Long Exposure Photography – Love it or hate it?

Long exposure photography. This is a area of landscape photography that seems to divide opinions among those who love it and those who hate it. I should confess at this point that I love it. Now my definition of long exposure is a shutter time of five seconds and more whereas short exposure normally for me is anywhere between half a second to five. Why do I love long exposure photography? Well firstly it excites me because I can create rather than capture a scene in front of me which allows me to be a lot more creative in my compositions. Secondly, it can transform how an image looks and simplify a subject matter. Normally I shoot static subjects in water such as piers, jetties, rocks and when captured over many seconds, allows the subject to really stand out and not compete with the moving water around it.

Perhaps one of the most common questions I get asked about from those attending my landscape photography workshops and 1-2-1 private tuition days relates to long exposure photography. They have seen the images in a magazine or on Flickr and wish to emulate them. But the trick that I find to quality long exposure photography is not how to photograph scenes using dark filters but what equipment to use and when to use it. I personally use LEE filters as they are hand crafted in the UK and are considered to be the best quality filters on the market (some would argue that claim but having used several other brands, I have settled on LEE filters and I love them).

The look that long exposure photography gives you is demonstrated below. I recently ventured out to my home town of Blackpool to photograph the underside of the 147 year old Central Pier. I shot three images, one without a filter at 1/8th second, one using a LEE Big Stopper filter which gave me 91 seconds shutter time and the final one using a Little Stopper at 0.6 seconds. In the image where I have used a Big Stopper, the water appears to have disappeared leaving a misty look to the beach whereas the non filtered image captures the water as I saw it. Which one do you prefer? Of course, some will like the ‘natural’ looking version whereas others will prefer the long exposure image. I do know however that more people request to buy long exposure prints of my images than natural ones so from a commercial perspective, long exposure wins for me..

Central Pier, Blackpool
Central Pier, Blackpool

Of course, the difference between the two images above are plain to see and if neither appeal to you, you could always use LEE’s latest member of the filter family, the Little Stopper which offers six stops of light as opposed to the Big Stopper’s ten stops of light. The Little Stopper will give you on average a shutter speed of a couple of seconds instead of the Big Stopper’s 30″ (based at 1/30th second shutter time without filters). The advantage that the Little Stopper filter will offer you is the ability to retain some texture and detail in the water which is considered a happy balance for some people. The image below was captured using the LEE Little Stopper.

Central Pier, Blackpool
One thing I have noticed since purchasing LEE’s Little Stopper is that I have found myself shooting more and more short exposure images but I guess it is knowing when and where to use it. There is no universal policy when it comes to shooting short and long exposure photography. You need to assess each situation for yourself.
Here are a couple of links to the LEE filters website but if you want to know more about short and long exposure photography, and wish to join me on a workshop or a 1-2-1 tuition day, click the links below for full details.

Click here to be directed to the Lee Big Stopper

Click here to be directed to the LEE Little Stopper

Long Exposure Workshops These are based on the Fylde Coast in Lancashire but can be run in the Lake District too.

1-2-1 Private Tuition Days These 1-2-1 tuition days can be based in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Lake District or possibly where you live. Please contact me for full details.

Thanks for reading.


Mob: 07813 950378

website: www.melvinnicholsonphotography.co.uk
email: melvin@melvinnicholsonphotography.com
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