Tag Archives: long exposure

Playing Catch Up

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The last several weeks have been a whirlwind and I have just now found time to update the blog. Our last post was about our annual star party at Spruce Knob. We followed that up with a Labor Day Weekend tour again in West Virginia. A number of our clients were concerned because heading into that weekend Hurricane Hermine was making her way up the east coast and rain was predicted. We were optimistic that everything would be fine and we were treated to really nice conditions throughout the weekend.

The image above was shot at Seneca Rocks at noon. I used an infrared converted Nikon D200 and then to get the motion of the clouds, I used a Singh-Ray 15 stop neutral density filter. This allowed me to expose for 5 minutes under the bright mid-day sun. We recommend Life Pixel for camera conversions. Click this link for more information on LifePixel.

P.S.  Don’t forget to use our code to “ROADRUNNER10” to save 10% on Singh-Ray Filters!

 

 

 

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West Virginia in the Fall

We are so fortunate to live so close to such amazing beauty as West Virginia. Wild and Wonderful is there slogan and it is spot on!

Every year, Road Runner has been leading fall tours in this area and this fall will be no exception. Each season provides new wonders, so don’t miss this opportunity to get out and enjoy the changing seasons!

For more information and to register, click here.

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Creating a Sense of Motion with Long Exposures

Long exposure images can create an almost surreal effect, evoking emotional responses, such as calm, peacefulness, and even angst, depending on the image. Creating these images can be a challenge and generally requires certain gear, such as a sturdy tripod, a camera body that has a bulb setting, various types of filters to reduce the amount of light hitting the camera’s sensor in order to lengthen the shutter speed and show motion in the image, and the right setting (environment).

The best long exposure images are created when capturing moving water or clouds, as these subjects convey movement in an otherwise still environment.

So, let’s chat about the gear and look at some examples of long exposure images.

The images that follow were taken on different trips, literally from coast-to-coast and were taken with either a variable stop filter or a 15-stop filter, as noted. I use Singh-Ray filters, but there are many options on the market. So you can find the one(s) that work best for you. If you are interested in Singh-Ray filters, you can get a 10% discount by using ROADRUNNER10 for a discount code.

For this image, I used variable stop filter to extend the shutter time to just over 66 seconds. This allowed me to capture the movement of the clouds, while creating a plane of glass on the ocean’s surface. I chose a variable stop filter, because the variability allowed me get just the right amount of exposure reduction to meet the needs of the environment. In this case, the heavy overcast would not have been conducive to using my 15 stop filter, which is actually best used on bright sunny days with big puffy cumulous clouds.

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This image was captured in the taken during the day, well before sunset. The sky was too bright for the variable stop filter to achieve the look I was going for, so for this image I used the 15 stop. The 15 stop allowed me to achieve a 3 minute exposure, which resulted in smooth water and a nice layer of fog on the horizon.

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This next image was captured in at sunrise. As before, the setting was not bright enough for a full 15 stops but it was too bright to shoot without a filter, so I used the variable filter to slow the rushing waves down.

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There are times when you don’t even need a filter to capture a long exposure, as in this next image, which was captured after the sunset. The clouds enabled me to get a 6 second exposure, without the aid of any filters.

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In this last image, I used a 10-stop filter to achieve the flowing motion of the river.

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In each of these images, I used a sturdy tripod to help ensure that the still subject matter (e.g., buildings, piers, bridge) would be sharp. The environment and my overall vision for each image helped me decide which filter to use. Long exposure images take experimentation, how long is long enough, how long is too long.

I would say that if you are new to long exposure photography, you might find that a variable filter will provide you the most bang for your bucks, as it allows you to experiment in almost all conditions. You may struggle to achieve 10 minute exposures with a variable filter, but you will easily achieve 1-3 min exposures with a filter that varies from 1-8 or 10 stops, which is adequate to slow cloud and water movement in most situations. Whereas a 15 stop is best used in the middle of the day, bright sunshine, where a variable will not darken the image enough to achieve a slow shutter speed. You can also get filters at other stops, such as 5 stop and 10 stop, each has its own use.

So the question becomes, do you want to invest in a number of different filters to achieve a range of stops, or do you want to invest in one filter (a variable) that provides you a range with which to experiment. As noted, if you are just learning or experimenting with your interest in long exposure you might find that a variable filter gives you the most options early on. Once you are hooked, you may find that investing on set stops, such as 5, 10 or 15, broadens your creative horizons. In either case, long exposure images can open up a whole new avenue to create artistic images. 

Mt. Storm Time Lapse

The other day, I was asked to describe how I created this image:

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I decided it would be easier to write a blog and create a video demonstrating the techniques, than to layout out an answer in a Facebook reply. So let’s get started.

The Set Up

This image was created from 37 different images, created using the time lapse feature in my Fuji XT1. If you do not have time lapse built into your camera, you can purchase a wired or wireless remote with time lapse capability for most camera bodies. The time lapse was set to continue indefinitely, with a 1 second interval between images.  The camera was set to Aperture mode, with the Shutter speed determined by the camera. A sturdy tripod is a must. I also shot RAW and JPG files.

