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Thread: Long Exposures: Achieving those streaking cloud/misty water effects

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    Member mickeymoo21's Avatar
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    Long Exposures: Achieving those streaking cloud/misty water effects

    G’day all, I sometimes get a few questions about how my long exposures are taken so I thought that I would try and put up a thread here explaining the way to achieve these misty water and streaking cloud effects and some general hints and tips on what you will need and what to look for.

    Nickmonk beat me to it and has already provided a good description of long shutter speeds it in another post (here) but I thought I'd still post this one in the hints & tips so that there is a dedicated long exposure thread.

    Feel free to add any other advice and tips that I may have overlooked or ask any question if something is unclear (probably most of it ) I will put a few photos at the end showing different effects and the settings I used, if other people also want to add photos showing long exposure effects and the settings used then your more than welcome. I don't know about other people but I learn easier if I see things so if there are a group of photos showing what setting were used for what effects were achieved hopefully that will be helpful to some.

    I cannot emphasise enough though the importance of just going out and experimenting and practicing with different settings and subjects, eventually you will get a feel for what works and what doesn’t and your preferences, but most of all just have fun and enjoy it.


    Equipment:

    - Good sturdy tripod and a solid head (any tripod will do but the sturdier the better)
    - Remote switch/cable release (for bulb settings)
    - Polarising Filter (particularly for stream/river photography)
    - Graduated neutral density filters can be very useful, although I have only just got some so I can’t really comment on their use much yet, but they can make taking long exposures easier by balancing out a bright sky and dark foreground which is usually the case with long exposures.


    Typical settings:

    - I always use manual mode but Av mode may be easier for some when starting out, in time you will get a feel for how ISO, aperture and shutter speed inter-relate and then manual mode can become second nature and make it quick and easy to set up, letting you decide how each variable is set.
    - ISO is generally set to the lowest setting possible (i.e. 50 or 100) this is to a) reduce noise which becomes an issue with longer shutter speeds and, b) it reduces the sensors sensitivity to light, requiring more light than higher ISOs i.e. a longer shutter speed is then needed than with a higher ISO.
    - Aperture is usually set between f/11 and f/22 to give the greatest depth of field and give longer shutter speeds (personally I usually have it set to between f/18 and f/22 to give myself as long a shutter speed as possible).
    - Shutter speeds are the most variable settings in long exposures and will vary considerable given different lighting conditions. Typical shutter speeds may be from ½ second when the sun is setting to 2.5-3 minutes an hour after sunset.
    - Mirror lockup – if your camera has this feature then it is a good idea to use it as it stops “mirror slap” which can in certain circumstances result in the camera vibrating or moving when the shutter is opened up creating some softness in the photo.
    - If you don’t have a remote switch or cable release then don’t be discouraged you may still be able to take long exposures (I think most DSLRs will allow up to 30 seconds, not sure about P&Ss) then it is just a matter of switching the drive mode to the timer mode (well for Canon anyway if your not sure consult your cameras manual which should be able to tell you how to set the timer).
    - Some cameras have a long exposure noise reduction feature built in however, I always make sure this is turned off as noise reduction is better done in post processing and gives you more control.
    - I always shoot in RAW mode as well as it gives you greater versatility during processing and more control in the finished product shuch as white balance, midtones, blacks, saturation etc.


    Hints/Tips:

    Seascapes: I find that the most pleasing results come from finding a good foreground and having a large foreground element, but this is not always the case though depending on the conditions at the time and personal taste. Try to look for features where the water will swirl round, come up and over and drain off and create nice lines or misting such as big pebbles or channels in rocks where the water comes up and drains back out again, after a while and some experimenting with different compositions you will get a feel for what things will work and what wont and what you like and be able to visualise what the end product will look like. I find typical shutter speeds for seascapes are usually between ½ second up to about 4mins at which point noise becomes too much of a problem.


    Landscapes: For landscapes the main thing that a long exposure will do is perhaps blur cloud movements, this can create powerful images if used in the right way, the effects will vary greatly depending on the shutter speed, the type of clouds, their position, the speed and direction they are moving.


    Streams/Rivers: The best time for stream and river photography is when it’s overcast and/or raining, I personally wouldn’t bother much unless it was overcast or raining as there will be more water running, the colours tend to be more saturated because all the plants, mosses, lichens and leaf litter are wet and you don’t tend to get blown highlights, but this is not to say you can’t do it in sunny situations, but a set of neutral density filters will be needed if you want to achieve that silky water effect without blowing the highlights.

