Magic Cloth Photography Magical Long Exposures


Church mountain in the late Summer light. Magic Cloth and wild blueberries were involved in the making of this shot.

Tagged: , Iceland , Kirkjufell , Magic cloth , summer , long exposure , low light

“Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys.”!

What a fabulous moment it was to have the chance to shoot such outstanding vistas in a fabulous place.

“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.” ― Robert Frank

The Magic Cloth Photography Trick

The Magic Cloth Photography Trick is a an interesting technique to capture a scene with high dynamic range.

When you have to balance the highlights in the sky with the shadows on the ground like a normal aurora display, the The Magic Cloth Photography Trick is a useful accessory to have in your pocket.

Hints for Magic Cloth photography


ND Filter: (only if you are shooting during the day)

I prefer screw-on filters for damp conditions.

sturdy Tripod:

I have to get down to the ground for foreground detail so extra flexibility are definitely good characters to look out for on your tripod. Set up your tripod so it becomes heavy. Moving the Magic Cloth can introduce vibrations. A sturdy tripod is essential for high end long exposure photography.

Try not to raise the center column unless it is necessary. The center column is the least stable part of the system.

Sometimes a tripod has a hook , suspend something from it to help with better strength. Many professionals carry an empty “rock bag” to place rocks and stones to give a better strength which will hold the tripod nicely – even in strong winds.

More Long Exposure photography info…

Remote release:

Shutter speeds can be longer than the 30 sec the camera will let you do. Having a Remote release (sometimes called “Remote) will allow you to open the shutter: as long as your battery allows.

Magic Sock:

Choose a large cloth like a large sock, or the same size black card. Has to be able to cover the lens completely. Better to be Black. A non-reflective colour is preferable. Use a straight edge of any shaped cloth.

Magic cloth procedure:


Start with a filter or low light for a to acheive a long exposure, then over expose the photo by 2 – 3 stops.

Exposure time

It is preferable to work with a long Exposure time. 2-5 sec requires a fast, but smooth movement to darken the sky within a split second. 5-10 sec lets you have a controlled exposure of the middleground.

Magic Cloth Action

Normally, I use very fast downward motion and slow, gentle upward actions.


Vary the Action to allow a dozen short exposures of the sky, rather than one initial exposure (30 sec and over exposures only).

Use your spot meter for the sky and {multiply that shutter speed by three or four|then times four to get the total shutter speed.

Check out some more Ice and Auroras on our Photo Tours.

Many thanks for visiting!

“It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.”
— Paul Caponigro

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This