This tutorial is a demonstration of the Magic Cloth Technique to add drama to a dull sky. I was in Skutadalur on the East Iceland Coast. The valley is rich for nature photography and has waterfalls all the way through it. For this scene, I set up my tripod near t this low-level waterfall. I like the way boulders form a shape that frames the tiny waterfall. It is a grey day and the distant mountains are really washed out.
In the video I demonstrate the Magic Cloth Technique with a test shot. My test shot has the same settings as my Magic Cloth Photo. The only difference is that I do not use any cloth.
The above image was 15 seconds at f/11, the exposure was 2 stops over exposure. I sometimes shoot this as a test shot to see which areas require the most cloth. This result told me that the whole image would need some cloth, but more cloth over the sky area.
Dodging & Burning
The Magic Cloth Technique is basically dodging and burning. The Burning is possible by over-exposing the photograph. The Dodging is achieved with a dark cloth.
The above image was exactly the same settings, but with the magic cloth over the sky area for most of the exposure. I covered the sky in a fraction of a second to create a dramatic contrast between sky and mountains. Obvoiusly there is going to be some compromise when you dramatically dodge the highlights. For example the distant mountains would look right with no texture or details at all. It is a useful comparison to see the same exposure without the Magic Cloth. When you compare the two together, you can see which parts of the scene were most affected by the dodging cloth.
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Magic Cloth Video
This photo tutorial video has become quite popular on youtube and is my second highest viewed video. Demonstrating the Magic Cloth Technique in a video is a lot easier than explaining it in sentences.
“I call this the Scottish Waterfall shot.
Look at this lovely waterfall, the lovely details, the lovely action.
Then we’ve got these mountains in the distance over there.
They are a bit washed out because of the conditions, there is a lot of low cloud.
But lets see what we can do with a little bit of dodgig and burning – with the Magic Cloth Technique.
So here’s my camera, lets have a look at the live view screen.
There’s my live view. Composition with that ‘v’ going down quite strongly in the background there. What I’ll do is to work in these rocks. Here is my foreground with a lovely water movement, lovely curving action going on there.
Let’s have a look at my focus, so there we are, I’m on f/11 (Hyperfocal). And I’m shooting at f/11 – 2 stops over – of course it’s 2 stops over.
So let have a look at the shot (exposure) wich is 15 seconds. I will try the shot without any magic cloth , here we go, 3 2 1 and there were exposing 15 seconds without any Magic Cloth at all.
While were waiting for that, I’ll explain I’ve got a dark filter on, this is a b&w its a 106, which means it’s a 6 stop dark filter – a neutral density filter.
And let’s have a look at the result we get. There you are lovely water movement, beautiful foreground, but of course we’ve lost that whole mountain scene in the background. so what I’m going to do is a bit of Magic Clothing and I gonna have to go down fast. There’s my line, there’s my horizon line, let’s have a look at that on the lens. So I’m gonna go down quite fast and then very very slowly from top to bottom.
Ok, lets give it a go.
2, 1 go… very fast on the sky there and now I’m just gonna move it very slowly down over the scene, right the way down to the bottom and then very very slowly up again… trying to get it up to that sky area.
There you go then, that’s my shot… let’s just give you a view of that… what do you think!”