    An essential piece of equipment for this type of photography is a circular polarising filter, this a) means you can have a slightly longer shutter speed as it makes it darker and b) you can cut out unwanted glare off wet rocks, the water surface and foliage, by cutting the glare off the water you may then be able to see the bottom or other underwater features depending on the depth, the clearness of the water and how much rough water is there.

    Generally try to shoot upstream as this produces more pleasing results and try to find rocks/logs and sections of rough water that will lead the eye up the stream. Shooting downstream can also produce good results but is generally harder to get good results with pleasing compositions. Again visualisation is important so that you are able to predict the end product and this will only come through practice and experimentation.

    Generally typical shutter speeds for streams and rivers will not be much more than 30 seconds (unless using a few neutral density filters of course) so a cable release/remote switch are not as necessary but still a good idea if you have one.

    Examples:

    a. b.
    a. ISO 100 Av f/22 Tv 0.6 seconds. This one i wanted to capture the movment of the water and not have it all really misty
    b. ISO 100 Av f/22 Tv 100 seconds. Here I wanted to get a soft misty effect in amongst the rocks and it was much darker than a, this illustrates the difference between a shorter expsouser and a longer one in the effects you can get.

    c. d.
    c. ISO 100 Av 22 Tv 300.00 seconds. This one illustrates the effects of a long shutter speed on cloud movments, in this case the clouds were coming straight towards me at a fairly slow speed as can be evidenced by the very clam water.
    d. ISO 100 Av 22 Tv 0.25 seconds (maybe not a long exposure but still long enough to blur motin slightly). Here I wanted to show the power of the waves hitting this small headland on the wild South Coast so a much shorter shutter speed was used to capture some of the movemet but not to entierly blur the motion like a longer shutter speed would have.

    e. f.
    e. ISO 80 Av f/11 Tv 0.33 seconds. Here without GND filters the rising sun was too bright to get a really long exposure and the clouds were not moving very much so minimal blur was encountered.
    f. ISO 100 Av f/22 Tv 301.00 seconds. This was quite dark and I wanted to be able to show the movement of the fog down the valley so a long shutter speed was required, notice how the fog and clouds in the sky are very smooth.

    g. h.
    g. ISO 200 Av f/20 Tv 25.00 seconds. At this stage I didn't have a cable release so was limited to a 30 second exposure maximum so i have to up the ISO to 200 and lower the apeture to f/20 to achieve a well exposed image as it was very overcast, raining and late in the day so was quite dark.
    h. ISO 100 Av f/22 Tv 8.00 seconds. The stream ran fairly shallow in this part and there were lots of small pebbles on the bottom which I could see were producing small areas of turbulance that would turn out really white in a long exposure, and the moss and lichne encrusted tree provided a nice frame on the left side with the fallen logs leading down to the water and downstream to dissappear around the corner.

    i. j.
    i. ISO 100 Av f/22 Tv 140.00 seconds. Here I had been bushwalking in Mt. Field National Park and was coming back past the falls as the sun was setting so was able to get a long shutter speed once the sun had set.
    j. ISO 80 Av f/11 Tv 30.00 seconds. Again I didn't have a cable realease at this stage and my camera was limited to f/11 and a 30 second exposure, notice that it wasn't very overcast with some sun making it through the thick rainforest canopy and blowing a couple of highlights detracting from the picture.

    k.
    k. ISO 80 Av f/11 Tv 5.00 seconds. This was simliar to j but in this case the blown highlights don't detract as much, notice that the bubbles and white water created by the small cascade in the background leaves nice trails in the water guiding the eyes up to the falls with the long exposure.

    Well I hope that makes some sense to somebody and if you got this far I congradulate you and award you with a medal
    Last edited by mickeymoo21; 14-12-2008 at 1:44pm.

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    Who me? dbax's Avatar
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    excellent stuff in this Michael, let me be the first to thank you for putting this great resourse together.
    Cheers David.

    Canon 40D/EF-S 17-85 mm IS/Kenko Extenson Tubes/Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 II (nifty fifty)
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    Ausphotography Regular pgbphotographytas's Avatar
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    What a great guide and I even learned a bit from it.

