Six Reasons to Try Long Exposure Photography

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The purchase of a nine stop neutral density filter two years ago changed my approach to landscape photography. It allowed me to take photos using shutter speeds of one minute or longer and gave me a new way of photographing the sea (I live on the coast at the bottom of New Zealand’s North Island).

long exposure photo

17mm, 30 seconds @ f11, ISO 800

Long exposure photography is very enjoyable and rewarding, and if you haven’t tried it yet then what are you waiting for? Here are some reasons you should:

1. Long exposure photography is easy. It’s a very simple and pure genre of photography. It’s just you, the camera, a wide-angle lens and a tripod. The success of the shoot comes down to the drama of the landscape and your eye for light and composition. If you shoot at dusk, a neutral density filter isn’t required as the low light will let you use shutter speeds of 30 seconds or longer.

landscape exposure

40mm, 201 seconds @ f13, ISO 200

2. Longer exposures help you appreciate the beauty of the landscape. One of the things I like about it is the natural slowness of the process. It gives me time to slow down and enjoy the beauty of the landscape and the light.

3. No reciprocity failure. Long exposure photography has become popular since the rise of digital cameras. The instant feedback of the LCD screen, plus the lack of reciprocity failure take the guess work out of exposure, leaving the photographer to concentrate on light and composition.

light trails with long shutter speeds

17mm, 6 seconds @ f5.6, ISO 400

4. If you have a nine or ten stop neutral density filter, you can take photos during the middle of the day during overcast conditions that traditionally are not considered suitable for landscape photography. Neutral density filters give you a new way of taking landscape photos, and extend the time in which you can create beautiful images way beyond the golden hour.

nd filter picture

23mm, 30 seconds @ f14.5, ISO 400

5. Long exposure photography appeals to photographers who work in black or white or see themselves as fine art photographers. The simple style and composition of the best long exposure photos lends itself to the fine art approach.

6. Long exposure photos are a new way of looking at the landscape. When a non-photographer sees a long exposure photo, they know that they can’t get the same result themselves on their compact cameras or smart phones.

motion lights imagery

40mm, 1.5 seconds @ f11, ISO 400

The photos in this article are all taken from Slow, which explores multiple ways of using slow shutter speeds creatively; including panning, slow-sync flash, intentional camera movement and long exposure photography.

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2 Comments

  1. Ever since I saw a documentary on Michael Levin, I’ve tried to replicate, as much as possible, his method:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesgonneau/7695569892/

  2. Tony Prower says:

    Beautiful images! You have explored long exposure photography to its fullest creative potential.

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