Long Exposure Light Leaks
I shot the image above in Patagonia this year, my first real work with the new Nikon D800, which always makes me nervous. So when I saw the weird banding you can see in the frame on the left, I got a little freaked out.
In 25 years of photography, I’d seen some weird things, but never this. I was also shooting with new filters and a new filter holder. So I sat on the beach freezing my fingers while I tried every combination of ND filter, holders, hoods, and polarizers, and finally none of the above. In the end I had the good sense to flip the little eyepiece shutter closed, and the bands went away, apparently a product of light leak. In Antarctica I had the same repeated problem (because I suffer from Terminal Photographic Moronitude and didn’t learn the first time, apparently). I don’t know if this is an issue unique to the D800, but I’ve never had to deal with it.
I know the conventional wisdom is always to cover the eyepiece during long exposures, but pragmatically I’ve never had a reason to do so. Until now. I believe most, if not all, Nikons, have a built in eyepiece shutter with a little switch to the side of the prism. Very handy. All my Canons, I think, came with a weird rubber piece attached to the strap that would have been helpful had I kept any of those straps or ever faced this problem before. So, just a heads-up. Weird banding or unexplainable specters in your long exposures? Try covering the eyepiece. It’ll save you an hour of screwing around with filters and resisting the urge to toss your camera into a deep scenic lake.
I leave the house in a couple hours and head to Kenya for the month. Be good while I’m gone. Try not to burn the place down.