and started to consider the type of shot that we were looking to achieve. Anyone who read my last post about our meeting will know about the need for a tripod with long exposure times. I must admit that in the previous session I was reluctant to use one, preferring to just rest my camera on the table (not advisable, if you have access to a tripod then use it, it is so much simpler!), however, this time around I took the plunge straight away went straight for the tripod.

Setting Up

After experimenting with different shutter speeds and apertures I achieved several shots that I was pleased with. This was one of those shoots where I was lacking a bit of inspiration, for whatever reason, perhaps because it had been a long day. I think my experimental streak had already sloped off to bed and had left me lost and bewildered at what to do (perhaps it had eloped with my writing ambitions, as last week’s NaNoWriMo writing efforts will attest!). I found myself looking to capture to spontaneous shot effected by the changing light due to the other ladies in the room working. I especially liked the effect of the red light from one of the other lady’s cameras, it really gave that sinister Halloween vibe.

This lack of inspiration was not an issue for the others in the group, however, and while I wistfully looked on in the middle of sporadic bursts of creativity, they were relentlessly working to get their desired shots. I had chosen a single pumpkin to work with, whereas other set-ups involved multiple carved and uncarved pumpkins which threw the light in between the objects, a novelty plastic pumpkin, and lots of different approaches to lighting. It’s great to be in such a creative environment and see everyone else at work.

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After we had spent just over half of the session with our freakishly carved rotund orange subjects, we put them to one side to explore long exposure times and movement. Some had already experimented with using a torch to create shapes on the background behind their pumpkins to great effect. While half of the group stayed in the studio to carry on with this concept, the rest of us braved the bitterly cold November evening to go and try to capture the movement of sparklers. If you have ever seen those images of the trails of light left by a sparkler, usually following a shape or spelling out a name, then this is how they achieved those images. We played around with different shutter speeds and got some great results.

Sparkler HeartSparkler Infinity

The No.1 Ladies Photography Group meets every first Monday of the month and our next session in December will involve a festive walk through the town centre to capture the Christmas lights. All are welcome, and we’d love to see some new faces and meet other enthusiastic women photographers. See Gainsborough Artworks for more details.




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