Louise Denton Photography

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TIPS | Long Exposures

Tutorials and Tips, UncategorizedLouise Denton

What is a long exposure? Basically, a long exposure refers to the length of the shutter speed used to take a photo.

There is no "typical" shutter speed, but in daylight, on automatic settings a small camera might use 1/250th of a second, or maybe even a 1/1000th of a second. As the light starts to fade, or as aperture is narrowed, longer shutter speeds are needed to correctly expose the exposure.

I would consider anything half a second or longer to be a "long exposure". This is definitely too long to hand hold!

The shutter could be open for half a second, or ten seconds, thirty seconds or even four hundred and thirty seconds, if you wanted to!

30 Second exposure, blurring the water around the rocks

Why should I use long exposures?

I LOVE long exposures. 95% of my sunset and seascape photos are taken using exposures of half a second or greater. There are lots of benefits to increasing the shutter speed.

Sometimes longer exposures are a necessity, as light gets lower the camera needs a longer shutter speed to create the correct "lightness" (exposure) within the photo.

Depending upon light, and tidal condition, I tend to use between a quarter of a second or one second to create images showing the movement of the water. The water blurs together to create interesting lines and patterns.

Wave receding back in to the ocean, using a 0.8 second exposure (F13, ISO100)

Water moving around the rocks of Fannie Bay - a one second shutter speed

As shutter speeds get longer, water tends to smooth out more. In Darwin, I generally use around fifteen seconds or longer to smooth the water - all the water movement blurs together in to one flat surface.

30 second exposure, smoothing out the water

Images using longer exposures tend to get sharper - the camera captures more detail.

Longer shutter speeds can also result in more vibrant colour.

Depending on wind conditions, long exposures show movement in the clouds creating patterns in the sky of the photos.

There are lots of uses for long exposure photography. I use it mainly for landscapes and seascapes, but it can be applied to a variety of subjects.

Below are some examples from Flickr.com:

Traffic travelling at night, from Emmanuel_D Photography, 121 second exposure

Believe

Stars and meteor shower in Queensland, by Bill Owens

Little Wonder

Light painting, by John White Photos

Australia

Waterfall long exposure by ForestWonder.com

long-exposure-autumn-waterfalls

There are so many more long exposure examples that I want to share from Flickr! Check out more in my "favourites" folder on Flickr.

What do you need for long exposures?

  • A DSLR.

Some compact cameras can be used manually, and you can use long exposures, sometimes up to 30 seconds. Generally speaking, they are capped at a maximum shutter length (and in set increments). DSLRs allow much more flexibility and much longer exposures. A DSLR camera will also allow you to activate the "mirror lock up" setting, improving sharpness in images.

  • A tripod.

The camera must not move! A tripod is essential, and it must be sturdy too. On the beach, this can mean burying the legs and feet deeper in to the sand to ensure it doesn't move with the water.

If you don't have a tripod, you can use a fence post or something else stationary and steady!

  • A remote shutter release.

This is not essential, but very useful. The remote will enable you to take the photo using the remote, instead of the shutter button on the camera. Why? Long exposures require complete stillness of the camera, and often pressing the shutter will cause the camera to wobble slightly - causing blur in the photo. Using the remote means you don't touch the camera, which means sharp photos!

A remote shutter release is also very useful for exposures taken using "bulb" mode. Holding your finger down on the button for 30 seconds, or 360 seconds can be annoying - the remote I use, operates on "bulb" mode by pressing the remote once to start the photo, and once to end the photo.

If you don't have a remote shutter, you can also use the two-second-timer setting on your camera. The shutter is depressed, and the camera waits for two seconds before taking the photo. This gives the camera chance to steady itself and prevent camera shake and motion blur from touching the shutter.

  • ND filter (optional)

To create long exposures in brighter, daylight conditions an ND filter can be used to make the scene darker (therefore requiring a longer exposure to correctly expose the photo). A Neutral Density filter (ND) is a grey filter attached to the front of the lens. They vary in darkness, dependant upon how many stops of light they block. The darkest used is often the 10 stop ND filter, but they also are available in 1 stop, 3 stop, 9 stop, etc. A 10 stop ND filter can capture daylight scenes at thirty seconds.

184 second exposure taken just after sunset with a 10 stop ND filter

450 second exposure after sunset, f13, ISO100

How do I take long exposures?

