St Joseph’s twilight muster: horizontal

St Joseph’s twilight muster: horizontal. 5.43pm, 18 July 2018

This twilit tableau was the runner-up in my series of St Joseph with a vase of faux flowers. It ranks as “runner-up” only because it’s entirely moon-less, the crescent moon (the object of the whole exercise) being too high in the sky to be included in a horizontal composition. However as a simple set-up, this seems a more compelling image to me. I like the good range of colour and how the flash balances with the background lighting. It also has some artistic black space on the lower right, suitable for a quote (or headline), and I have supplied an anonymous, satirical example of such below.

In comparing the impact of this standard horizontal image with the earlier vertical frame, isn’t it an odd truth that the old 35mm format of 2:3 works much better for horizontals? The 2:3 format seems too long and narrow for most vertical applications, where 4:3 is often a better fit. That aside, good vertical compositions are generally harder to achieve than horizontal ones, yet verticals are so much to the fore these days – thanks of course to the demands of  Instagram, Pinterest and smartphones.

St Joseph’s twilight muster, with quote

1.3 secs at f22. Nikon 28mm; ISO 250. Flash

157. Mary and Child by full moon

Mary and Child by full moon. 9.13 pm, 7 May 2009

One forgives as much as one loves. –  La Rochefoucauld

The old water reservoir at Nelson is a peaceful place for pic-spotting by the moonlight photographer, in part because access to it is through a motor camp. It may be needless to say, but when you’re out at night it’s important to feel safe so you can focus on creative work without any unpleasant surprises.

This location is just a few hundred metres from where I parked on the other side of the vehicle gate; distant sodium lights which overlooked my car have flickered through the foliage to show several minor bands of orange here.

“60mm”; ISO 200. 60 seconds at f2.8

29. Moonlit cherub, Waimea West, Nelson

Moonlit cherub, Waimea West, Nelson. 7.13pm, 6 June 2009

What’s a little unusual about this scene – not the long exposure (60 secs at f2, ISO 200), the moonlight or the cherub (supplied of course by the photographer) – is the vertical composition. The spire and the height of the trees make the usual horizontal composition here fairly difficult, but they are well adapted to a vertical composition, as seen here in wide angle (24mm in 35mm film terms). Strong vertical elements are usually required for the success of vertical compositions, and this has at least three of them.

A good depth of focus is the main challenge in this type of set-up. For f2, the depth of focus is quite amazing, softening only on the immediate foreground. As the Lumix LX3 was already at its longest shutter speed, the only other way to extend depth of focus was to select a higher ISO (to give f2.8 at ISO 400; f4 at ISP 800, etc), but higher ISOs are marginal with the LX3 – another limiting factor. At least the newest models have much improved ISO capabilities.

There is good colour range in this image and some strong horizontal lines (wires, shadow, church), while the stars and moving cloud in a blue sky complete the picture. A minor challenge was to finish the exposure without car headlights striping the scene, as we were on a country road with reasonable traffic for early evening. A distant headlight to the left of the fencepost adds more “night proof”.

The little angel comes from Bangkok; she has fairy wings of course so scarcely fits the usual Western conception, however her status is clear from her origins – a Catholic supplies shop (for Thai, not Westerners) – and her purpose, which is to adorn a household shrine. I attempted some torch highlights on her in the same place, but was still trying to get the lighting to balance when it clouded over.

Sadly at that point the evening’s photography came to an end.