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Picture This

Our chief photographer shares his insights.

By Earl Nottingham

After photographing a spectacular Texas sunset, it just seems natural to put the camera away for the day and head to the house. After all, no more sunlight, no more pictures - right? Wrong. Thanks to today’s fast films and sensitive digital sensors, even the waning minutes of daylight contain plenty of useful light that brings a palette of pastel to the landscape and offers new photographic opportunities to those with the patience to try something just a little bit different.

Although subdued to our human eye, the last few minutes of visible daylight contain an abundance of visual information for the camera, and while the lighting is not as “contrasty” nor the color as vivid as a sunlit photo, it can yield delicate and sometimes unexpected renderings of ordinary scenes, changing minute by minute.

A couple of considerations when shooting at this time of day, however: Be aware that exposures can be very slow, generally ranging anywhere from one second up to one minute, requiring the use of a sturdy tripod or other stable surface to avoid camera motion during exposure. Using a cable release or camera self-timer mode will also help minimize vibration. Also, if using film, you will probably need to increase your exposure over and above the camera’s indicated exposure in order to compensate for the phenomenon known as reciprocity in which film gradually loses its published sensitivity (ISO rating) as exposure lengthens. Reciprocity factors vary among films so consult the film’s information sheet or manufacturer’s Web site for compensation data.

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