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The Old Dog Learns A New Trick

It's funny how a solution to a problem will sometimes just pop up out of nowhere.

I was searching through the manual for my Nikon D810, which I've been shooting with for a couple of years. I don't remember now what I was looking for, but what I did find proved interesting, and quite helpful.

In my work, I tend to shoot a lot of bracketed shots. In case no one knows what bracketing is, this is where you shoot a series of photos of the exact same thing, each at a different exposure. For example, you might shoot one shot at what the meter says is the correct exposure, then another one stop over exposed, another two stops over, another one stop underexposed, and a fifth at two stops underexposed. Some people shoot in half stop increments, others shoot in two stop increments. Some shoot five total shots, others three, still others as many as seven. I usually shoot five shots in one stop increments. I seldom turn them into an HDR, but I do sometimes use portions of other shots in the series to even out the exposures in the final image.

When bracketing, I'd put the camera into bracket mode, tell it I wanted five shots in one stop increments, set it to Continuous Low, and just hold down on the shutter release.

All that is fine and well until one of two things happens -- one of the overexposure shots ends up in 30 second shutter speed range, or there's a highly reflective surface (or worse, a mirror) in the shot, either of which could reflect me in the image. Cloning out the camera is one thing. Cloning myself out is something else. The worst-case scenario? A 30 second shutter speed and me in a reflection.

Of course, with those long shutter speeds, it's also possible to wiggle the camera ever so slightly, tripod or not. And my hand gets tired holding on to that shutter release. My problem comes in that I've never invested in a remote release. Either I've never had the money for a really good one (and I see no use in buying cheap), or there was something of more importance that I needed to get. In any case, I don't own a remote release. For those times when I knew I would need a very long exposure, I'd simply put the camera on my tripod, and let the self-timer trip the shutter.

So quite by accident, while searching for something entirely unrelated, I discovered something that the D810 is capable of that I was totally unaware of -- in self-timer mode, you can tell the camera to take several shots in sequence, up to a total of 9 shots.


I wondered if that would work in combination with the bracket mode. A quick test revealed that it would. Again, I set the camera up as I normally would, but this time I set the self-timer to take five shots, and instead of putting the camera in Continuous Low, I simply engaged the self-timer by pressing the shutter release.

The camera counted down the 5 seconds I’d set as the delay between pressing the shutter release and the actual opening of the shutter, and of course, it took that image. A second later (the interval I had set in the self-timer settings as the time between shots), it automatically took the second shot, followed by the third, fourth, and finally, the fifth. Because the shutter speeds were audibly getting longer, it was obvious that it was, indeed, following the bracketing settings. And sure enough, when I looked at the images in the computer, there were 5 perfectly bracketed images. On the next shoot where I knew I was going to have to bracket, I put it all into practice. I set the shot up and then set the camera as I had for my tests, but this time, when I pressed the shutter release, I just stepped away from the camera, and waited for it to take all five shots. When it was finished, I checked the images, and went on to the next shot. Fascinating. Something that has solved a major problem and which will make my life much easier going forward was right there in front of me the whole time, and I never saw it. Sure am glad I was looking for . . . whatever it was, or I would never have discovered how to shoot multiple shots in bracket mode using the self-timer.

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