Simple cloth technique


Some scenes require only a very basic, unambitious technique.

A basic magic cloth technique would involve simply covering the sky after a short period and working the rest of the exposure over the landscape up to the horizon line. To read about the basics of the magic cloth technique – see here. This very simple technique is the basic for Magic Cloth photography and this video is actually a good starting point for the beginner.


  • Standard DSLr – might be possible on bridge camera – see ‘lens’ below.
  • Lens with a large element 77mm is nice, 55mm is limited.
  • Dark filter (ND) if you want to try this during daylight hours.
  • Sturdy tripod – important for long exposures.
  • Black cloth or card

To allow the photographer enough time to divide exposure for different areas of the scene, a long exposure is required. At least 10 seconds is recommended.

longer exposure = more control

To achieve a longer exposure the photographer might choose a time in the evening or morning when the light is low. If you can’t wait for Low light photography, you can modify your camera with a dark filter (Neutral Density – ND). A 6 stop ND will work in most conditions without bright sunlight. For evening work when the colours are in the clouds, I would recommend 6-stop ND filter + iso100 + f/11 – this should give exposure times between 10 and 30 seconds [IDEAL].

In this tutorial video, I use these settings for my beach scene. I am shooting in Aperture Priority (AV) mode. My shot is 15 seconds. Normally I would divide this time by 10 to give me an approximate sky exposure. 15sec/10sec=1.5sec

This video demonstrates a very basic technique.

The test shot

Normally I don’t bother, but the test shot can guide your Magic Cloth action.
magic cloth technique
In the test shot, you can see which areas need less exposure. Obviously the sky is going to be covered quite quickly, but from the test image I can see that I need slight clock-wise tilt when I expose the area up to the horizon line.img

Unfortunately the video doesn’t quite capture the Magic Cloth action, but hopefully you see enough to work out that I cover the sky after 1 second and then spend the other 14 seconds moving the edge of the cloth from the bottom of the frame up to the Horizon line.

Magic Cloth Technique

… after a bit of post processing…
Horn Swell

Nacreous Dawn

Nacreous Dawn

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.

January Star

January Star

It was horrible conditions that brought about this beauty. We were sand blasted and windswept on the black sand beach, day 2 of a 3 day tour.



We caught the tail end of the overnight storm. The wind & sand created incredible scalloped textures in the fresh glacier ice.

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