The View Up Here

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The KAP Test That Wasn’t

Posted by Tom Benedict on 22/12/2012

I tried to get out and test my upgraded panoramic KAP rig. I really did. With less than an hour to go before sunset I drove down the mountain to the ocean, hoping for good wind. I didn’t get it.

What I did get was some of the nastiest offshore wind I’d ever seen. Even miles from the ocean, I could see it was black. Not really Homer’s wine dark sea. More like a wind-whipped daemon. “This can’t be good,” I thought.

As I drove past the Mauna Kea Resort, I checked the palm trees. These are some of my favorite trees to check for gauging the wind at Hapuna Beach. I had never seen them so bent over and flattened. Hapuna was a no-go. As I came over the rise, I could see the pattern extended all the way down the coast. And with less than half an hour of light to work with, I realized the game was up.

So I did the only thing I could: I zoomed down to Waialea Bay, left my KAP gear in the car, and grabbed my tripod instead. Finally! A chance to play with long duration exposures!

I’ve had this 10-stop ND filter for a couple of weeks now, but except for a few sessions at Hapuna Beach, I hadn’t really had a chance to play with it. Oh, and those sessions at Hapuna? Not so good. Hapuna Beach State Park is a people park. But it’s not people I’m after for long duration photography. It’s scenery. If any beach could provide that, it would be Waialea Bay.

That’s when I remembered I’d broken my remote shutter release a few weeks ago. “Broke” is really too strong a word. I… wounded it. The cable had come apart where it enters the case, so it wasn’t tripping the shutter reliably. (Yes, this is yet another small project I’m going to take on during my vacation.) “No matter!” I thought. “I’ll stick with thirty second exposures and stack them!”

Stacking is a trick that amateur astronomers have been using for aeons to get long exposures without incurring too much dark noise. Even better, by stacking multiple exposures you can beat down photon noise as well. So it’s actually a win. The only catch is that the read noise adds with each exposure, so there’s a point of diminishing returns. I planned to stack four 30 second exposures to get two minutes of total open shutter time.

In short, it worked. I got set up just as the sun began to set, and I made 30 second exposures until the light was gone. When I got home I started to play. And this is what came out:

Waialea Bay Sunset

Not the KAP test I was hoping for, but somehow that’s ok.

– Tom


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