    Paul

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    Well that sure was an interesting read Am i cool to print it our for future reference? I have this folder with all the things that i have been told about so far...sure would love to add this to it
    Kind Regards, Deb


    Canon 1000D, 7D, Sigma 100mm Macro, Tamron 17-50mm, 18-55mm, 70 - 300mm, 50mm f1.8, Sigma 10-20mm

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    Thanks for the feedback guys I'm glad it at least makes some sense and may be useful to some Dizzy go for it, sounds like a great idea, certainly easier than coming back in 6 months and trying to remember where you saw a certain bit of info.

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    Is this going to be a sticky ?

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Great work Michael, appreciate the effort you put into this for the members. I reckon we should sticky it, so done.
    "It is one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it is another thing to make a portrait of who they are" - Paul Caponigro

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    Gday Roof, I wouldn't think it would be stickied, but if mods decided it should be then that would be fine, but I saw it more as something that will turn up if people searched for inforamtion on long exposures

    *edit just saw your post Rick, thanks! its good to try and give something back to everyone that has encoraged me and commented on my photos etc.
    Last edited by mickeymoo21; 14-12-2008 at 6:37pm.

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Thinking about it, can I copy it (just your original post) Michael and add it to the hint and tips sticky at the top of the land and seascapes section? Then I could un-sticky it here, so its just part of all the hints and tips in this section.

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    Yeah go for it Rick more than happy for you to move it wherever you want, it probably makes more sense as it relates to land and seascapes, I probably should have added it to the exisitng one in the first place!

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    Outstanding article. It has given me an insight into how you achieve such amazing shots and has given me the incentive to get out and try some of this work out over my short holidays.

    Well done. This one will be going away with me.

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mickeymoo21 View Post
    Yeah go for it Rick more than happy for you to move it wherever you want, it probably makes more sense as it relates to land and seascapes, I probably should have added it to the existing one in the first place!
    Thanks Michael, its now in the land and sea scapes Hints and Tips thread, sticky'd at the top of that forum, and I have unsticky'd it here.

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    Thanks Mark. Thanks Rick for fixing that up I appreciate it.

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    Thank you for taking the time Michael. I just bought a 10-20 for my camera and am looking at getting into some of this when the opportunities arise. I am sure this info will come in very handy.
    Michael.

    Camera: Canon EOS 400D w/ Battery Grip (BG-E3)
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    Great info, i appreciate your efforts, thanks .....
    Julie

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    l Canon 50mm f1.8 MK l l Canon 85mm f1.8 l Canon 100mm f2.8L Macro l Canon 24-70IS f4L l LR4/CS6



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    Micheal
    That is awesome apreciate your time you have taken to help others with this.
    Photoshop CS4 and lightroom 2 (lI know a little bit but am learning )
    Constructive Critique of my images always appreciated
    Feel free to re work my images, just please let me know what you did, and how you did it so I can learn
    Stu .
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    my gallery

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    Glad that this info is useful guys, thanks for having a read.

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    Member The_Camera_Poser's Avatar
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    Excellent stuff- thanks!

    One thing I've taken to doing is "bracketing" (I don't know what other term to use) the shutter speed on moving water. Shooting in Tv, I try and get the greatest range possible by going to the slowest shutter speed possible without blowing the water, and the increasing it slowly until 1/15 or so. I do this because I can never predict what the water will do at a certain shutter speed- I'm sure I'll get better at this in time.
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    Could you explain to me how to do (c), its the one of the pier. What filter do I need for this?

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    Bracketing is a good way to try as well, as you can then see the results of slightly different settings, over time you will then get a good feel for what settings to use.

    Mrsamo, for c the only filter I used was a circular polarising filter, in this shot it didn't really serve all that much of a purpose, it darkened the shot a little and added a bit of contrast and saturation, all of this could really have been done in post processing, as I didn't need the polarising effect.

    The main thing for this shot was the long shutter speed of 300 seconds which allowed for the cloud movement to blur/streak, the reason for the 300 second shutter speed was because I needed it to expose the photo correctly with the ISO set to 100 and the apeture to f/22. Doing this sort of photo will take a bit of practice and experimentation for you to get a feel for how long a photo will need to be exposed to get a correct exposure as your cameras light meter will generally only work upto a maximum shutter speed of 30 seconds (for most DSLRs anyway) so all this must be done with the bulb setting on your camera.

    I hope that explains how that particular photo was done a bit better, if not let me know and I can try and explain it a bit better.

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