Magic cloth Ice Beach

Magic Cloth Trouble shooting

Exposure issues

Though this technique produces some beautiful images for me, it is not without it’s issues. Here I discuss different issues and how they can be overcome.


Small Group Ice Caving

Glacier ice beach

This is one of my favourite ice-beach scenes, but can you see the problem. When I first opened this at home, I thought this was just a strange sky, but now it is obviously the shadow of my woolly hat. The “Sky Artefact” is the most common issue when you are taking a Magic Cloth photo. The cause is normally a short shutter speed, but it can also be the result of Bad cloth movement, or a bad cloth. The “Sky artefact” in my photo is a mixture of all 3.

1. Six second shutter speed

This is normally an appropriate shutter speed for Magic Cloth, it is a little bit fast for Magic Cloth, but for beach shots you don’t necessarily want a very long shutter, it is desirable to capture some of the character from the waves instead of completely smoothing everything out. My best shots on the Ice-Beach are generally between 4 and 10 seconds. To avoid “Sky Artefacts” with a less than 1 second exposure, you need a very fast cloth action. The technique (I call the Karate Chop)involved covering the whole scene very quickly with a smooth downward swipe. Then the cloth is raised slowly and carefully to expose the landscape and avoid more exposure on the sky.


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2. Bad Cloth action

In my photo, I lifted the cloth too high after Karate chopping the sky. The area around the horizon can really suffer with the cloth technique, but only if you are too ambitious. There was no need to try and burn the distant mountains during this exposure and because my Cloth exposed some extra sky (after the sky had already been exposed) the result is devastating. The correct way to improve the distant landscape (middle ground) is to really push the sky exposure to the limit. Modern Canons are great for recovering highlights, but try to avoid more than 5% blinkies.
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3. Bad cloth

Can you see what it is? I was using my Woolly Hat. Unfortunately for me, the hat has a ridged pattern and so I don’t have a straight edge. The immediate solution is to have a dedicated cloth with a straight edge. It is good to be able to use whatever is at hand, but if you don’t have a straight edge (usually formed by pulling the cloth tightly) you are going to have strange shapes in the sky. The worst kind of cloth that I have seen people use is a small glove – finger shapes in the sky!! A glove can work if you are able to create a straight edge, if not don’t bother. For very long exposures, this is less important.




Ansel Adams – magic card
Blahver at Hveravellir

In one of the last interviews with Ansel Adams he expressed excitement over the possibility of digital photography.