Magic Cloth at low light

Ís molu

I was standing here next to Daniel Bergman, complaining that the ice was moving during my 30 second exposures. I don’t think this one is too bad though.

Summer evening at this beautiful Iceland location.

Forced onto my sensor with magic cloth long exposure. Use the Magic Cloth Technique.

Tagged: , Iceland , ice , ice lagoon , glacial laggon , Jökulsárlón , Magic cloth

Play it again, Sam!

“If your life is not full of humbling experiences, you’re not letting go enough” – Tony Prower

The Magic Cloth Technique

The Magic Cloth Technique is a a unique technique to expose a high dynamic range scene.

If you need to balance the highlights in the sky with the shadows on the ground like a typical northern light show, the The Magic Cloth Technique is a useful gadget for your camera bag.

Magic Cloth photo tips

What you need:

Be sure to choose the right equipment for Neutral Density photography. A lens with a large= surface area is essential, I struggle with anything smaller than 62mm filter thread. The larger the lens element, the truer the cloth shadow. Lenses can be so wide, they create their own problems, such as Nikon’s 14-24mm. The lens is amazing for long exposures at night, but dark filters for day time Neutral Density photography becomes complicated.
Canon pro-DSLRs are perfect for Neutral Density photography.

  • Easy features and true manual mode
  • Amazing live view able to fine focus stars!
  • Essential settings can be changed with external buttons and dials.
  • A little Red light on the back lets you know you are shooting. [Good to have)
Essential Gear Canon 5D  mark III Canon 5D mark III

Dark Filter: (not if you are shooting at night!)

I prefer circular filters for wet weather conditions.

strong Tripod:

I like to get as low as possible for an interesting perspective so folding legs are certainly good options on your tripod. Arrange your tripod so it becomes heavy. Magic Cloth movemnts can cause vibrations. A solid tripod is essential for high end long exposure photography.

Avoid raising the center column unless you really need to. The center column is the weakest link of the set up.

If your tripod has a hook underneath, hang things from it to help with better strength. Often professionals carry a bag to place rocks and stones to give a better stability which will support the tripod steady – fine for Magic Cloth photography.

Long Exposure photography info…


Remote shutter:

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

Black cloth:

Pick a big cloth like a mouse-mat, or the same size black card. Has to be able to cover the glass completely. Better to be Dark. A dark colour is better. The cloth can be any shape, but you need to be able to create a straight edge.

Magic cloth procedure:


Use a dark filter or low light for a longer exposure time, then over expose the picture by two to three stops.

Exposure time

There are benefits to using a long Exposure time. 2-5 seconds requires a quick, but controlled action to darken the sky within a reflex time. 5-10 seconds gives you a extra exposure of the middleground.

Magic Cloth Motion

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

Alternative Methods

Vary the Motion to allow many short exposures of the sky, instead of a single medium exposure (30 sec and over exposures only).

Use your spot meter for the highlights and {multiply that shutter speed by 4|then times four to get the total shutter speed.

Witness more Ice and Auroras on our Photo Workshops.

Thanks for popping by

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“We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us.”
— Ralph Hattersley

It certainly is an incredible Icelandic vista!! And certainly worth capturing.

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Photo Blog : Magic Cloth Image focus – VestraBluePool Link

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