Saturday, December 1, 2012

POTW: 'Encoded transmissions' by LED Eddie

"Encoded transmissions" ~ © Neale Smithies (click on image for a larger view)
Our featured Photo of the Week was taken at the Cobbet Hill Earth Station in Pirbright Surrey, UK. Neale Smithies is a British light painting artist and nocturnal photographer known as "LED Eddie." Smithies used a Nikon D300s with a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens, and shot at 13mm.

Technique: The grey dish was strobed three times with an orange-gelled Nikon SB-600 Speedlight at 1/2 power with the lens and camera set to f/5.6 @ ISO 400. Smithies then made about 180 30-second exposures @ f/5.6 (ISO 800) for the 90-minute star trails (exposures combined in Starstax). Both the star exposures and the dish were photographed with the same 2500º Kelvin White Balance, but the orange gel placed the dish at the opposite end of the Kelvin balance.

Challenges: "After an unsuccessful trip to shoot dishes at GCHQ in Cornwall, I finally managed to gain official access to a high security site containing more satellite dishes than you could shake a stick at," says Smithies. "This particular dish is the size of a small house and the site owners kindly offered to switch off all the security lighting whilst I was there."

Neale's biggest challenge was getting the polaris lined up with the point of the dish, which can be very difficult when using a wide angle lens. "I used a laser [5mw green laser pointer] to frame up and then take a few test exposures at 6400 ISO to check for correct alignment."

Satisfaction: "I wanted to create an image that appeared to be beaming out radio waves into space," says Neales. "It is something I have tried on a few occasions but have always been beaten by cloud or ground mist. I couldn't have wished for a better result when the final image emerged from Starstax."

More of LED Eddie's photography can be seen at his Flickr photostream and his website.

Editor's Note: We plan to do a feature on "LED Eddie's" work in the future. Neale's signature LED flashlight is 7-LED "torch" made by LED Lenser, and known as the X21R Flashlight. The 7-LED reflector pattern of this flashlight is used as Neale's watermark on his website gallery. With up to 1600 lumens, the rechargeable X21R may be the most powerful handheld LED on the market. It's Advanced Focus System allows the light to be directed into a far-reaching spot (up to 1900-foot beam distance), or as a flood light.

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