Last Three Leaves, Birch, Sodium Light, Long Exposure

55mm, f/5.6, 374 sec
Ione, CA

374 seconds.  That’s 6 minutes and 14 seconds for this one shot.  And with the in-camera long exposure noise reduction turned on, another 374 seconds of wait time.  12 minutes of standing in the cold on wet grass.  I was aiming for 6 minutes flat, got distracted.

The story behind this photograph is that less than 2 weeks ago, the birch trees in the garden were still full of yellow leaves.  With the passing of a series of storms, only 6 leaves remained on the smallest of the trees.  By this evening, only 3 leaves remained.  The idea was to use a flashlight to backlight one of the leaves.  The problem was I only had a huge Maglight.  Far too much light!  Turning to the other side of the tree, I noticed the sodium vapor street light.  Perfect substitute for the flashlight!  Carefully positioning the camera so the street light is obscured by the leaf, I had my substitute backlight.

After starting with a 60 second exposure, I gradually moved up to 6 minutes for the exposure I was looking for.

Staring at this photo for a while now.  Maybe cropping off the bottom half would make a better composition.  Thoughts?

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center weighted metering mode, 55mm, ISO 100, 374 sec, f/5.6

Last Three Leaves, Birch, Sodium Light, Long Exposure.  Ione, California.  December 06, 2012. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.


3 thoughts on “Last Three Leaves, Birch, Sodium Light, Long Exposure

  1. This is absolutely stunning. The plant looks like it’s on fire, especially with how the light is outlining the leaf. Just really gorgeous. Oh, and I think the composition is fine as it is. I like how the photo kind of drops off into negative space. It’s a nice contrast with the burning leaf at the top.


    1. Thank you Taylor! When I was envisioning this shot, I was focused on just backlighting the leaf and hoping not to illuminate the tree branches at all. Yet, with the way the photo has turned out, I’m certainly happy with the inadvertent “tree on fire” effect.

      Thanks for the feedback on the cropping, or specifically the lack of cropping. I am rather sure my thoughts on the tight crop were, again, stemming from my focus on the leaf rather than the overall composition.


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