For the past couple of weeks, I was very fortunate to spend time at a dozen lighthouses. There are many ways to tell their story visually and bring their romance to life. The method I used a lot was simply the blurring of time. Better known as the long exposure, we simply leave the shutter open for a period of time to let elements that are moving, clouds, water, etc, blur during the exposure. I was lucky to have captured cool images that I posted on IG. I received a number of emails asking how I did them. Here’s my basic formula.
It starts by arranging the elements so motion is one of the elements. If I’m going through the pain of a long exposure, I need elements in the photo that are moving and moving in a pleasing and logical way. In this case, the clouds are racing away from me and the waves were crashing to some extent. You can look at the before and after image above to get an idea of what I saw and then how I used the motion as an element. With that accomplished, then comes the process I use to make the photo.
- Make my basic exposure and determine the exposure I want for the story. I do this in Aperture Priority with Exposure Compensation (the before image above). This is done WITHOUT the ND filter attached.
- I then look at the shutter speed to make this photo and memorize that shutter speed (that hardest part of the process). The f/stop doesn’t change and exposure compensation is no longer relevant.
- Attach the Breakthrough ND 10x filter
- I then change the exposure mode to Manual and set the shutter speed to TIME.
- I like to use ND Timer on my iPhone to do the calculation of total exposure time. You enter the shutter speed determined from the basic exposure, dial in the filter to be used giving you your time to leave the shutter open.
- Hit the Timer in ND Timer and the shutter release on the camera. When the gong dings, hit the shutter release to end the exposure.
If you’re doing this at sunrise or sunset, you need to take into account the rising or lowering light levels in your base exposure. Otherwise, it’s a pretty straight forward process. I highly recommend you practicing the process at home prior to hitting the road to work out your system to this. It makes it a whole lot funnier once on location telling motions story.