On a day like this…

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… I love my remote release. It was cold when I made this photograph – somewhere in the low single digits or maybe even zero – but when you add the wind chill whipping in off the ocean, I was glad that I didn’t need my camera-operating fingers exposed to the elements any longer than necessary.

A remote release allows me to control the pressing of the shutter without having to fumble with gloves and bare fingers in the freezing temperatures, and it also permits me to trigger the shutter without touching the camera and risking moving my equipment. Even the tiniest of nudges as you manually depress the shutter with your finger can introduce “camera-shake” and ruin a photograph – moving the camera even ever so slightly might result in a not-so-sharp image, especially if you plan on printing big. I usually take my paranoia in this regard one step further and engage the mirror lock-up feature on my camera – one squeeze of the remote to lift the mirror, and a couple of seconds later a second squeeze to fire off the exposure. By using this technique, I’m minimizing the chances of the elements coming together for an epic sunrise in a beautiful place, only to return home with a slightly blurry photograph due to vibration.

So there’s the technical reason why I use a remote release, but it also provides me with a myriad of creative options, one of which I especially enjoy. As the light fades and exposure times naturally lengthen, I like to choose the size of the aperture, set the camera dial on bulb mode, and experiment with the length of the exposure. Adding a 6-stop neutral density filter will lengthen the exposure time even more, so I choose an appropriate aperture size (usually between f11 – f14), and use my remote to trigger the shutter, holding it open for anywhere between a few seconds to a few minutes. As colors deepen and movements are condensed through the longer exposure, results can be pretty interesting. Oh yes, and perhaps most importantly, I get to sit back, relax and soak in the scene without having my body hunched over the camera holding the shutter button down by hand.

In the photograph below, the outgoing tide is rendered smoother than it actually was, and the high clouds streaking overhead appear much different than if I had chosen a typically faster shutter speed.

You could spend a lot on either a tethered or a wireless version, but the remote cable release I use is a simple knock-off purchased on Amazon for about $6. Despite the low cost, it has become one of the most used and valuable pieces of equipment in my bag. I love the creative options it provides, but on a day like this, my fingers also appreciated the comfort and convenience it offers. Do you use a remote release? if so, what are some of the creative ways that you deploy this little gadget?

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Doing a 180

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Standing on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean at Pemaquid Point in winter, there were huge waves breaking just behind me, so I studied the pattern for a while to make sure I wouldn’t be surprised. The clouds overhead were cruising by at speed, and I was especially interested in using my ND filter to extend the length of the exposure and capture the effect of their movement. In what felt like 40 mph winds, I could hardly keep my tripod steady – which is kind of important when creating long exposures – so I used my body to try and shield the tripod, and I kept one hand on it constantly to add some weight and stability. As I was making the photograph above, a little birdie told me to turn around 180 degrees and see what was going on in the opposite direction. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the moment while photographing a pretty scene, but I always try to remember to turn around and appreciate the entirety of the landscape. So… two views from the same spot… just 180 degrees apart.

And for good measure, here are a couple more examples of what are probably pretty familiar views – each with it’s counterpart at 180 degrees: