A couple of long exposure images from the surf beach at Kilcunda.
A couple of images from a dawn shoot at Pulpit Rock, Cape Schanck. Yes, I know, it’s not like me to be up before the birds. I don’t know what got into me. The images were taken during a welcome break between showers.
Images from a pre-dawn trip to Seaford pier with friends from the ND400 Long Exposure group on Facebook. We arrived in the pitch black of early morning, ….a VERY unusual time for me, ….and waited for the sun to rise.
An night time image from semi rural Devon Meadows. The foreground is lit by the long exposure picking up light from a neighbour’s house. Stars are apparent in the night sky.
A sunset image taken at Dog Rocks, Batesford, Victoria, Australia. It was the 21st December 2012 which was supposedly meant to be our “last day on Earth”. Thankfully it was all hot air as expected.
A long exposure image taken at Mentone beach just after sunset.
The beautiful Koonya beach at Blairgowrie. A favorite spot of mine to sit and watch nature at it’s best.
An image from Sorrento back beach, near the Sphinx rock formation.
A couple of long exposure images from the groyne on the beach at Mentone near the pub.
A long exposure image at high tide from the picturesque shores of Tenby Point on Western Port Bay, Australia.
I went to shoot the Olinda Falls today but the light turned out to be a bit too patchy and harsh. The dappled light streaming down through the tree-top canopy did however provide the right conditions to make a feature of the ferns.
A marker on the outermost edge of the rock shelf at Ricketts Point beach in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Australia.
November is a great time of year on the Mornington Peninsula back beaches. The warming water signals an explosion of bright green seaweed on the rocky plateaus all along the coast.
Following are a couple of shots of the beautiful rock pools available to explore at Sorrento back beach during low tide. In these images I’ve used an ND400 filter to smooth the background waves and a polarizing filter to remove the sky’s reflection from the surface of the pools.
Jetty remnants at The Dell at Clifton Springs in Victoria, Australia.
Firstly just a quick note to let you know that I’ve updated the blog to give it a whole new look and most importantly it will now allow me to display larger images on the page. Screen sizes and resolutions have changed dramatically since I first started the blog several years ago. I’m sure you’ll agree that larger images is a step in the right direction.
The following images are from a morning trip down to Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula.
Now for some fun shots. The two images below were taken by my friend Stephen Pretty from Perfection Photography. He managed to catch a couple of golden moments in time where the waves got the better of me.
Sunset at Corinella. Taken near the French island ferry docking point.
It was a fine day with fluffy white clouds scooting along on the breeze. It didn’t take long for me to convince myself to go down along the coast and play with some dark ND filters.
The Aim of this Guide
I’ve written this guide to answer the most common questions that I receive regarding my NDX400 / ND400 long exposure photography.
This guide serves as a quick introduction to daytime long exposure photography for those who have never attempted it before. My aim is to explain the methods that I use with the intention of getting you shooting as quickly and simply as possible.
This is NOT designed as an in-depth technical guide. There are other guides on the internet that delve into all the maths and physics involved.
I will be adding to this page, or making corrections, from time to time as the need arises.
What equipment do I need?
- A camera -
Any DSLR camera will do the job nicely. An entry level DSLR is fine.
There are even a few compact cameras which are suitable. If your compact camera is tripod mountable, allows you to take control of ISO aperture and shutter speed, and is capable of having filters attached then you can use that.
- A tripod -
You need to be able to keep the camera completely motionless during a long exposure. A tripod is by far the most convenient way to achieve this.
- ND filters -
You will need the following – 1 x Hoya NDX400 (or another manufacturers equivalent)
and 1 x Hoya ND8 (or another manufacturers equivalent)
The ND8 is used in conjunction with the NDX400 to give you more flexibility on bright sunny days.
These ND filters screw onto the end of the lens. They have threads on both the front and rear sides so it’s possible to have more than one filter screwed onto the lens at any given time.
There are alternative filter systems available whereby you slide a filter into a holder mounted on the front of the lens but I wont be discussing those here because I don’t use them.
I recommend that you stay away from the variable ND filters since they create unwelcome artifacts at the dark end of the range.
- A remote shutter release – (optional)
If you only want to create exposures no longer than 30 seconds then this is an optional piece of gear. A remote shutter release only becomes necessary if you want to make exposures longer than 30 seconds.
How do I compose the image through this black glass?
With an NDX400 filter on the end of your lens the first thing you’ll notice when you look through the camera’s viewfinder is extreme darkness. Even in daylight it can be difficult to see much more than silhouettes.
The easy way to get around this problem is to use the camera’s “live view” mode and compose your scene using the LCD on the back of your camera. Live view allows you to see straight through the filter.
