Magic Cloth Images

Detti force

At last I got a colourful sky over Dettifoss. I was beginning to think it was permanently grey here.

The magic cloth technique is discussed here.

Tagged: , Iceland , Dettifoss , waterfall , magic cloth , magic cloth technique

“Pay no attention to that man behind the Magic Cloth!”!

Have you ever felt so completely at one with the landscape behind a lens on a tour?

“A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.” ― Ansel Adams

The Magic Cloth Photography Trick

The Magic Cloth Photography Trick is a fantastic technique to photograph a high dynamic range scene.

If you like to give more exposure to the shadows like a regular aurora display, the The Magic Cloth Photography Trick is a useful accessory to have in your pocket – so convenient and inexpensive.

Hints for Magic Cloth photography

What you need:

Neutral Density Filter: (Not nightime, only day!)

I recommend round filters for wet weather.

Heavy Tripod:

I like to get as low as possible for better details in the foreground so extra flexibility are definitely good characters to have on your tripod. Arrange your tripod so it is strong. Magic Cloth movemnts can cause vibrations. But, this is good practice for high end long exposure photography.

Avoid raising the center column unless it is absolutely necessary. The center column is the weak spot of the tripod.

If your tripod has a hook , suspend something from it to give better strength. Many travel photographers carry an empty “rock bag” that they can fill with stones to give a heavy weight which will stabilize the tripod steady – even in strong winds.

More Long Exposure links…

8 Tips for Long Exposure Photography

Remote release:

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

Magic Sock:

Choose a large cloth like a large sock, or black card of similar size. Should be able to totally cover the whole surface of the glass. Better to be Black. A non-reflective colour is best. The cloth can be any shape, but you need to be able to create a straight edge.

Magic Cloth Method:


Start with a dark filter or low light for a to acheive a long exposure, then over expose the picture by two to three stops.

Exposure time

There is an advantage to a long Exposure time. 2-5 sec requires a fast, but smooth action to darken the sky within a reflex time. 5-10 sec gives you a extra exposure of the middleground.

Magic Cloth Movement

Normally, I use very fast downward motion and slow, careful upward movements.


Change the Movement to capture several short exposures of the sky, rather than one initial exposure (30 sec and over exposures only).

Use your spot meter for the highlights and {multiply that shutter speed by three or four|then x 4 to get the total exposure time.

See more Ice and Auroras on our Photo Tours.

Thanks for reading!

“Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies.”
— Diane Arbus

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