A somewhat challenging take on the classic blurred-water long exposure, and a homage to the iconic scene towards the end of Apocalypse Now where Captain Willard rises from the mud.
I asked myself what would be a difficult subject to carry out a long exposure with, and decided a human portrait would be pretty tricky; a couple of seconds might be fine, five or even ten might be harder, but 30 should be a genuine challenge to avoid blur. I felt it would be more interesting to combine this challenge aspect with a recognisable classic long-exposure cliche, and since traffic trails wouldn't really work with a human in the shot (and wouldn't be all that difficult, anyway), I decided to combine rippling water with the static human face instead of ocean cliffs. And since it would be unreasonable to ask any model to sit very still in a cold bath (more on this below), this had to be a self-portrait.
The light source is a single candle, trimmed to the right length in advance and supported by a water-filled gin bottle, to hold it at the correct depth in the water. I used a neutral density filter as well as dropping the ISO to 50, to allow me to keep the aperture reasonably wide, to get an acceptable amount of background blur; by trial and error I settled on f/5. Camera was set on a sturdy tripod, set to mirror lockup to minimise vibration, and configured to autofocus on the spot where my right eye should be, in the top left third of the frame. Configured to autofocus on shutter half-press, which was actuated by a wireless remote release.
Then after enough test shots, it was just a matter of filling the bath with cold water, climbing in, propping myself up so that I could sit very still, and firing the wireless remote release with one hand out of the frame without getting it wet, while holding my breath. This was the least blurry of however many I managed to take before freezing to death.
Why was the water cold, you ask? To get the framing and perspective I wanted, I needed to shoot with a 50mm from close up - just over the rim of the bath. Water vapour from hot bath water would have condensed on the lens. That can sometimes give a useful soft focus effect, but it wasn't what I was going for with this shot.
Editing: cloning out some water droplet reflections and hot pixels from the long exposure, selective gaussian blur in a few spots where the water had stayed too still, curves (especially adding a blue fill to this otherwise almost entirely red/green shot to add a film-like effect), resize and three-step selective sharpen.
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An interesting image that contributes well to the challenge
By Ďeck Eugene you certainly pushed the boat out on this one, that was some challenge! Again your write up helps enormously to set the scene and the amount of effort involved Iím sure most of the people understood your homage but not having seen the film it was lost on me so thanks for the detailed write up and clip. I agree with Bearded you certainly achieved your objective. Technically, its great, the only thing I might add is that it would have been good to see a little more of the candle just to make it a bit more obvious but that really is a minor point. Iím in awe of your dedication in creating a unique image that has certainly pushed your personal boundaries, well done.