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Long Exposures

"Creating Surreal Effects"

Tips & Tricks to Achieve Professional Results
 by Ricardo Da Cunha

I love the effect of long exposures. This image was captured at one of my favourite regions of Australia; tropical North Queensland and more specifically the Daintree rainforest. This image titled ‘Where the Daintree Rainforest meets the Coral Sea’ was captured at sunrise over approximately a 4 minute exposure.

Long Exposures

Such a prolonged exposure creates surreal effects on anything that moves within the frame; something that can’t be seen with the naked eye. In this image you’ll notice that the moving clouds have been recorded as streaks in the sky and the moving ocean has been recorded as a still motionless surface. So how do you achieve such an effect? Read on to find out how:

In order to achieve prolonged exposures of 30 seconds plus you’ll
either need to be shooting in very dark ambient light conditions or employ the aid of a Neutral Density (ND) filter. Applying an ND filter is essentially like putting on some sunglasses; both cut-out the brightness of the light.

When you
really wish to achieve a slow exposure then obviously you’ll need to cut-out a lot of light accordingly and this is where the legendary 10 stop ND filter comes in! 10 stops essentially means that it reduces the ambient light by a massive 10 times! I thoroughly recommend purchasing a 10 stop ND filter as you can produce some really interesting effects with it that no other filter can replicate.

When using a 10 stop ND filter there some important tips to follow that I have listed below:
  1. Unless your camera is equipped with Live View, you will need to ensure that you have set-up your composition and focus prior to applying the ND filter as you will not be able to see anything via the View Finder!
  2. Because exposure times will generally be greater than 30 seconds, your camera will need to be set to the Bulb mode if it is equipped with it. Auto, Semi-Auto and Manual exposure modes cannot calculate an exposure greater than 30 seconds on most DSLR cameras.
  3. Given that your camera will not be able to automatically calculate an exposure time, the challenge then becomes to calculate the correct exposure time manually… Luckily however there is a great App for your Smart Phone called NDCalc. If you’re using an Apple iPhone then simply type in ‘NDCalc’ in the App Store.long exposures

In all of the images that Ricardo captures he aims to represent scenes with no evidence of human intervention. As such, he hopes to demonstrate how awe inspiring our unblemished natural world is and endeavours to motivate us to join him in helping to preserve our remaining wild places.

More of Ricardo's stunning landscapes can be seen in the Gallery of Better Photographs, on his website  www.ricardodacunha.com.au and his FaceBook page at www.facebook.com/NaturalAustralianLandscapeImages

If you don't have an iPhone then here's a table to help you with calculating the correct exposure. Long exposures can be a bit hit and miss so you may need to vary these times to suit the subject.

Normal Shutter
1 second
2 seconds
1 second
2 seconds
4 seconds
8 seconds
15 seconds
30 seconds
1 minute
2 minutes
4 minutes
8 minutes
16 minutes
32 minutes

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