I usually use Aperture Priority mode for my landscapes. I generally use between f11 and f16 for my landscape photos. My photos are generally taken between 10 and 20 minutes after the sunset, and using Aperture Priority mode will calculate your shutter time for you (either Av or A on your camera dial). Shooting this long after sunset, with the settings above and ISO 100 will result in longer exposures calculated by your camera.

Using dark ND filters will generally require you to use your camera manually. Sometimes Shutter Priority mode can be used, but personally I prefer to have a control on my aperture instead of shutter speed.

One of the most important set up points with using long exposures is the steadiness of the camera. The tripod must be sturdy, and avoid touching the camera to take the photo.

Sometimes, the environment can get too dark for Aperture mode to calculate your shutter speed for you. Most DSLRs are limited to 30 seconds as a "setting". If you want longer than 30 seconds, you will need to use "bulb" mode.

Bulb mode

Bulb mode refers to the manual mode on your camera that enables you to choose the length of your shutter speed. You will also need to set your aperture and ISO manually.

How do you know how long to do your shutter speed? There is an easy way to work it out (other than trial and error!)

Compose the scene, set up your camera and use Aperture mode to take a test shot. Set your Aperture to the desired setting (e.g. f11). Now, if it is too dark increase the ISO to 200 or 400 and remember the shutter speed it set.

Now flick to bulb mode, use the same aperture (e.g. f11) and reduce the ISO back to 100. To calculate the shutter speed required, using the recommended shutter speed from your "test" and multiply that by the factor of the ISO.

For example, if in Aperture Priority your settings read f11, ISO 200 and 30 seconds, your bulb settings would be f11, ISO 100 and 60 seconds (shutter speed multiplied by 2 - of ISO 200).

For example, if in Aperture Priority your settings were f14, ISO 800, 15 seconds, your bulb exposure would be f14, ISO 100 and 120 seconds (15 sec shutter speed multiplied by 8 - of ISO800)

I think that's the basics to get started on long exposures! Feel free to ask any questions below, or via my Facebook page.

An introduction

UncategorizedLouise Denton

Basically, I want a platform to share photography and ideas with on a regular basis.

When I store my photos on my computer, I file them by date and I have a file for every single day of the year. There are a LOT of photos that I do not post or even look at, because another one or two photos from that day are "better". I want a platform to share the "unseen" photography, or to share photography from a trip, and to share photography from others, share other blogs.

I think this blog will fulfill that.

My passion is the ocean, and the sunsets that go with it, here. So what better way to start than to share my favourite sunset photos from Darwin, over the last twelve months or so? These are all photographs that I have taken myself, found at Louise Denton Photography.

A bright sunset from Lee Point Beach, Darwin

This sunset was amazing! Out of nowhere, as I was leaving Fogg Dam to head home.

This one is after a storm, with the sun setting behind me. I was shooting the opposite direction and looked behind to see a rainbow against the storm glow! at Nightcliff Foreshore

Silhouetted mangroves at Nightcliff, by Louise Denton

Some of my images are custom, panoramic sizes too.

Pandanus silhouetted against a Fannie Bay sunset

This East Point mangrove is one of my favourite trees to silhouette against a red sunset sky.

Nightcliff Foreshore, by Louise Denton

Clouds at Casuarina Beach, reflecting in the wet sand

Sunset over mini-mangroves at Rapid Creek mouth

As you can probably see, I like trees! I love just getting outdoors: the Territory is a perfect place for it.

What colours are your favourite? I love the reds and purples, but have found most people really like the blues and calmer colours. Darwin wet season sunsets can be unpredictable - sometimes bright and sometimes very calm.

Casuarina beach on an outgoing tide: a 13 second exposure

Calm waters looking over Fannie Bay

I think these photos summarise what my work is about!

If you simply like landscape photography, sunsets and beaches to look at, you can subscribe to this blog.

If you live in Darwin and want to see great photos from our area, you can subscribe.

If you are interested in photography, or learning to take photos - subscribe, as I can share tips, ideas and discuss ways to do things. At the moment, I am researching in to types of torches best for light painting.

I want to visit so many places in the Top End - you can follow this blog to follow my journey. And this can be a place to share ideas - you can comment on my blogs. Before the year is out, I am planning another trip to Kakadu, a trip to Uluru and the Red Centre, via the Devil's Marbles. If I get time, I would LOVE to go through Arnhem land to the Cobourg Peninsular. If anyone has been to these places, share ideas and locations and I can share them back with you!

If you are visiting Darwin, I will be talking about great places to see and go, and events upcoming in the area.