30 minute moment



Now, just to be clear … I’m certainly not a portrait photographer and I don’t particularly like being photographed. But a while back I saw the work of someone who photographed people sitting in meditation, one exposure for the entire session. With still photography we normally think in terms of ‘the moment’, a very narrow slice of time that hopefully captures the essence of the subject. For this fellow, that moment was from 30 minutes to an hour and seeing a single frame that spanned that amount of someone’s life fascinated me.

Though I don’t find myself fascinating, concept intrigued me, I do meditate, so hey … why not give it a try. I’ll let a discussion on meditation, why I do it, and the merits of a photograph of someone just sitting there for 30 minutes for some other time. This post is about a photographic concept and at the very least shares a ‘moment’ of my daily life.

And about the photo … The EXIF data shows f/5.6 at 1869 seconds and an ISO of 200. Lighting for the sofa and beyond comes from a low wattage bulb in our kitchen which has to pass through two windows, two screens, and a pair of sheer curtains. Light coming from camera left is from a dining room fixture on a rheostat set to the lowest output. I took a guess at timing everything so that dawn would begin at the end of the shot to illuminate the exterior, and since it was a cloudy morning, that worked well. Triggering the camera was no problem. The light level was so low that I could lock the camera on Bulb, walk from the camera to my cushion, sit for the thirty minutes, get up an walk back to close the shutter and with those thirty seconds or so being such a small portion of the total exposure, no motion was recorded. I had done a test exposure the previous day with the camera’s noise reduction turned off and artifacts the size of hail stones were a problem. For the final shot I lowered the ISO from 400 to 200 and turned on the noise reduction. Close inspection shows some small specs, but I really don’t think I see this thing hanging on anyone’s wall. With the in-camera noise reduction on, the camera continues to process the image for a time equal to the length of the exposure, so my little 5D mkII was working on this for a total of an hour.

Finally, there’s the matter of subject motion. Often undesirable, but here it’s a good thing because it indicates that I’m breathing. Breathing is good. A little over a hundred times during the thirty minutes and for me, that’s the intent of this type of image. To in some way convey the essence of life … breath … in one frame.

3 thoughts on “30 minute moment

    • I spray mine up ‘real good’ with WD-40. Yeah … digital cameras aren’t made for long exposures. Heat creates noise and I’m sure the processor was cooking. It’s kind of a catch-22. Lower the ISO for less noise and you increase the exposure time, which creates more noise.

  1. I’m sure that takes a toll on battery life too. 1 hour of hard work for one exposure on the camera, I’ll guess the battery wouldn’t take more than 6 exposures on one charge. Amazing you can sit that still for that long.

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