Just a quick post to let you all know that I’m not dead… Thanks for all the comments over the last week and a bit, I’ll reply soon.
Life’s been a bit crazy over the past ten days, coupled with laptop and internet issues, and also the fact that I haven’t had a chance to get get out and take any pictures at all since my last trip to Newhaven! I’ll hopefully have a post done for tomorrow night
Another picture from my outing to Newhaven with my new ND filters. This shot isn’t as dark as the picture in previous post (it was taken about ten minutes beforehand), and you can actually see a little bit of detail on the rocks and under the water. You can just see the last remnants of the suns light, which looks like a flame, reflected in the water. This wasn’t technically a long exposure picture, I was just lucky enough to get the water when it was really calm.
Some people where asking about how to do long exposure shots, so I’ve decided to give explaining the technique a go. Bear with me, this is my first attempt at a ‘how to’…
1. First off you need a tripod, because you have to use a long exposure for this type of shot. If you try and hand hold past about 1/30 sec, you just get a colourful blur, believe me I’ve tried! Also a shutter release cable is good, because you don’t want to press the shutter button and make the camera shake. Most cameras also have a timer that you can use to avoid having to touch the shutter button right before you take the picture.
2. It is a long exposure that gives the ‘milky’ or ‘smoky’ effect from the water in these kinds of pictures. For this shot I used a relatively fast shutter speed, but for the picture in the previous post I used a shutter speed of about 50 seconds, meaning that the shutter was open for 50 seconds, hence the need for a tripod (although if you want everything to be perfectly exposed so that you can see details in rocks and stuff you will need to expose for longer than this). To let as little light into the camera as possible I used the lowest ISO setting of 100, and set my aperture to f/22 (so that it is closed right down rather than wide open). One problem with using a low f/stop is that your image won’t be as sharp as it can be, but that can be fixed using smart sharpening or the unsharp mask in Photoshop.
I also used two neutral density filters (or just ND filters), darkened pieces of glass which screw onto the front of the camera lens. You get different strengths of filters and you can stack them to let in less light.
As well as ND filters I also used a polarising filter. The main purpose of this filter is to give deeper more vivid colours and also to cut reflections on water, glass etc, and it is adjustable by twisting the ring on the lens. A side effect of this filter is that it also lets in less light.
3. Getting the exposure right for the whole image is tricky in landscape pictures. I used evaluative exposure metering for this shot and exposed for the water, because it wasn’t much darker than the sky. The water turned out perfectly exposed, but the sky was a little bright so I lost some detail and colour. There are a few different ways to fix this. You could use a graduated neutral density filter (or ND grad filter), which is essentially a piece of glass that is dark at the top and gradually becomes transparent towards the bottom so that the top of your image is darker that the bottom. The filter is held in a holder which screws onto the front of your lens, although I think there are also screw on ones available.
A cheaper way if you already have Photoshop/Elements is to shoot in RAW mode. Process the picture in RAW format in Photoshop so that the foreground is properly exposed, then open the RAW file again and process it so that the sky is properly exposed. Once you have both the images processed and open in Photoshop then copy one onto the other so you have two layers on top of each other. Create a layer mask for the top layer (e.g. the properly exposed sky) and then invert it so it cannot be seen. Then use a black brush and paint over the layer mask and it will reveal your properly exposed sky on top of your properly exposed foreground. Here’s a great little video tutorial on layer masks.
If you have Nik’s ColourEfex Pro 3 plugin for Photoshop then there is a graduated neutral density filter in the plugin which does the same as an ND grad filter but in post processing rather than when you take the picture, and also lets you choose how dark the grad is, what angle, how far down the image etc.
4. When actually taking the picture my camera only goes up to a 30 second exposure so I had to use ‘bulb’ mode, which I think most DSLR’s have. This mode allows you to keep the shutter open for as long as you want. This is where the shutter release is really essential, because it allows you to lock the shutter button, meaning you don’t have to hold it down to keep the shutter open.
Guessing how long to keep the shutter open is a bit tricky however, it’s just a bit of trial and error really. If you are only just underexposed on the exposure meter (e.g. only a few stops to the left of the middle of the meter) on the camera’s LCD display, and your camera’s max exposure is 30 sec, then maybe use 40 or 50 sec exposure. If it is further to the left of the centre of the meter adjust accordingly. like I said it’s just trial and error.
Well I hope that explains it well enough and clearly enough. If anything needs clarified just ask. Also if you think the way I’ve explained things could be done better or if I’ve left anything out then let me know and I’ll be happy to fix it. If people find this helpful I might do more in the future.
Hope this helps!
Buy this picture as a print on Redbubble:
Came across The Lazy Photographer’s photoblog last night, he has some really nice and original pictures on there, and also a really useful quick guide on some photography basics. I was getting pretty confused about aperture, ISO and shutter speed, having only recently realised that I could change these settings on my humble digital camera. Up until now I had just been messing around with these settings without realising what affect each would individually have. The guide is really well written and therefore really easy to understand for photography newbies like myself. So, on my next outing I will be confused no more, and by the time I get myself a nice shiny digital SLR and ditch the compact digital I might actually have a rough idea of what I’m doing with it, thanks Lazy Photographer!
Here’s the link to his post:
Lessons on photography – The Lazy Photographer
Hope you find it as useful as I did!