Magic Cloth Images


Spring had sprung at Goðafoss on a tour at the end of April.

Tagged: , Iceland , goðafoss , godafoss , waterfall , winter , magic cloth , magic cloth technique

This was on a Winter tour to North Iceland. The journey was eventful with a minor fender bender on one of the Northern moors during a blizzard with very slippery roads. We managed to stay just 10 minutes drive fro Godafoss so it was easy to head out when the sky was interesting. Godafoss is an incredible Icelandic waterfall!! And certainly worth the trip up to the North.

The Magic Cloth Photography Technique

The Magic Cloth Photography Technique is a a clever technique to expose a scene with high dynamic range.

When you need to balance the highlights in the sky with the shadows on the ground like a average sunrise beach, the The Magic Cloth Photography Technique is a useful accessory to have in your pocket.

Magic Cloth Tricks

What you need:

ND Filter: (not at night, only in daylight)

I suggest round filters for damp weather.

Heavy Tripod:

I like to get low down for foreground intimacy so quickly adjusting legs are certainly good options to look out for choosing your tripod. Stabilize your tripod to make it strong. Magic Cloth movemnts can cause vibrations. But, this is necessary for top quality long exposure photography.

Avoid raising the center column unless you really need to. The center column is the least stable part of the set up.

If your tripod has a hook underneath, hang things from it to provide more sturdiness. Many professionals carry a special bag to put stones in to give a better strength which will hold the tripod still – perfect for long exposures.

Some more Long Exposure hints…

8 Tips for Long Exposure Photography

Remote release:

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

Magic Sock:

Pick a big cloth like a hat, or the same size black card. Has to be able to cover the optics completely. Better to be Black. A dark colour is best. Use any shaped cloth, as long as you can get a straight edge.

What to do:


Begin with a dark filter or darkness for a for a slower shutter speed, then over expose the photograph by 2 – 3 stops.

Exposure time

It is easier to set a long Exposure time. 2-5 sec requires a fast, but smooth action to cover the sky within a split second. 5-10 sec allows for a extra exposure of the foreground.

Magic Cloth Movement

Normally, I use very fast downward motion and slow, controlled upward actions.

Variants & other points to consider

Change the Movement to capture many short exposures of the sky, rather than one initial exposure (30 seconds or more exposures only).

Spot meter for the highlights and {multiply that shutter speed by four|then x 4 to get the total shutter speed.

Try to vary the speed of the cloth while achieving the same results.

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Many thanks for visiting!

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— Annie Leibovitz

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