Collection highlights: time exposures

As I’ve been sorting through Hugh Morton’s negatives over the past few months, it’s been fun to keep an eye out for different technical aspects of his work—how he would occasionally experiment with various film types and lenses, lighting, focus, depth of field, etc. One trend I have noticed is his fondness for time exposures, or the use of longer exposure times (leaving the shutter open for multiple seconds, minutes, or maybe even hours) to convey motion in the images he created.
You’ll often see this technique used in photos of waterfalls, where a longer exposure gives the water a silky, almost foggy look. This isn’t the greatest example, but take it from me—Morton experimented heavily with waterfall photography. (Anyone know where this was taken?)
Waterfall, 1979
One of Morton’s best known time exposures is on page 41 of the 2003 book Hugh Morton’s North Carolina—the one where Morton got a security guard to drive his car up and down the road to Grandfather Mountain while he held the shutter open. (I would have included that image in this post, but I’m thus far I haven’t found the original!). NOTE: See update at end of post.
I love the image below, which I presume was taken at one of the ski slopes in the Boone area. (Anyone know which one? While I did grow up in Boone, I was not physically coordinated enough for skiing. Also, my mother worked for a while in the local emergency room, so I knew the possible consequences). The light trails create a wonderful and somewhat creepy effect in combination with the “ghostly” skiers at the bottom.
Long exposure of skiers on ski slope near Boone, NC, ca. 1970s
Here’s another striking example from Morton’s younger days—this one’s labeled “Rides, Carolina Beach,” and was taken sometime in the 1940s.

“Rides, Carolina Beach,” long exposure, ca. 1940s

Finally, here’s an example of a time exposure gone wrong (or right, depending on your perspective—I think it looks cool). Believe it or not, this is a nighttime image of UNC’s Old Well, taken sometime around 1940. Perhaps he hadn’t yet invested in a tripod?

Old Well, UNC-Chapel Hill, experimental long exposure, ca. 1940

UPDATE 5/20/2008: Stephen’s been messing around with the new scanner, and I just happened to notice that he had done a test scan of one of Morton’s time exposure slides of the road up to Grandfather Mountain. Here it is:

Night view of road to the top of Grandfather Mountain


6 thoughts on “Collection highlights: time exposures”

  1. That ski slope is Appalachian Ski Mountain. It is called “The Big Appal,” I believe. Skiing down the slope by the ski patrol and other staff members on New Years Eve as well as during Special Olympic opening ceremonies is a tradition on the mountain. It is beautiful to watch…

  2. Elizabeth: This entry is an excellent followup to the one you did on November 15, 2007…the one called “Amazing Trick Photography!”
    Could the waterfall picture have been taken on Wilson Creek, which flows off of Grandfather Mountain. There is a similar picture in the 2006 book, “Hugh Morton: North Carolina Photographer” on page 72
    In a time long before digital photography or photoshop, Hugh Morton was a master at this type of photography. Several of his famous photographs fall into this category. In addition to the ones you mentioned, there is another great waterfall shot in his 2003 book, “Hugh Morton’s North Carolina” on page 57.
    And in his 1988 book “Making a Difference in North Carolina,” there is an excellent time exposure of fireworks over the Battleship North Carolina. That’s on page 117.
    There are three additional shots that are favorites of mine.
    (1) In late December of 1946, the entire state of North Carolina was excited about UNC’s football team going to the Sugar Bowl game in New Orleans. So Hugh put together a trick shot showing UNC All America Charlie Justice running down the street-car tracks of Canal Street in nighttime New Orleans. The picture can be seen on page 4 of “The State” magazine for December 28, 1946.
    (2) In October of 1947, Hugh took a night time shot of the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower on the UNC campus during a thunderstorm. This picture was published on the front cover of “The State” magazine for October 25, 1947. The shot was also on the front cover of The Alumni Review (now Carolina Alumni Review) for October, 1947, in honor of Halloween.
    (3) When Hugh was doing his pre-season football photo roundup in 1948, he took a picture of Duke lineman Jimmy Knotts recovering a fumble. From the photo angle, Knotts’ head and shoulders cover all traces of his feet and body. “In all my picture taking,” said Hugh, “I’ve never seen another one like this.” He went on to say the picture was an accident. But those of us who knew Hugh Morton…well, we know better. The picture was on the front cover of “The State” magazine for September 25, 1948 and is also in the 2003 book on page 166.
    So, Elizabeth and Stephen, you’ve got some really great shots coming up in your research

  3. This afternoon while doing some research at the Greensboro Public Library, I ran across “The State” magazine for January 15, 1971. The Hugh Morton cover shot is the same as the skiing shot in this post. The caption reads,”…the ‘Torchlight Parade’ 1970 ‘Snow Carnival of the South.’ Appalachian Ski Mountain”.

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