Monday, 9 January 2012

Long Exposure, When, Why And How

Not intended for professionals ;)

In this post I would like to talk about long exposure and when and why to use them.

In this example I am using the image I posted yesterday called "On The Shoulders Of Angels" : as one of two examples with a long exposure and without. 

For myself I like to use long exposures in certain conditions, moving water and winds strong enough to move clouds, early or late light so its not too harsh. Sunrise and sunsets for me give the best results due to the colour mix. You want to try and get a combination of both, I find it rarely works without both as with only water or only sky there is a certain something missing but that is just my opinion. There are times it will work in urban setting such as an angled shoot at tall building where the sky has moving clouds overhead.

Long exposures give a very ethereal effect to an image, when the clouds and water are turned to mist through the blurring of movement the effect can be stunning, they can take a course landscape/seascape and smooth it out, its a more gentle image and easy on the eye for the viewer. It can also create and show so many beautiful lines that would not normally be seen by the audience, there is a fantasy feel not normally seen in photography.

Unfortunately you need a certain amount of kit to be able to do this. I use a Lee Big Stopper filter with their foundation mounting kit, a wide angle adapter that I couple this with Hitech soft ND grads, I have three in total, the 0.9, 0.6 and the 0.3.

I couple these with the Sigma 10-20mm 1:4-5:6 DC HSM wide angle lens mounted on a Canon 7D (you really need a wide angle lens if you want to take landscapes) a tripod and the Canon TC-8ON3 Timer remote controller (something that is essential for long exposures) 

Once you have set up the position on the tripod you want you load on the adapter ring to hold the foundation kit, I load in a soft ND grad filter, on this occasion it was the 0.3ND as it was early morning and the sky was not over bright, even with a big stopper you are at risk of overexposing the sky while trying to keep the exposure of the land right. I use the grads to compensate for this and keep the sky exposed to the right level while maintaining the level on the ground/foreground. 

As the Lee Big Stopper is so dark you will not be able to focus through it so you have to set up as you normally would before making some changes. I set up in manual mode with my focal point set some 30 feet into the shot and the f-stop at f/14 and the ISO at 100 to keep the noise to a minimum. This is with the focus set in auto, once I am happy with how the shot is set up I take it out of auto focus and into manual, I change from manual mode to bulb, once you change from manual to Bulb you have to re-enter your aperture setting that you originally had in Manual mode as this is a different dial setting, in this case it was re-set to f/14 (The canon has a limit of 30sec exposure unless in bulb mode) and only then do I gently slide the Big Stopper into place. I set the desired time on the remote controller, on this occasion it was for 480 secs with 6 seconds added to get the right exposure and then I pressed the release. Its a case of leaving the camera to do what it does, I went beach combing while I waited. There is a graph that comes with the filter giving you guides on how long to set the shutter speed but I find that you get the best results through trial and error.

Some things to note, the Big Stopper will give you a colour cast on the image, you can take this out during post editing (I used some of it as I like what it did here) or convert to black and white. It will also offer up a lot of vignetting even with the wide angle adapter, this too can be taken out in post editing. You are not really going to get away with SOOC shots doing long exposures, you need to understand that you will have to invest time in editing as well as taking the image but the results will speak for themselves.


Rubén Savarino said...

Mr. Mike: I walked quickly to your blog. It's like you said, to teaching. But I have attached some Blog, which give messages with pictures. Very good work, hence people will know what to do. And not only take good photos. But also can dajar something to our society. A neighbor Argentina. Very good work. Ruben Savarino

Rubén Savarino said...

Good job Mike. Since 21 pm here Friday. Working in Part 4 of The International Policy Disability .. That with a comment from a friend in the U.S., with 300,000 followers, he says, do not worry, nothing will change, (which we already know), but Mike, who do we want to do something better for humanity. How sad.
I send you a big hello. Ruben. Argentina

Anh Bui said...

Thank you Mike for contributing those precious tutorials. It gives me the idea of where to begin, especially for a newbie just stepped in photography world. I'm really into landscape photography, I'm searching for the ND grad but still have very limited information about it. Since the Lee system is really expensive to me, should I save the money for later or get a cheaper substitute ? I still need a wide angle lens though, right now I'm still exploring around with the kit lens. Thank you for your time :)

Matt Mikulla said...

Mike. Lovely work and I really appreciate your insight.

I am working with a similar kit. Canon 60D and the sigma 10-20.

Could you possibly clarify what size foundation kit and adapter you use for the sigma 10-20 which has a 77mm filter size?

I find the Lee site very confusing.

Rithwik Virunnukandi said...

Appraciate teh write up...even I have couple of slow shutters with lee big stopper and B+W 10 stop NDs taken. This article has given me an idea to put up my own experinces of using it on the field. Good job and great photos.