Depending on who you speak to or which forum you frequent, long exposure photography can be defined as anything longer than half a second to more than 30 seconds and into minutes or even hours. The effects that you will achieve with longer exposure times will all depend on the speed of the moving elements within the frame and, like everything in photography, there are no hard and fast rules. When creating a long exposure image all the usual considerations of composition and light apply but we add in the element of time. We will create an image that the eye itself cannot see and this requires some vision. Whether you want to record dynamic moving clouds, swirling waters, to record or even eliminate moving people in a busy place, shoot light trails or go completely minimalistic, the possibilities are there for us. Personally, I use long exposure in my landscape work.
In order to create long exposures you need to practice and perfect your technique. Here are some considerations you should think about:
1. Carry your tripod everywhere
A tripod is a must. In long exposure photography, be it light painting, light trails or long exposure in landscapes, the shutter is open for more than a second so it is imperative that you have the ability to keep the camera absolutely still.
Giuseppe Foti is a Fine Art and Landscape photographer based in York UK, who constantly travels the world in search of his next photo opportunity. His aesthetic is based on his love for simplicity, minimalism and beauty. Find out whether it was love at first sight for Giuseppe in Venice, Italy with the FUJIFILM GFX 50S.
Giuseppe Foti is a Fine Art and Landscape photographer based in York UK, who constantly travels the world in search of his next photo opportunity. His aesthetic is based on his love for simplicity, minimalism and beauty. Find out whether it was love at first sight for Giuseppe in Venice, Italy with the FUJIFILM GFX 50S. Continue reading “Love At First Sight – Fine Art in Venice with the GFX 50S”
If you want to take pictures that capture the blur of your subject moving across the frame, then you want to understand the principles of long exposure photography. These shots use exposure times longer than what is needed for an adequately lit picture. The extra time in the exposure retains the movement of your subject—whether it’s car headlights, star constellations or crowds of people. It is a popular tactic in fine art photography because you can make creative shapes with your blur effect, especially in the form of wispy skies.
Learn the best practises for long-exposure photography and you can take your own avant-garde shots in this genre.
Choose the proper outdoor conditions.
Most long-exposure shots make use of the outdoor sky, and you need a sky that cooperates with the blur you want. To show clouds moving across the picture, you of course need smattered clouds visible above and enough wind to gust them across your frame as time elapses. To get striking images of the sun coming up from or down to the horizon, shoot at golden hour.
“Waiting for the sun to set” by Bulkan Evcimen – Fujifilm X100T
Establish a still subject amid your movement.
The best way to frame a long-exposure shot is to find an element that is going to remain still while other subjects move. This could be a tree beneath the swirling sky or a light post next to the gliding swarm of pedestrians. By having a still element, you clarify for viewers that the picture is taken from a steady position.
“Esperance” by Michael Pilsworth, Fujifilm X-T1 – XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 – F11 – ISO 200
Create stability with your tripod and a safe shutter release.
With long-exposure photography, a stable camera is even more important than usual. Whether your shot lasts for three seconds or for 30, any small shake in that duration can ruin the shot. Take your best precautions for dealing with wind. Use your tripod and place yourself as its shield from the wind. Use a remote shutter release or your camera’s shutter delay setting so that your touch on the shutter does not create unwanted shake.
Adjust your camera to the right settings.
Not all long-exposure photos require the same shutter length, of course. Car headlights might leave a light trail in just one or two seconds, whereas clouds might take 30 or 60 seconds to move at the length you want across your frame. You may need to take a trial-and-error approach to creating blurs and light trails of the shape and length you desire.
“In/Finite, Backseat Ballads Camp 26,” by Huy Le – Fujifilm X-E2
Experiment with neutral density filters.
One concern when taking long-exposure shots, especially in midday light, is that photos will be overexposed, as excessive light washes out the image’s colour. To alleviate overexposure, use a neutral density filter, which is a dark piece of glass that blocks light from entering your lens. These filters come in different stops, or intensities of blockage, and let you darken your image without altering colour and hue.
Now that you know what subjects work in long exposure photography and how to compose a crisp image, you can make this genre another facet of your work.
For me personally, long exposure (LE) photography allows me to explore a sense of calm, a visual relaxation that matches the way I feel when I look at the landscape. But for some, the technical side of this style of photography makes it incredibly frustrating and stressful.
Before we get into the technical side of LE photography and counting exposure increase on our fingers and toes, there is something that is far more important than the technical issues. It is vision, interpretation and connection with your subject.
Ansel Adams said “A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.”
