As you obviously already knew, I had a photograph published in not one but three national print papers, a few websites including thejournal.ie and the American Catholic website, which used the photograph as evidence of the coming of the Anti-Christ. This of course was a big thing for me; it came in the same week as free laser eye surgery through a Facebook like and share competition, so it was all go in the world of Graham Harkness that week let me tell you, the staff in the eye surgery place even went so far as to exclaim “Oh wow you’re the Graham Harkness from the paper?”. I even was stopped on the street to be asked about the photograph. Anyway as you can probably tell, the fact that I am writing this article means that my whirlwind adventure, which whipped me to levels of fame experienced only by the likes of a Fair City extra getting recognised while in the queue for a chicken roll in Spar in Donnybrook, didn’t last forever. I got a few days out of it and even my kind-hearted gran is sick of hearing about it. So the question I was forced to ask myself was “How will I get some more mileage out of this 7 months later?” and the answer was clear … “Tenuously link it to a technology article by using it to talk about DSLR settings.”
So with a focus on technology let me bamboozle you. The photograph was taken by using a method known as “long exposure” photography. This method of photography has become really popular since the semi-professional digital camera became affordable for your average Joe. This method usually involves taking a pictures where rather than the shutter speed being quite fast, the shutter is left open for a longer time period to capture more light. Some good examples of this are the milky way shots that you have seen all over your Facebook because that irritating guy who watermarks his fairly uninspired images “Joe-Blogs’ Photography” has shared shots of the milky way over your Facebook feed. Then you have my photo…
Equally uninspired content, I plopped my camera on a tripod and pointed it across Dublin Bay. I then left the shutter open for about 3 minutes. This was too slow to capture star trails but not too slow as to leave the shot completely dark. The result is this image of a fireball as it crossed the sky. Using a DSLR allows you to control settings such as your exposure time so you can begin to play with the night sky and capture some pretty cool things. Your smartphone does a similar thing – have you noticed that when you’re in the jacks in Coppers (not that I would ever go to Coppers of course) and you’re trying to take an OMG selfie with your BFFFs but the image always comes out blurry and grainy. That’s because of three things: firstly you are ugly which isn’t your phone’s fault, secondly the phone is trying to lengthen its exposure time a little to let more light in because the light in the jacks in Coppers is so crap (probably to hide the ugly). Thirdly, the phone does one other thing – it increases the ISO.
Having seen my photograph in the Irish Times, Pitbull was inspired to pen the song “Fireball” as a direct allegory to my life and is now an avid photographer. #nottruebutabloodygoodsong
ISO is the standard sensitivity for light that the sensor has in your phone. The higher the ISO the more light you can capture meaning your shutter does not have to be open as long. Phone sensors are by no means as advanced as the sensors in a DSLR camera. This means that while a phone image becomes unusable after a small increase in ISO, a digital camera can shoot at a significantly higher ISO without as much unusable noise or grain appearing in the image. In my most amazing image you can see that because I was shooting at an increased ISO the image is pretty grainy!
So the point of all this, other than trying to find a way to talk about myself for a bit, is to say this… Getting out there and taking photos is a fantastic way to spend your time. It can be relaxing and bring you to some fun places. You can start messing with the exposure time and ISO settings on even a cheap second-hand model and you too can take long exposure photography and artistic shots of the milkyway and capture a Fireball of your own.
Words by Graham Harkness, Tech Editor