6 Ways To Photograph The Invisible

Photography is commonly thought of the way to make an image of something seen by the eyes.  This is commonly true, of course.  However, photography is also capable of capturing images, not exactly visible to the eye.  In this post, I shall talk about six of them.  I call this post “6 Ways To Photograph The Invisible”.  By “invisible”, I mean that which cannot be seen exactly as depicted in the photograph.  Let’s begin.

1. ADJUSTING FOCAL LENGTH DURING A SLOW EXPOSURE

Consider this image I made at an apparel store, when my family was trying on clothes.

Apparel in Mall

Apparel in Mall

This image was created by using a slow shutter speed and zooming in (changing the focal length), during the exposure.  The metadata for this image is the following: Nikon D300, Nikkor 17-35mm f2.8 lens, Aperture Priority, ISO 200, f10, 1/5 s, Hand-held, zooming the focal length constantly during the exposure.

While this photograph is interesting (at least to me), can you really see something like this with your eyes?  Therefore, I consider this to be the first way to photograph the invisible.

2. MOVING THE CAMERA DURING A SLOW EXPOSURE

Now, consider this image.

Road seen from a moving car

Road seen from a moving car

To make this photograph, I was sitting comfortably and legally in the passenger seat of a moving car, while a good friend drove the car.  The tripod was setup inside the car with the tripod/ball-head sticking out from the sunroof.  An electronic shutter release cable reached me comfortably.  Before starting the drive, I positioned the camera to look straight ahead, composing carefully to avoid the hood of the car, while at the same time pointing downwards, just enough to achieve the right balance between the ground, horizon and the sky.  After the drive began, I clicked over a thousand shots in that drive, to find a few keepers eventually.  The metadata for this shot is as follows: Nikon D300, Nikkor 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 lens, ISO 200, Aperture Priority, f25, 1/8 s, Gitzo 1340 Tripod, Kirk BH-1 Ballhead, Nikon electronic shutter release cable.

Such a scene is never visible to our naked eyes and therefore, I consider this to be my second way to photograph the invisible.

3. ALLOWING THE SUBJECT TO MOVE DURING A SLOW EXPOSURE

Consider this image of an Anise Swallowtail Butterfly.

Anise Swallowtail Butterfly

Anise Swallowtail Butterfly

I shot using my telephoto lens and adjusted the shutter speed to be slow enough to allow the movement of the wings to be captured.  The metadata for this image is as follows: Nikon D300, Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 lens, Nikon 2x Teleconverter, 400mm, ISO 200, Aperture Priority, f11, 1/80 s, Gitzo 1340 Tripod, Kirk BH-1 Ball-head.  In this case, it is also important to note that although the wings are not sharp indicating a sense of movement, the eyes are still sharp.  An entirely blurred butterfly will not cut it.  The sharp eyes allow you to connect with it, while the blurry wings indicate motion.

Since our eyes and memory do not have the ability to retain the past and combine it with the present, visually, one cannot see what this image has captured.  To me, this is the third way of photographing the invisible.

4. USING VERY HIGH SHUTTER SPEED DURING FAST ACTION

While we have so far seen how a slow shutter speed creates images not usually seen by the naked eye, a very high shutter speed can create equally interesting images that our eyes cannot see.

Take for example, this image of a snowy egret splashing water to catch its prey.  The high shutter speed has frozen the water in air.

Snowy Egret and frozen splash

Snowy Egret and frozen splash

The metadata for this image is as follows: Nikon D300, Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 lens, Nikon 2x teleconverter, ISO 200, Aperture Priority, f5.6, 1/800 s, Gitzo 1340 Tripod, Kirk BH-1 Ball-head.

Our eyes are incapable of freezing visual information that happened in a very short span of time such as 1/800 s.  Therefore, this is my fourth way of photographing the invisible.

Here is another image of a boy splashing water in the pool.  This cannot be seen by the human eye and yet can be captured by the camera.

Boy splashing water in pool

Boy splashing water in pool

The metadata for this image is as follows: Nikon D300, Nikkor 50mm f1.4 lens, Aperture Priority, ISO 200, f5.6, 1/160 s, Hand-held.

5. LONG EXPOSURE OF TRAFFIC TRAIL LIGHTS AT NIGHT

Traffic trail lights at night is quintessential image-making demonstrating the capture of that which cannot be seen.  Consider this Las Vegas Image.  The long exposure enables capture of the bright traffic lights (without exposing for the significantly darker vehicles themselves).

Las Vegas at Night

Las Vegas at Night

The metadata for this image is: Nikon D300, Nikkor 17-35mm f2.8 lens, ISO 200, Aperture priority, f22, 14 s, Gitzo 1340 Tripod, Kirk BH-1 Ball-head, Nikon electronic shutter release cable (several exposures stacked together in Photoshop).

This is my fifth way to photograph the invisible.

Yet another traffic trail image of a local street near my home in San Jose, CA.

Traffic trails at night, San Jose, CA

Traffic trails at night, San Jose, CA

The metadata for this image is as follows: Nikon D300, Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 lens, Aperture Priority, ISO 200, f16, 15 s, Gitzo 1340 Tripod, Kirk BH-1 Ball-head, Nikon electronic shutter release cable (several exposures stacked together in Photoshop).

6. FINE APERTURE EXPOSURE OF NIGHT LIGHTS

Consider this image of Austin Downtown at Night.

Austin Downtown at Night

Austin Downtown at Night

The most prominent foreground of this image is the star pattern from the nearest street light.  Can you see a star pattern when you look at street lights with your naked eye?  Of course, not.  This is simply an optical phenomenon manifested in lenses.  If your aperture is f22, point light sources convert themselves into stars.  No, a star filter is not essential to get this effect (I have never used a star filter).  The metadata for this image is as follows: Nikon D300, Nikkor 17-35mm f2.8 lens, Manual exposure mode, f22, Several exposures (1s, 2s, 4s, 8s, 15s, 30s, 1min, 2 min) composited using the HDR technique, Gitzo 1340 Tripod, Kirk BH-1 Ball-head, Nikon electronic shutter release cable.

This is my sixth way to photograph the invisible.

ABOUT ME – Hello, I am Satish Menon, founder of http://pixgaga.com.  Visit my website to learn more about me, see my image gallery or to listen to my student testimonials.

MY REQUEST TO YOU – If you have enjoyed reading this post and if this has perhaps triggered an expansion of your photographic vision, please forward this post to a photographer friend.  Also, if you practice other ways in which you photograph the invisible, please reply and share it here.  Lastly, if you are interested to receive digital photography tips from me on a regular basis, register at my website at: http://www.pixgaga.com/users/new.  I do conduct digital photography webinars (free), seminars and workshops, announced exclusively to my mailing list.

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