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Behind the Scenes: Photography with Watermark Ghost Edition

How cool is this photo?! For this year's Special Historic Hauntings tour, the tour takes on a different twist...we're giving the ghosts of the William Paca House a rest and are bringing brave guests through the James Brice House instead. The James Brice House, also known as the Big Brice House, is well regarded as the most haunted house in Annapolis. Did you know a bludgeoning took place in the withdrawing room? Privately held for the past 248 years, the house is now under ownership of the State of Maryland and in the care of Historic Annapolis.

Through our partnership with Historic Annapolis, we at Watermark are thrilled to guide members of the public through the house, for the first time, as part of our October ghost tours. A new tour called for new photos! As we've shared these new photos captured inside the home, many have asked how we took them. We're happy to share some behind the scenes details of how these ghostly images were created.

Photographer Sabrina Raymond captured the photos with her DSLR camera in manual mode, a tripod and some creative post-processing. An iPhone camera just won't do for this type of photography! The key to capturing ghosts on camera -- or on our case, ghostly tour guides -- is a long exposure. We started out with a little trial and error on the steps of the Brice House's grand foyer:

In photo A above, you'll see the first attempt. The resulting photograph was too bright with exposure time set at 55 seconds. In laymen's terms, that means the shutter was left open for 55 seconds, a photography technique for capturing movement. The longer the shutter is kept open, the more movement it captures and the more light comes into the photo. A tripod is essential when taking photos with long exposure. The camera must be set perfectly still the entire time the shutter is open. If you don't have a tripod, you can steady the camera on a table or similar surface. If you're really in a pinch, try to steady your elbow on a hard surface and you may be able to capture your intended picture with a shorter shutter time than is presented here. What else is "wrong" with photo A? Our tour guides were carrying lanterns with candles and the movement of the flame was captured in the picture. A cool trick for photographing sparklers and fireworks but not what we wanted here! In photo B, we ditched the lanterns and Sabrina shortened the exposure time to 30 seconds to let less light in. Our tour guide, Mistress Kim, took three steps down the stairs on counts of 10. For photo B, we captured the ghostly movement we were after for Mistress Kim on the stairs; however, you'll see Squire Allan at the foot of the stairs is also blurred which was not our intention. It was determined it was just humanly impossible for Squire Allan to stay perfectly still for the long exposure. That's where photoshop magic comes in!

Sabrina decided the best way to accomplish our goal was to take individual photos of Squire Allan and Mistress Kim and place the two images together in processing. Sabrina took a series of photos of Squire Allan menacing at the foot of the stairs. Photo C above shows Squire Allan in his moment of glory seemingly unaware that a ghost is just over his shoulder. In Photo D, you see the sought after long exposure photo of Mistress Kim gliding down the stairs as a ghost. Sabrina placed the two images together, removed the coat rack clutter from the right side of the image and created a series of finished photos with different finishes. The awesome final results:

The doorway photo at the top of this post features the same technique of long exposure with Mistress Kim moving in the doorway and a series of stills shot separately with Squire Allan. Lastly, to create other spooky images we used a very bright light to cast shadows and add some more depth to the images:

And that is how you create ghost tour photos! Special thank you to Sabrina Raymond for lending us her talents. Thank you to Historic Annapolis for allowing us to shoot inside the James Brice House. Learn more about Special Historic Hauntings tours.