As you can tell by reviewing the image, that the image was created midday and yet, cloud movement is clearly visible. I was able to achieve this effect by using a Singh Ray 15-stop Mor Slo filter. (To receive a 10% discount, please use our discount code: ROADRUNNER10). The 15-stop Mor Slo is a great filter that will allow the photographer to create long exposures in the middle of day. The Singh Ray filters are so well made that they do not add color cast or distortion to the images. (Tip: buy 77mm filters and then a set of step-up rings, this way, one filter can be used on all your lenses).

Once the camera was in place, I triggered the shutter and waited. One thing to consider, when shooting time lapse images, consider bringing a second camera body along, as the wait can be quite dull with nothing to do. This may explain why I shot 37 images and not 100.

Post-Processing

As noted above, I shot both RAW and JPG files. I did this so that should I chose to process a single image, I would have the RAW file and for the time lapse image I could use the JPG files, which are smaller and easier to manage when blending so many layers. I organize my files using Lightroom and process my images in Photoshop. So after my trip, I imported my images into my Lightroom catalog (for a video on how to do this, click here). I selected the images that I intended to combine (a total of 37 images) and then opened the images, as Layers in Photoshop. From Lightroom, this is a simple Right click on the selected image thumbnails, Edit in, scroll to the bottom of the list and choose As Layers in Photoshop.

It takes Photoshop a few minutes to open and add each layer to a single tab, once it is complete, you can start changing the Blending Modes for each layer. At this point, take a moment to check the file size. In this case, my file size was just under 3GB. This is a huge file and I only used the JPGs! Now, I can start changing the Blending Mode for each individual layer (except the bottom layer) to Lighten. This allows the lighter pixels to come through from the layer below. As each of the 36 layers are changed, you will see staccato effect in the clouds start to appear.

Once all of the Blending Modes are adjusted, you have to decide if you are ready to flatten the image and start processing. I suggest that first you create a “stamp” of the image. Essentially, a “stamp” is a flattened version, that can be created as a separate layer (while maintaining all of the original layers below it) or by having all of the original layers merged together. I suggest that you use the “separate layer” method, so that you can check the result. You can always decide after to remove the original individual layers to reduce the overall file size. To create the separate layer, select all of the individual layers (all 37 in this case), and then right click, and while holding the ALT/Option key, choose Merge Visible. Photoshop will do some work and create a Layer 1, that sits at the top of the Layer Panel. If the result is what you were expecting, then you can select all of the original layers again and delete. This will bring the overall file size down to something manageable and pick up the operating speed of Photoshop, as you start to process the image.

At this point, how you process your image is up to you. I darkened the sky, enhanced the power plant, and darkened the foreground with Camera Raw. I then desaturated and slightly toned the image. I did some selective dodging and burning to further enhance the clouds and smoke. Lastly, I added a vignette.

To see a video on how I blended and processed my 37 images, click here.

For additional tutorials on how to post-process images, click here.

Epic Iceland! 2015

There is really no way to describe… with words… the majesty of Iceland. This country is like no other! With incredible light and impressive landscapes, Iceland is a photographer’s paradise. Join us as we explore all of its nature wonders! For more information on our 2015 Epic Iceland tour, click here. Only 1 Spot Left!

Composite Images

The Palouse is so diverse when it comes to imagery. With this composite image I tried to capture some of this diversity.

The base image is a wall on an old building. The wear and tear of time, weather, and neglect are clearly visible; creating a great tactile feeling. The window is actually a boarded which creates a perfect canvas for another image. The inset image was taken around midnight, using the glow of the moon to light up the rolling hills of grain in the landscape. I wanted the effect to be as if the scene was painted on the boards on the window; essentially bring The Palouse together into one image.

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Would you be disappointed?

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When you decide to get up early and shoot sunrise are you disappointed when a nice sunrise is elusive?  I must admit that I am, but at the same time I quickly shift gears and look for what is right with the scene rather than what is wrong.  On the first morning in Cape May this past October, we were on the beach while it was still dark and as dawn approached we quickly realized that we were not going to have much of a sunrise.  We just shifted our mindset and started working on long exposures to capture the movement of the clouds and waves.  While I think pre-visualization is important, you must also be willing to embrace what is right with the scene and not let your disappointment detract from the creative process.

Cape May

RRPT just finished up our Photo Tour of Cape May, New Jersey and what a great group and incredible time we had!

At first blush our weather looked unappealing, but as photographers know, bad weather equals opportunity for amazing skies and we were not disappointed. The sunrises and sunsets were spectacularly beautiful.

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We worked on long exposure techniques creating smooth oceans and cloud movement.

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We hit the Pumpkin Run Car Show for some street rods.

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We played with fire.

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For those interested to see how this image was created, here is a video demonstrating Jeff J. spinning wool.

Spinning Wool

This was my first time visiting Cape May and I am ready to go back. In fact, we have added Cape May to our 2014 Photo Tour schedule!