A black and white photograph of the reservoir at Monikie Country Park in Scotland. Long exposure just after sunset. The sun had set behind the small island to the center right of the image and with heavy clouds in the sky I decided that a long exposure would do this scene justice.
Because the reservoir is so high above sea level you can get some amazing sunsets and sunrises here.
Long exposure photography can offer views of landscape or urban environments in ways that are impossible to see with just the naked eye. However, there are still some myths surrounding long exposure photography that get brought up during conversations that I hope I can address with this list.
The first thing you think of when you hear the term long exposure photography are landscape shots of star trails and frozen mountains or waterfalls. Depending on the time of day you can turn dark into light. You can also turn sprawling urban environments into lifeless scenes reminiscent of disaster movies.
This image was shot in the afternoon under bright skies and intermittent cloud cover.
By using ND filters you can reduce the amount of light that hits your sensor in order to increase the exposure time. This means you could take a long exposure of a city center on a busy Saturday afternoon and have an end result that gives the feeling of isolation. Because the people are moving most wont stay in the same place long enough to be exposed in your image.
This is the same myth that surrounds many aspects of photography. You do not need expensive equipment. In fact my first forray into long exposure photography involved making my own filter using welders glass.
The image above was taken using a DIY welders glass filter.
You can buy squares of welders glass which you can attach to your camera using elastic bands or in my case using the ring from an old UV filter and attaching it with bluetac. Welders glass is normally around 10-14 stops and can be bought for £5 or less on ebay. And this can still give results on par with branded 10 stop filters and is the perfect way to experiment before forking out on expensive filters if that is what you want to do.
If you want a 10 stop ND filter then you can get the cheaper threaded ones that mount onto the front of your lens. Haida do a great one for £35 which works a treat and you can find them on Ebay. The image of the Forth Road Bridge above was shot with one. I’ve seen photographs of the same bridge shot with the expensive Lee 10 Stop filter which retails around £120 and usually has a waiting time of a month or two. That’s a big financial commitment to make to something that you might just be getting started with.
In fact sometimes you don’t even need filters to do a long exposure. If it’s dark or the light has started to fade you can get a shutter speed of a couple of seconds simply by setting the ISO to 100 and the aperture to anywhere between f11 and f22, and then changing these settings to get the length of shutter speed you desire. It should be noted that changing these settings should largely be creative decisions. Normally for landscapes I’d recommend f8-f16 and nothing smaller* as you introduce diffraction and chromatic aberration.
Excess doesn’t always mean better. For example, you could expose a scene too long that the end result is actually detrimental to what you were trying to convey. For example a long exposure of the sea could result in a scene that resembles an ice rink or a sea of milk with very little movement and a smooth level surface. This takes the life out of the scene and reduces interest. This is particularly problematic if the sea is taking up the majority of real estate in your photographs composition.
Long exposure photography and regular photography both require the same understand of the basics of photography; composition, shutter speed, aperture, ISO and the ability and willingness to get into position to get the photograph. The only difference is long exposure photography takes longer. If you understand how to compose a photograph and can visualise an image then you can do long exposure photography.
The only extra equipment you might need that you don’t carry with you normally would be a tripod and a filter. Oh, and maybe a flask of hot tea or coffee depending on the time of day and season you venture outdoors. I’ve been out a few time shooting castles at night and wished I had some hand warmers and a cup of tea.
This might surprise a few people but in terms of necessity you don’t really have to have a tripod with you to try long exposure photography. There are a few ways in which you can stabilise your camera when you’re attempting long exposure photography. In the past I’ve used car bonnets, car roofs, rocks, camera bags, planks of wood, tree branches. Once I even used a carrier bag laid on top of a sandy beach and moulded the wet sand into position, using the carrier bag to keep the sand off the camera. Now obviously the length of exposure will determine which DIY method you want to use or what you have available to you but for the most part these work out well if you’ve forgotten your tripod at home. So if you do find yourself without a tripod then all it takes is a little ingenuity and imagination. No reason to miss out on the shot. Gorillapods are great kit to carry around with you because they can be relatively small compared to full size tripods and can be used to mount cameras to tree branches, fences, car windows, poles and a few other things. Always good to have as a backup.
Long exposure photography is a technique and one which can be applied to different styles of photography. You can use flashes to light up people / models, the same as you can use them to light up buildings, cars and forests. It’s just how you apply them that matters. The same applies to long exposure photography. A great example is to record the movement of people. I was once asked to photograph some new maps and signs in Glasgow and rather than having the exposures too long that you couldn’t see the people I decided to have exposures of a second or two that would allow me to capture people interacting with the signs, moving around, looking and pointing. Long exposures allow you to capture energy and in this case kinetic energy.
