What I Learned from My First Long Exposure Shoot
I’m on my way back to Tampa from San Francisco from teaching my Lightroom 4 Live seminar. A huge thanks to all that came out by the way. We had over 400 people there and they were an absolutely awesome crowd to spend the day with. Anyway, I decided to go out and shoot in the evening after the seminar.
The Photo I’ve Been Trying to Get
I’ve been to the bay area a number of times. On just about every single visit, I try to get out and shoot the Golden Gate Bridge. I’d personally love to get one of those photos where the top of the bridge is coming through the fog, but instead, all I get is fog. In fact, most of the time I’m there you’d never even know there was a bridge off in the distance. I’ve been there for sunrise, sunset, you name it. The weather gods (which are just plain crazy in the bay area to begin with) just seem to have something against me I guess.
This Visit Was No Different
Well, Monday I decided to head to Baker Beach and try my luck there (yes, I know it’s a nude beach but it was cold enough that everyone kept their clothes on). Unfortunately there was this foggy layer of “blah” in the air, and the sky wasn’t really that interesting. And the tide was such, that I couldn’t really get close enough to the water or rocks to make an interesting photo with the bridge. So I snapped a few “I was here photos” of it and decided to try something different. I just bought a Lee Big Stopper filter from Adorama a few weeks ago. It’s a 10-stop Neutral Density filter that extends your exposure times by quite a bit (thanks RC Concepcion for letting me borrow the adapter since mine seems to be on an eternal backorder). I’ve been eyeing this up for a while. My two friends Brian Matiash and Nicole Young turned me on to it and I’ve since realize that I really dig long exposure photos. There’s just something in the moving clouds and/or water that grabs my eye. So I crept my way up toward the rocks (where you can’t even see the bridge anymore) and started shooting. The photo at the top of this post is one of my favorites. It’s a 70 second exposure shot at f/16 with a Nikon D800 (man do I love that camera). I had to dodge a few waves here and there and I have lots of blurry photos from grabbing my tripod in the middle of the exposure.
What I Learned
I learned a few key things for my first long exposure ND filter shoot.
1) You need to set your camera shutter speed to Bulb because the max shutter speed of 30 seconds (on my Nikon at least) isn’t long enough with the filter on.
2) You need to compose and set your focus before putting the filter on. It’s so dark, that your camera’s auto focus system won’t work once the filter is attached. Plus, you probably won’t be able to see to compose your photo. Luckily Lee has a great system that makes it easy to take on and off when you need to do this again.
3) Needless to say you absolutely need a cable release. Since you’re in Bulb mode, you don’t want your hand on the camera the whole time.
I’m really excited to get out and shoot some more long exposures with this filter. I found it really slowed me down. Since you spend anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes (probably longer in many cases), you really get to take it easy. Another added benefit is that you end up with a lot less photos to edit.
How About You?
How about you? Anyone out there caught the long-exposure bug? Got any cool photos or sites to share? I’d love to see ‘em. Thanks!