Lisa Cuchara – Olympus Live Time/Live Composite

Demonstration & Interactive Session


By Lisa Cuchara, PhD, Cr. Photog., M. Photog., HonNEC

WhenPosted in June, Offered Once
WherePosted in June
SkillAll levels
CostIncluded in your registration

Lisa Cuchara, PhD, Cr. Photog., M. Photog., HonNEC will be showing images and settings related to two unique computational features that Olympus has related to long exposure photography. In addition to the classic bulb mode, Olympus also has two distinct specific long exposure features: Live Time and Live Composite. Long exposures and Night photography images are fraught with one big issue – that one has to guess at, and/or best guess at using calculations, what the exposure time should be. Certainly, dSLRs were a major improvement for long exposures in that as soon as the image was taken one could look at the image and histogram on the back of the camera and shoot again if the exposure was too long or too short. Alas, when taking long exposures of five, ten, sixty minutes it means less productivity and more time wasted to reshoot. The Olympus modes of Live Time and Live Composite have revolutionized this issue with long exposures. I have not used traditional Bulb mode since switching over to Olympus.

In Live Bulb mode the shutter stays open for as long as the shutter release (on the camera or cable release) is “open” (held down). Live Time mode is a variation of this whereby the shutter is opened with one press of the shutter release and then closed with a second. The huge advantage that that you can SEE when the exposure should stop. You watch the image, and the histogram, develop on the back of the camera, kind of like watching a Polaroid develop. This means that when taking long exposure images, you don’t have to wait until the exposure is over to see the image – you actually watch it develop. This is a game changer for people who use ND filters, take long exposures, do night photography, etc.

Another issue often encountered when making long exposures with moving elements such as lighthouses, stars trails, fireworks, car traffic trails, painting with light, etc. is that some areas overexpose well before you have gotten the exposure or overall long exposure effect that that you desire. This is where Live Composite rocks!

When using Live Composite mode, the camera shoots a series of images continuously with the same exposure time. You could do this with a dSLR, or non-Olympus mirrorless camera by taking a series of images and then compositing them in post-processing. But Olympus does this stacking in-camera. It’s like using the ‘Lighten’ Blend mode to merge stacked images in Photoshop. Olympus cameras combine all the images together into one single composite – with one added benefit — only the first image is used to record the ambient exposure of the background or foreground. After that, only the brighter pixels in any following images are used. This means that you can take a base image of say a lighthouse or skyline with light pollution or illuminated buildings and they do not get brighter; their exposure does not change – only new light is added. As with Live Bulb and Live Time mode, in Live Composite mode you watch the image exposure build up on the camera (and then close the shutter when you like the exposure). Exposures can be up to 3 hours in total and the screen refreshes every time a new image is captured.

So Live composite basically involves taking a “base” image, and then adding new light to that base image with a series of further exposures which only register the parts that have NEW light (bright pixels) in them. At the end of the exposure, the camera merges all the exposures (like Lighten blend mode in Photoshop) together to produce the final image. The first exposure is your base image composition, say a city skyline, lighthouse, etc. Then the next images only register new light (the earth moving for star trails, lightening, fireworks, flashlights, etc.). The first big advantage is that you get to SEE the image develop so you know exactly when to turn it off, the other big advantage is that your main scene does not get overexposed (since the camera will not register more light in that part of the image). Taking star trails over an illuminated building is typically quite challenging and often requires you to take multiple images and merging them later in Photoshop in order to prevent your image’s foreground from getting overexposed.

Live Composite can be used in many situations: for fireworks in order to create a more complex image without overexposing the skyline during the exposure, for light painting using sparklers, steel woolies, LED lights and/or flashlights, for street scenes like trails of headlights and/or car tail lights, star trails, lightning, portraits, waterfalls and streams, and clouds (Daylight Live Composite for cloud stacking is just amazing!)