Another example is capturing light trails of cars on roads; catching streaks of red light as cars go past you and light streaks as they come towards you. I’ve seen great examples where people have taken long exposure from the tops of multi-storey buildings and captured the movement of cars around large swathes of the city.
* the smaller the aperture the higher the f number. Yeah, it a funny one to remember,
I wish I could say it was a beautiful day when I captured this photograph but I can’t. At one point almost being blown over the sea wall when composing this it was a cold blistery day in Arbroath.
I did however manage to keep the camera steady enough and for long enough to get this long exposure as the sun set in the distance. Made it worth while.
This was the first time I’d been able to get down and photography in and around South Queensferry. I’ve always wanted to get close to this amazing architectural and engineering marvel. I think I might have picked possibly the coldest and windiest day to spend a few hours there. I could barely feel my face let alone my fingers which I needed to operate my camera. Luckily I saw the transition from daylight to nighttime and the switching on of the lights. It really is something to see when illuminated at night. The scale of the thing leaves you standing, staring in awe.
I hope these images, one daylight and the other night time go some way to portraying the sheer brilliance of this place.
For more information about the bridge and its history take a look at the wikipedia page.
I’ve been looking for a ND filter on a budget for doing long exposures. The Lee Big Stopper is pretty expensive when you factor in the cost of the foundation kit holder and then the wide angle lens adaptor. If you’re a landscape photographer and you often use the same lens then there is nothing wrong with a screw on filter and some patience.
At around £35 depending on where you buy the Haida 10 Stop ND filter for 77mm threaded lenses is an absolute bargain. You’re probably thinking that for that money you’d get a plastic filter with pretty bad build quality but that just is not the case with the Haida. It comes in a nicely packaged and branded cardboard box and has it’s own padded plastic case to keep the filter safe when not in use. They have a Pro II version which is multicoated and scratch resistant for a little more money.
Here are a few images I shot today over the space of an hour or so in different locations. I’ve converted to black and white because that’s what I like but the colour cast is not that bad, in fact it’s easily removed in post and is definitely not as bad as I’ve seen in other filters. I’ve done little to these images other than the black and white conversion.
A long exposure photograph of a small waterfall at the Birks of Aberfeldy.
This area was made famous by Robert Burns’ poem The Birks of Aberfeldy which he was inspired to write by the Falls of Moness, one of the larger waterfalls in this area of Scotland.
More information about Aberfeldy.
More information on the Birks of Aberfeldy.
Portknockie (Scottish Gaelic: Port Chnocaidh, the hilly port) is a coastal village on the Moray Firth in northeast Scotland, in Moray. (Family historians will note that this Banffshire village’s name is written as Portknockies in the Old Parish Registers. This would suggest that the port’s name referred to not one, but two rocky hills at the hythe – the Port Hill and the Greencastle.) Nearby towns include Banff, Buckie, Findochty and Cullen. The village maintains a very good website of local information .
The village was founded in 1677 and it became a significant herring fishing port during the nineteenth century, although today only a handful of commercial inshore boats remain.
The town was on the railway network, until this closed in 1968.
A popular site in Portknockie is Bow Fiddle Rock, a large rock about 50 feet high just off the coast. The quartzite rock has a large sea arch, which somewhat resembles the bow of a fiddle.
Another historical site within the village is the Green Castle, which is located on a coastal promontory. This ancient coastal fort was revealed to date from 1000 BC and was inhabited until 1000 AD. The castle foundations can be seen, although now covered in grass.
Small numbers of seabirds nest on the coastal cliffs. These include Fulmar, Black-legged Kittiwake, Common Gull, Razorbill and Shag. Additionally Common Eider can be seen in and around the harbour and coves during the summer months.
Portknockie and Bow Fiddle Rock
The Tay Bridge (sometimes unofficially the Tay Rail Bridge) is a railway bridge approximately two and a quarter miles (three and a half kilometres) long that spans the Firth of Tay in Scotland, between the city of Dundee and the suburb of Wormit in Fife.
As with the Forth Bridge, the Tay Bridge has also been called the Tay Rail Bridge since the construction of a road bridge over the firth, the Tay Road Bridge. The rail bridge replaced an early train ferry.
“Tay Bridge” was also the codename for the funeral plans for Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.
This photograph was captured from the Wormit end of the bridge. On a clear day when the tide is out you can see the foundations of the original bridge which collapsed in 1879.
A sun dog or sundog (scientific name parhelion, plural parhelia, from Greek parēlion, (παρήλιον), παρά(beside) + ήλιος(sun), “beside the sun”; also called a mock sunor a phantom sun) is an atmospheric phenomenon that creates bright spots of light in the sky, often on a luminous ring or halo on either side of the sun.