52. Moving hands, white face: high tide by moonlight

Moving hands, white face: high tide by moonlight. 11.12 pm, 12 January 2009

Moonlight exposures are especially good for showing movement, but here’s something quite literal: a minute hand blurred over a 60-second exposure, on the Lumix LX3. There’s actually a third hand (sometimes called a second hand) that you can’t see due to its constant movement. And the clock’s 12 minutes fast.

The surf on the sheltered beach at Puponga (Golden Bay, Nelson) is really minimalist, so the lapping of the tide is just a subtle blur. However it works in well with my shadow to give some added depth. The clock is perched on a big burnt log. Not everyone takes a big clock with them on holiday, and not everyone likes their photos spiked with incongruent objects, but to me it’s all about the picture-making. After all, an element of surprise often features in a striking or original photograph.

Although some colour is visible this scene is closer to how we see by moonlight; in conventional terms however the shot is underexposed, and only right for the highlights. So this required a slight boost in post-processing. My standard starting point for a high, bright full moon is f2 at 60 seconds, 100 ISO, or 1.66 stops more than f3.5 at 100 ISO for the above. Given the low, feeble moon behind me in the pic above, I’m puzzled the shot has come out at all.

Also notable is the excellent depth of focus. Sure, the lens was at widest zoom (“24mm”), and the small size of the LX3 sensor helps too. The Lumix uses an infra red beam-assist for low light focus, which although spot-on here is often unreliable. Mis-focuses occur roughly 20% of the time and are frustrating because they take up camera time – typically, 2 minutes each: one minute to expose, one minute for dark frame post-pro. The Nikon D7oo I am now using has a similar mode; however for moonlight photography it seems to do no better. Solution: the manual focus option.