MPG Photography Guide To Long Exposure's Part 1 & 2
Posted on October 07 2018
Guide To Long Exposure's Part 1 & 2 by MPG Photography. Mitch is a technical, inspirational and an amazing educator. Great things on the horizon.
This is the first post in a series that will discuss long exposure photography with Mitch - the reasons he loves it, the technique behind it and the photographic opportunities it provides.
From the moment I took my first long exposure photograph, I fell in love with this photographic technique. In its simplest form, long exposures are photographs taken while using a slower shutter speed allowing the image to be created over a period of time.
The length of time the shutter can remain open for is dependent on the available light, the use of Neutral Density filters, ISO and aperture. I predominantly shoot long exposure seascapes but it is also a great technique to use at night to captures light trails or star trails.
For me personally, long exposure landscape photography is more than just a genre or style of photography it is a creative process that is good for the soul. The technique of creating long exposures allows me to slow down, stop and take in the scene around me. The natural elements take on different characteristics when all that is introduced to the equation is time. Water becomes a soft mist like substance that is silky smooth with no hardness or sense of direction.
If the conditions are right the movement of the clouds creates depth and conveys a sense of motion. While taking a long exposure photograph you can record the way that light has moved across a scene over a period of time. There are an inherent peace and serenity that accompanies long exposure photography. When I depress the shutter and wait for my image to be created I get to absorb myself in that moment. I can watch the light change, the clouds move and the swell shift.
Providing a quick overview of the equipment required in order to create long exposures. A quick caveat is that I receive no sponsorship or benefit from the brands that I currently use. I will be reviewing equipment in the near future, so watch this space.
Clearly having a camera seems rather obvious but if you are about to purchase a camera with the intention of trying long exposure photography then you need to make sure it has either a manual mode or bulb mode. Manual mode gives you more freedom, flexibility and overall control of your camera and its settings. However, manual mode is limited to shutter speeds of 30 seconds or less whereas bulb mode allows you to go beyond that. I have shot with a number of different cameras over the years but I am currently shooting with the Canon 5D Mark IV which is a fantastic piece of kit.
There are many tripod brands available with different materials, mounts and designs. In my opinion the heavier the better to avoid camera shake. Depending on where you are shooting sometimes it is impractical to carry a heavy tripod so you need to find a balance between weight, personal preference and practicality. I use the Manfrotto 190 and it meets all my needs. I like Manfrotto tripods because they provide an excellent combination of features including load capacity, size, stability, transportability, and construction quality.
3. CABLE RELEASE OR SHUTTER REMOTE
A cable release or shutter remote is a must-have if you wish to extend the shutter speed beyond 30 seconds. By default when shooting in manual mode most cameras do not allow shutter speeds beyond 30 seconds. When shooting in bulb mode you are able to extend your shutter speed well beyond 30 seconds depending on the available light, the use of Neutral Density filters, ISO and aperture. I do not use a cable release and instead opted for a wireless
infrared Canon RC6 remote. The reason I chose the remote was that I like the fact it is wireless. If I am shooting in windy conditions then I do not have to worry about any movement associated with a cable release being plugged directly into the camera body and providing a source of vibration or movement.
The main filters used to extend shutter speed are neutral density (ND) filters. An ND filter blocks out or reduces the amount of available light which results in the shutter needing to be open for a longer amount of time to obtain a correctly exposed image. These filters come in a variety of strengths including 10 stop and 6 stop (square filters pictured below) and also different designs such as circular screw-on filters or square and rectangular drop-in filters. I have used B+W, Lee and I am now using Nisi ND filters. I love the quality, optics and design of the Nisi filter system.
In addition to ND filters, I also use graduated ND filters which are specifically designed to assist in managing or balancing the exposure of the sky and the foreground (rectangular filter pictured below). I have used numerous brands including Cokin, Lee and Nisi. I will write a future blog post about my impressions of each.
So that’s it! Essentially, they are the primary pieces of equipment required to take long exposures. If you have any questions or queries then please don’t hesitate to contact me. I will be providing more in-depth discussions about equipment in future posts. In addition, I will be writing a blog regarding techniques that can be used if you don’t currently have particular filters. Thank you for taking the time to read this post. The next instalment will look more closely at the technical aspects of long exposure photography including composition and settings.
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