Long exposures are common place in landscape photography, where the shots are usually taken in low light at sunrise or sunset.
You normally get shots with lots of colour, milky water and foam like seascapes.
So I thought I’d try this technique in Leeds – just after mid day on a bright, sunny day… with clouds blowing past.
Here are some tips on how to do it…
Get an ND Filter
It’s sunny, to get a long exposure you need to stop the light flooding in so fast. There are lots of “ND” filters around these days, right up to the 10-Stop ND – sometimes called 1000x, ND3.0 or the Big Stoppa. They’re not the cheapest things out there, but are essential.
Use a polariser
Second to the ND really, these help you darken the blue areas of the sky and control reflections on water, and also take away 2 extra stops of light. The main cost is that you may see the corners vignette slightly and if you have cheaper filters, they may affect clarity of the shot.
Cable release and Bulb
Most cameras have a maximum of 30 seconds exposure time; to extend this you’ll need to use the “BULB” setting, and use a cable release. This allows you to go as long as you like – the shots from today were all 59 seconds.
Use “Live View”
You just can’t see through the camera when you 10-stop ND is on there – so I was fully expecting to have to take the thing off to compose and focus every shot. But I tried putting on Live View and was amazed to see that I could see everything brightly enough to compose AND use auto focus! So if you’ve got it, give it a try.
Shoot the “bright” side of buildings
And finally, I found that shooting the brighter edges of buildings was far more effective than the darker sides – a bright building to contrasts against the sky. It’s up to you of course, but if you shoot at 90 degrees to the sun, you’ll get maxiumum polarisation (so a dark sky) and hopefully a nicely lit building.