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Faking a Long Exposure Photograph


Transcension 20sec f/22 ISO 50

Well…technically it’s still a LE (long exposure) image, but most photographs like this usually rely on a ND filter.  Since I didn’t have one at the time, I just pushed the settings a bit in camera. Shooting under these low light conditions is a great way to familiarize yourself with the effects that changing your shutter speed can have on an image.

When I’m taking a LE shot my main goal is to capture the movement of objects in the image. In most instances it’s the water and the clouds.

Of the three variables in the exposure triangle my main focus is trying find the right shutter speed.  The slower the shutter speed is the more you will notice this effect.

Here are two shots showing the effects of different shutter speeds. Note I did use filters here


Polar 127sec f/13 ISO 100 30m


Swirly Pools at Batts 3.2sec f/16 ISO 100 17mm

In the first one you can see the smoothing effect the longer exposure has on the water and the clouds. The second one was only for 3.2 secs so you still see the ripples and movement from the water. The faster shutter speed is also great for capturing the white streaks.

Here’s what I did to create the LE effect without the filter in the Transcension image.

1/ Find a good subject and composition.  For this shot I actually took a long time to get the camera and tripod set up.  I wanted to have most of the reds from the setting sun on the left to balance the stairs on the right. I also wanted to keep the space under the stairs and have them level with the horizon.

2/ My original goal was to take a 30sec exposure since I wanted to smooth out the water even more.  I started some test shots around 5:30. I knew it was still be too bright so I started with an ISO of 50 and shut down my aperture to f/22. Depending on your lens and subject there is a chance that you might lose a bit of the image quality from diffraction. As it was the images were still too bright so I had to wait till it was closer to 6:30 to get the exposure I wanted.

3/ One of the challenges in post was dealing with the hot pixels.  The sensor can get fairly hot when taking LE’s and this tends to be compounded with the small body of my mirrorless.

I would encourage anyone who has never tried this to go out on an evening with another photographer and have fun with it.

Here’s a quick check list of things to consider if you don’t have a filter.

1/Find an interesting subject and consider how the clouds and the water are moving. Try capturing them as they are coming towards you and then see what they look like as they are moving away.

2/ Shoot after the sun has gone down or late in the evening on an overcast day.

3/ Change your shutter speed and see what effect this has.  A slower shutter speed will give you a smoother look.

4/ Try starting with your lowest ISO and a small aperture.  Maybe ISO 100 and f/22.
 If it’s too dark open up your aperture to f/11. If it’s still too dark you can try bumping up your ISO a bit.

5/ It may seem obvious but remember that you can also get more light by changing your composition to include more of the suns glow.

6/Don’t stress out about it if your first ones are not as spectacular as you hoped. It’s a bit of trial and error the first few times but after a couple sessions it becomes more natural.

Looking forward to seeing your images.

If you have any questions you can post them on the BPS group.

You can also reach me on my facebook page and website.


Have fun.




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