As I sat on a plane bound for San Francisco, staring down some 40,000 feet to the clouds passing underneath me, excitement and anticipation filled my soul. It was the beginning of a journey – an epic adventure creating unique images and memories. I hoped that this pilgrimage with fellow photographers would live up to my expectations, and further inspire me to follow my dreams.After being awake for 30 hours, we arrived at dusk. On the way into Yosemite, we stopped off at tunnel view. It was my first glimpse of California that wasn’t being hidden away by the night. The rock faces lit up underneath a sea of endless stars. In that moment, it all felt like a dream. I was now experiencing this miraculous destination that I had experienced so many times before through someone else’s eyes. We spent an hour shooting before heading to drop off our bags and get settled in our condo. At 4:30 AM, we were off to glacier point to prepare for our first sunrise.I stared into the face of half dome, brilliant and gleaming in front of me. In some ways, I was taking a photo that millions of people had taken before me – but at the same time, I took pause to remember that the beauty of photography is that each moment captured is infinite and unique in its own way.The sun began to glow, and I was able to catch the last few stars in the sky over half dome. My X-Pro2 clicked away on a timelapse and my X-T2 shifted in my hand as I tried to find my perfect composition. I was awaiting the shot that I was planning on taking since the trip’s inception.
“First light over half dome” is something that I had wanted to see for myself since I knew Yosemite existed. My lens of choice for the perfect capture was the XF10-24mmF4 R OIS. It gave me the versatility I needed to grab a few shots at various focal lengths in order to choose my shot in post.
After a short and much-needed nap, we ventured down into the valley to see the golden light as it passed over us. Fall color was in full swing and there was a slight chill to the air, only further enhancing the experience. We found a spot along the Merced River with a beautiful view of half dome reflected in the water. Along a nearby boardwalk, we took in Yosemite Falls as it towered above us. The falls were not supposed to be running at this time of year, but luckily, a storm passed through the night before we arrived, giving the falls a second wind.I framed up a shot with a 10-stop ND and 3-stop ND Grad to get some cloud and water movement. Shooting long exposures during the day is one of my favorite things to do because it gives me some time to enjoy the scene around me. Oftentimes I get so caught up in getting the shot that I don’t “see” things for myself. The photos are the best way to relive the moment, sure. But it’s equally as important to live in the moment and enjoy your surroundings.As the light started to drop in the sky, I shifted into creative mode trying to make the absolute most of the light that I have left. I set up another timelapse in front of the half dome with my X-Pro2, and with my X-T2 and XF16mmF1.4 R WR attached, I began walking around finding different compositions to maximize my last few moments.Over the course of the next few days I experienced close to all that Yosemite and the surrounding area had to offer: Taft Point, the 7,503 ft lookout point, Tioga Pass, and the desert-laden Eastern Sierras that lie just outside of Yosemite proper. The trip was full of friendship, laughter, and best of all, amazing scenes to photograph.
I’ve worked with professional landscape photographer Paul Sanders on various projects and he knows about my recent falling in love with landscape photography. I saw this image by him on his Facebook wall and had to learn more about it because I was completely blown away by it.
One quick email later and Paul told me everything I needed to know:
Photography for me is emotional, it is a reflection of my state of mind and the reaction I have to a certain place at a certain time.
These trees sit in a boating lake near my home in Kent, it’s a place that is surrounded by the M25, A25 a bustling village and noisy schools. However when I go there I hear none of the bustle of the world.
I had this image in my mind last year, so it has been a long time coming to fruition. I rarely plan my shoots but having revisited this location a number of times I knew exactly what I wanted and the conditions that would make it work.
The weather was drizzle, mist and gloomy. Strangely it largely reflected my state of mind! On the off chance that the mist and drizzle would continue I headed down to the boating lake and stood listening to the birds.
The drizzle intensified and the mist thickened a little over the lake, perfect for me, ideal for my island of trees.
To get the image I had in my head I used the Fuji X-T1 and XF50-140 lens, shooting upright which I’m starting to do more of, but I still find challenging.
I wanted the trees to be virtual silhouettes against the mist, sort of isolated but stark.
For this shot I exposed for the darkest part of the island, this intentionally overexposed the back ground exaggerating the misty feeling, shooting at F9 on telephoto also helps by utilising the shallower depth of field the 50-140 has over a wide angle lens.
Of course the joy of using the X-T1 is that the EVF means I can pretty much see the exact image I have in my head at the time of shooting, making the whole process more about the final image than the camera and the technical aspects of photography.
I didn’t want hard reflections on the water and the choppy conditions combined with the an exposure of 2 minutes rendered them as I hoped. There was very little in the sky so I added a .75 soft grad to hold the tone. I used a Lee Big Stopper increase the exposure to two minutes from 1/8th of a second.
The first shot I took was the one that nailed it for me, I did a second one but forget to release the remote until about 5 minutes later I was so lost in watching the mist moved over the lake! I often get lost in the moment and totally forget why I am there.
Once I got home, I loaded the image into Lightroom, converted it to monochrome in through Silver Efex, selecting to develop it with an blue filter to increase the tone in the trees in the foreground, increased the contrast marginally added a platinum tone from the finishing menu and saved it – five minutes of post processing!
With every picture I create it’s all about pre-visualisation and connecting my emotions with the landscape and feeling the photograph.