The Magic Cloth Technique is a simple way to control the exposure on different parts of your scene. Typically the sky is brighter than the land. Our cameras will find a balanced exposure, but generally this is too bright for the sky or too dark for the land. During the Magic Cloth Technique, the photographer will compensate by +2 stops. If you take a shot with +2 compensation, you will see that the sky is completely blown but some parts of the landscape are very well exposed.
The basics of the Magic Cloth Technique is to use a cloth to cover the blown out areas and thus give them less exposure… this can only be done if you have a long exposure, so a Neutral Density filter or ND is used. You can buy these in different strengths, but I like ND6 – you have to check it is a real 6 stop filter as different suppliers use different numbers… which is very annoying!!
In a typical Magic Cloth scene the sky should be exposed 1/10 of the total time. For example a 10 sec exposure should allow just a second on the sky, a 30 sec exposure should allow just 3 sec on the sky. This is a starting guide and you may want to adjust it to increase or decrease mood and contrast.
I generally expose the sky in one go at the start of the exposure, but you might want to spread the sky’s exposure throughout the total exposure – in short bursts which add up to the 3 sec of a 30 sec exposure.
This was mid January on a 3 day photo tour. We hit the beach about an hour before sunrise after a comfortable breakfast.
Nacreous clouds are ice particles high up in the atmosphere that catch sunlight long before sunrise. They are also known as Polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) or Mother of Pearl clouds because they glow with a variety of pearl like colours.
Nacreous clouds are difficult to expose. The trick here was under-exposure to make sure I didn’t loose any of the details and colours in the glowing cloud.