Long Exposure Photography

Long Exposure Photography Using a 10 stop Neutral Density Filter

Kimmeridge Bay, England
30 seconds

If the following steps are followed carefully, newcomers to this style of photography will quickly achieve impressive results. Deviation from the procedure will quickly render unexpected and usually undesirable effects and lead to frustration.

The principle to remember is that we are trying to extend the period of time that the shutter needs to remain open by placing a dark filter in front of the lens, and thus recording motion in the image as blur. During the exposure, it is paramount that there is no movement of the camera or light leakage into the camera via an ill-fitting filter or through the camera’s eyepiece.

Of course, we need movement of some elements of the image, usually water or clouds, or a combination of both, as well as static parts of the image such as structures or other immovable objects such as rocks.

Preliminary set-up

  1. Adjust your camera to its lowest ISO setting. This may be 100 or in some cases 50
  2. Make sure “auto ISO” is turned off if this is a setting you sometimes use and forget.
  3. Set your camera to Aperture Priority and a small aperture (big number) say f16 or smaller.
  4. Set your lens to Auto-Focus
  5. Mount the camera on a tripod
  6. Compose the shot and pre-focus
  7. Take a test shot and make a note of the shutter speed.

Now you are ready to progress to the second part of the process.

  1. Calculate the exposure that will be required once the 10-stop filter is attached.  Remember you have to double the time in step 7 above, 10 times. For example, 1/30th second becomes 30 whole seconds. The doubling goes like this starting with your base of 1/30th sec: 1/15th, 1/8th, 1/4th, 1/2, 1 sec, 2 sec, 4 sec, 8 sec, 16 sec, 32 sec. There are phone apps and calculation charts for this that make it easy to do the maths.
  2. If the new exposure is less than 30 seconds, you may remain in aperture priority, otherwise, follow the next step.
  3. Put the camera’s mode dial into manual mode. Aperture priority will only work for 30 seconds or shorter exposures, and you may end up wanting more.
  4. In Manual mode, dial in your desired aperture and shutter speed in seconds up to 30. Longer than 30 seconds requires the BULB setting and a cable or remote release and a watch or some other timing device.
  5. Switch the lens to Manual Focus being careful not to disturb the focus setting in step 6 above.
  6. Switch off image stabilisation if you have it.
  7. Carefully attach the 10 stop filter making sure not to push hard enough on the lens to cause the zoom setting to move or the focus ring to move.
  8. Cover or shield the eyepiece to prevent light from entering and affecting the exposure.
  9. Take the shot and check the image either on the review screen or look at the histogram.

Looking at the following examples, I think you will agree that once you master the technique for long exposure photography, it will open up a whole new dimension to your images.

Jurassic Coast, England
15 seconds
Shelley Beach, Portsea Vic.
30 seconds
Dendy St. Brighton Vic.
90 seconds
Mystic – Cape Schanck Vic.
179 seconds
Buachaille Etive Mor – Scotland
25 seconds
Loch an Eilein Castle Ruins – Scotland
3 seconds
SS Speke Shipwreck – Phillip Island Vic.
2 seconds

A Step Back in Time

A visit to Coal Creek Community Park & Museum created great opportunities for photography.

Coal Creek is a small recreated town in the South Gippsland area of Victoria, Australia, now essentially a suburb of Korumburra. Black coal was discovered in the area in 1872, and the region subsequently developed an important coal mining industry.

Old buildings crammed with relics from a past era authentically displayed complete with cobwebs and dust added to the atmosphere.

Rather than capture the wider scenes of the views of the buildings and surrounds, my mission was to hone in on the smaller detail using just the one lens, (105mm f1.4), which in itself created quite a challenge in the confined spaces. The use of the shallow depth of field and the lovely indirect lighting produced some pleasing results on the day.


Shearer’s wool basket

Grocery shop scale weights

A Snapshot of Japan Part 4 – The Tourist Spots

Of course, when you venture to a faraway land with camera in hand, the first thoughts are to visit the main attractions and get the proverbial “record shots”. You know what I mean, the touristy shots, and Japan is full of them. As I mentioned in Part 1 of the series, the busloads of tourists start arriving by 9.00am so it’s a matter of getting to a popular location early if you want people free photographs.

Here are few of the iconic locations that we visited where we managed to get a half decent shot, many of them you may recognise from travel brochures and the like.

I hope you have enjoyed the 4 part series as much as I have enjoyed putting together a handful of the 3,000 photographs taken during our visit to this fascinating land. We only touched on a few locations, mostly in the major cities, and a visit to the northern regions and more rural locations would create a totally different impression.

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A Snapshot of Japan Part 3 – The Food Stalls

One of the attractions for heading to Japan other than to see the cherry blossom in full bloom was to visit the small bars and eateries to photograph the subduedly light mood and atmosphere of the environment.