As an alternative, if you like to do things the more fiddly way you can compose your image using the viewfinder with the filter off, then screw it on when you’re ready to take the shot. The disadvantage of this method is that you are removing and then refitting the filter for each new composition. That means that you’re MUCH more likely to accidentally drop your filter.
How can I get the camera to focus through black glass?
In real world daylight conditions, when using live view, I find that my camera is able to focus correctly in most situations with the NDX400 screwed onto the lens. Focussing can become a bit more troublesome when both the NDX400 and ND8 are on. Your results may vary of course depending on the model of camera you have.
If your camera is having trouble focussing you can remove one or more of the filters then do a half press of the shutter button. When the focus locks onto the subject you can then switch the lens to manual focus (MF) and refit the filter/s. The focus now shouldn’t move unless you accidentally handle the lens and move the focus ring. Precise focussing is not usually so critical when doing long exposures because you tend to be using a small aperture (high aperture number) which gives you great depth of field. This means that both near and far objects are in focus.
How do I set up my camera for long exposures?
(The following procedure applies to exposures of 30 seconds or less.)
1 – Screw the NDX400 onto the front of your lens.
2 – Select “2 second self timer” as your camera’s drive mode.
3 – Select your camera’s lowest ISO number. This will usually be 100 or perhaps 50 if you’re lucky.
6 – With your scene composed the way you want it, half press the shutter button.
The camera should focus and calculate the exposure time for you.
If the camera doesn’t focus see the section above titled “How do I get the camera to focus through black glass?”
During the “half press” the exposure time should now be displayed somewhere on the camera’s LCD screen.
If you want to make the exposure time longer you can do this by increasing the aperture number.
If you want to make the exposure time shorter you can decrease the aperture number.
An alternative to cranking your aperture number up really high is to screw the ND8 filter onto the NDX400 which should already be mounted on the front of your lens.
7 – When you’re happy with the exposure time, complete a full press of the shutter button.
The camera should start the exposure in two seconds. That gives you time to get your hands off the camera and your body away from the tripod. The objective here is to disturb the camera as little as possible during the long exposure.
What do I do if I don’t have “live view” mode available on my camera?
You can use a similar procedure to the one described above with the exception that during the “half press” you will need to cover the viewfinder eyepiece to prevent light from entering.
If you do not cover the viewfinder eyepiece satisfactorily then light will enter the camera via the eyepiece during the “half press” and upset the camera’s exposure calculations. This will result in either black or very dark images.
Troubleshooting – Why do my long exposure images look blurry or soft?
Usually the problem is caused by movement of the camera or tripod during the long exposure.
If you’re in a windy environment such as an ocean beach, a howling wind can cause the tripod to vibrate and blur your images. In this case you need to find a way to dampen the vibration. In circumstances like this I usually hold onto the tripod during the exposure and use my weight to press down and dampen the vibrations as much as possible.
Always avoid having the neck of the tripod extended during strong winds as it makes the camera very susceptible to the wind.
On the subject of beaches, when you place your tripod on sand always push down as hard as you can to bed the tripod feet firmly. If you rest the tripod softly on the sand there’s every chance that it will slowly shift during your long exposure. This is particularly true at the water’s edge with waves lapping around the tripod feet.
Something else to be aware of is that smaller apertures (high aperture numbers) can make your images look slightly soft. I would encourage you to test your particular lens and camera combination to see how noticeable (or not noticeable) it is. Take a shot at say f/22 and another at f/11 and compare them to see if it’s a deal breaker for you.
Troubleshooting – Why do my long exposure images look too dark?
This is one of the most common questions I’m asked.
Chances are that the camera’s exposure system is being effected by unwanted light entering via the viewfinder eyepiece. Ordinarily this light would be negligible compared to the amount of light coming in through the front lens. When you put a very dark filter on the front lens this stray light coming in through the eyepiece becomes significant and has a major effect on the camera’s ability to calculate correct exposure.
The groynes at Balnarring Beach serve to reduce erosion at the water’s edge. Most of the groynes are simply a line of posts connected together by planks creating a straight sea wall.
I was struggling to find something interesting on the beach then stumbled across this baby zig-zagging out into the bay.
Below – Zig Zag.
We had arrived just in time. The high tide was starting to recede giving us easy access to the beach yet there was still enough water covering the base of the jetty posts.
If you arrive at this destination at the wrong time you’ll find sticks in mud.
Pictured below – On the way back to the car park the water had receded enough to reveal the tangled root system on this Tenby Point icon.
A few images of the rock formations at the Number Sixteen beach at Rye.
Some afternoon long exposure images from Sorrento back beach on the Mornington Peninsula, Australia. The foreground rocks are submerged at high tide and are gradually revealed as the tide goes out. A long exposure time is used to smooth out the ocean waves into a mist.