The Sphelix

The day I took this picture we had a particularly nice saturday afternoon in London, I took all my gear out to take advantage of the latest summer daylight and went for a photowalk around Battersea power station hoping for some dramatic skies and light effects. Once all the sunlight was gone and I had taken the compulsory twilight-at-the-Thames shots and played a bit with light trails, I felt like I deserved a beer, and so headed to Covent Garden piazza to meet a friend there.

When I arrived my friend texted telling he would be 40 minutes late, so I wandered a bit around the Piazza and found this wonderful statue right in front of the Apple Market. Funnily enough, there was an ongoing competition for pictures of the statue, and since I was all geared up and had nothing to do but wait for my friends, decided to go for a few shots. This picture is the one I finally submitted for the photo competition and although I didn’t win I got a nice second prize that included two rubber models of Johnny Hawk’s fabulous Sphelix :-D

A few people asked me how did I manage to get the statue without anybody around or reflected on it (not even myself!). The trick is very simple: I put the camera on the tripod, used the smallest aperture (f/22) , the lowest ISO (100) and kept the shutter open for well over 20 seconds (no flash, of course). Since nobody lingered around for long enough to make an impression the final effect was people completely disappearing from the scene. This technique can be very useful for getting rid of annoying turists, although in order to use it effectively under daylight one needs to resort to tools to reduce the amount of light coming inside the camera, such as a natural density filter.


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