I wasn’t disappointed! The alleyways were filled with small establishments packed with people, both locals and tourists alike. In the months before the trip, I had images in my head that I just wanted to capture. I knew what they were and what I wanted to achieve long before arriving. I even purchased the lens for the job, a 35mm f1.4 that would perform well in low light and give me the desired shallow depth of field. For the non-photographers reading this, it meant I wanted the subject sharp and the background out of focus but sufficiently recognisable to place the subject into context. I think I achieved that on a few occasions.

The food, well what can I say other than it’s out of this world, or at least the part of the world I’m used to living in. Small morsels of tasty meat and poultry seared over hot coals and dipped into some of the tastiest of sauces I’ve ever come across. One I shall never forget though was the small round tomatoes wrapped in bacon, cooked over coals and served piping hot three to a skewer. The burst of the combination of sweet tomato juices and salty bacon as you bit into them was unbelievable.

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A Snapshot of Japan Part 2 – The People

When you arrive in Japan the first thing that strikes you is that there are lots of people, and I really mean lots. Most are local residents, but then there are also the busloads of tour groups who arrive at the popular locations in their masses. When faced with the dilemma of photographing interesting scenes in crowded locations the solution is to include the people and make them the subject.

Here are a few shots of people going about their daily routine that were taken in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka.

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A Snapshot of Japan Part 1 – The Cherry Blossom

The association of Springtime and Japan always brings the thought of cherry blossom to mind and what better way is there to capture this special event than with a camera in hand.

Join me in this first part of a series of articles covering my visit to the cities of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka as we explore the wonders of these ancient cities, their people and modern-day lifestyle.

Each year, the cherry blossom, or sakura as referred to by the locals, only lasts at its peak for around one week, so timing for photography purposes is critical if you are to capture the full beauty of the pink and white blooms at their best.

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The cherry blossom means more than just beautiful trees to the people of Japan as the sakura has ties to Japan’s history, culture and identity, and brings the feelings of hope and renewal of life.

The gatherings of groups of family and friends under the trees for flower watching parties, called hanami, are a very important part of Japanese life and tradition.

On the particular Saturday that we were there, we were told that 3 million people passed through the gates of the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo between 9 am and 4 pm. The gardens occupy an area of 58.3ha or around 145 acres, but that’s still a lot of people for just one day.

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While the trees look spectacular from a distance with all their majesty, there are always photos of the small detail to be had within the bigger scheme of things.

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What better place for a photo when dressed in full costume than in front of the cherry blossom

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Watch for Part 2 to follow shortly

 

Impressionism & Abstract Photography – am I out of my mind

Many long years ago as a school student, my art teacher called me aside at the end of the year and informed me that he was going to give me two bonus marks for my final assessment. I think this was for the benefit of both of us, for me it meant a pass and for him, none of the class failed.

We both realised that art was not one of my strongest subjects so we parted our ways, probably pleased to see the last of each other. I moved on to the science subjects of chemistry and physics where everything was real and meaningful and there wasn’t a need to use one’s imagination in order to be creative. I still remember every action had an equal and opposite reaction. Well my reaction was to clap my hands and rid myself of the artistic world in which I was practically a failure.

It was around that same time that I took up photography, a hobby that included the physics of light and the chemistry of film development. I was happy.  Over the last 50 years I’ve slowly come to realise that photography and art go hand in hand to some extent but realism and photo-journalism had been my thing in the past. Everything sharp and accurate, that’s the way the brain worked, until recently. Great cameras, fabulous lenses with incredible optics, all in the quest for the pin sharp image.

Occasionally something would go wrong. The shutter speed was too slow, the lens didn’t focus where I wanted, or the camera moved when it shouldn’t. Those images would be blurred and useless but somehow they had some appeal. Little did I know that the dormant and artistic right side of the brain was showing signs of awakening.

It was only recently that I decided to undertake a course in Impressionist Photography run by one of my Facebook friends, Eva Polak, a New Zealander who specialises in this form of artistic photography. With great enthusiasm, I have discovered a new and refreshing dimension of photography, one that I’m sure will remain with me.

Learning the distinction between abstract and impressionism took a little while but once I got the feel of it, the creative juices began to flow. For me that’s a big achievement when I think back to my school days and that drawing stick figures was about the limit of my artistic ability.

Here are some of my recent and not so recent images that have now seen the light of day thanks to Eva and her course. All images were totally created in-camera except the last two abstract images that were produced from regular images but using editing software to create the effect.

 

Red Barn

Red Barn

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Dawn

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Tram Stop

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Innocence

Behind Bars

Behind Bars

Baby Face

Baby Face

Take Off

Take Off

Dazzled

Dazzled

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Sparkling Melbourne

Whirlwind

Whirlwind

Firefly

Firefly