The Long Exposure Learning Curve Continues…

If you follow this blog you’ll know I’ve recent found myself caught in the grip of long exposure photography. Something I’ve done in the past with mixed results, but with methodical use of my range of filters I’ve discovered a lot this past couple of weeks. I still feel I’m being constrained slightly by the equipment but learning a lot and getting some images I’m very happy with as a result.

Keep the filters clean!
This was a lesson learned the hard way. I’d never cleaned any of my slot-in filters since I got them back in September. Screw in’s for some reason Iim happy to wipe down with whatever’s at hand, but I’ve been overly precious about the slot in filters. Which became very evident after a trip out and then finding I had to clone out dozens of marks on the shots. All very well but sometimes it’s not that easy to get a smooth clone on streaky clouds etc, so best avoided.

To clean then I’ve been washing them gently under a warm tap, dabbing dry with kitchen roll and then finally cleaning carefully with a lint free cloth. Seems to work fine. You can see marks on all the filters but these don’t show up at all on the images, huge difference.

Be aware of the where sun is!
This is another one I’ve finally figured out. Some shots looked dreadful. Such a disappointment when you see the camera preview, get home and find all sorts of strange flares and marks all over the shot.

What I’ve found is that with the sun directly behind you it seems to hit the filters and bounce light back into the lens and highlights any marks on the filters. With the sun to the side and rear in some cases it causes the camera to actually record the front element of the lens on the shot as a reflection. Funnily enough, shooting near on into the sun, if you can avoid the flares seems to work fine? To this ends though I’ve taken to trying to shield the filters in some way from stray sunlight, fortunately, living in Scotland, it’s not that big an issue!

Wind is both your friend and enemy
After a night out with the camera on Friday it brought home just how good and how big a pain in the rear end wind can be. On the plus side, high winds ripple water nicely making those smooth milky sea shots a lot easier and it sends the clouds racing across your shot, also desirable. However… it also blows your tripod about all over the place, even a sturdy one. It’s worse still with a stack of rectangle filters in front of the lens giving it more to catch onto. I’ve seem me this week almost standing over the tripod trying to shield the camera from the wind. Nothing worse than a 3 minute exposure and you see the camera move just as you get near the end.

All these shots were taken in near gale force winds:

Newhaven Harbour and Lighthouse
Newhaven Lighthouse Mono

Newhaven Lighthouse Long Exposure

Old Pier in the Western Harbour, the wind was especially bad here:
Old Pier Mono 2

Old Pier Mono

In bright conditions, lose a grad and use the polariser!
My P series filter kit gives me the option of using 3 filters in front of the lens and my screw in ND8, typically for these long exposure shots that means a Hitech ND0.9 soft grad and 0.6 soft grad. However, as I’ve discussed in previous posts, the ND0.9 causes a horrific purple colour cast.

What I found on Saturday though, was that in bright conditions with blue sky around, to replace the ND0.9 with the circular polariser and keep the 2 grads, still lets me push around 20-30s exposure in very bright conditions and keep some colour in the shot too as there is little or no cast. The polariser has the added benefit of darkening the sky and highlighting the clouds, even losing the 0.6ND and using the 0.9ND for B&W work with the polariser in place was very beneficial. So, use the polariser and experiment with your other filters in bright conditions.

All these shots were taken with the polariser in place:

Cramond Beach
Cramond Beach April 2011

Cramond Tide April 2011

Despite the best efforts of some strange foreign bloke to get in every shot, these were taken in Portobello beach with the polariser slotted in place instead of the ND0.6 soft grad.

Porty Breakwater

Porty Seascape

Portobello Groynes

Experiment!
I cannot recommend this enough; try different things you never know what you’ll get. This shot on Calton Hill was taken with the ND0.6 soft grad, ND0.9 soft grad and a sunset filter in place, not a particularly long exposure at 40s but I liked the resulting colours.

Calton Hill Sunset 3 April 2011

Finally, I’ll leave you with a couple of other long exposure mono shots from last nights trip to Cramond just as the tide was on its way out.

Cramond Causeway Mono April 2011

Cramond Causeway Mono 2 April 2011

Above all though, I’m enjoying this learning curve a lot. I’ve already priced up how much a move to the Lee pro filter systems will be. At approx £550 for what I want, the saving starts now!

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2 responses

  1. Just came on your post via Google, I’m just wondering did you ever solve the problem you were having with reflections of the front of your lens in the long exposure shots? I’m just starting down the long exposure trail with a HiTech 10 stop filter and this problem is rearing its head in too many shots with me and I’m getting it hard to find out why?

    Some lovely work on this blog BTW.

    January 4, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    • Hi John, thanks for your comments. The issue tends to happen with light leaking in behind the 10 stop filter. If you have the older version of the Hitech 10 stopper then it’s quite an issue, the newer versions have a gasket around the filter to stop the light leaks. With the older version you are best to cover the edges of the filter with a lens cloth or similar to prevent the light getting in. I’ve never had this issue at all with the screw in 10 stop Heliopan filter. The slot in 10 stops are way more convenient but I think there’s a lot to be said for the screw in versions too. I wouldn’t be without the Heliopan now.

      January 4, 2012 at 7:51 pm

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