Have you found that when you discover a new photographic technique you tend to overdo it? This can be a field technique such as using reverse grads, it can be a post processing technique like using the ‘orton’ effect. Then after time, you realise that perhaps that technique isn’t the savior of all images and that those scenes could possibly have been shot or processed a better way? Today I thought I’d share with you some long exposures taken on the recent trip to New Zealand. Not every scene benefits from a very long exposure and on most occasions I end up taking shorter exposure versions as well. In fact, unless I have a vision in mind, I tend to veer away from very long exposures as they chew up valuable time during changing light! We have an assortment of ND filters to help us with day time long exposures. I prefer using a screw on 10 stop filter but we own a Lee ‘big stopper’ as well. I find that 10 stops is often too severe, especially around dusk. As a result, I end up using the 3 stop hard edged GND positioned over the entire image along with a 2 stop ND filter to give me 5 stops of light reduction.
Scene 1: Auckland city from Orakei wharf. Seas were pretty choppy and the clouds were moving horizontally across the city with golden light from dawn starting to peak through. I thought it was a good opportunity to emphasise lines across the image while I took a few shorter exposures of boats crossing the scene. It just so happened that the light faded on the poles during the exposure. This was taken with a 70-200mm lens , 10 stopper and 3 stop soft GND .
Scene 2: This was taken on Tumutmu road heading west from Waitomo caves village. As I arrived, I had to take some shots very quickly as the sheep ran from the moment I pulled out the camera! The clouds once again were moving quite quickly with faint dawn light coming through a layer of cloud and mist. The short exposures didn’t really capture anything dramatic in terms of cloud texture so I opted for a longer exposure in the sky. The images were blended for this result which won’t be to everyone’s liking but in my head I was thinking “running sheep, running clouds”. I think it’s important to put together some basic edits on the road for these sorts of composite images so you don’t lost the concept upon reviewing the archive many weeks later.
Scene 3: Taranaki. This was taken on an overnight hike to Pouakai hut. The tarns are 1km from the hut and easily accessed through a boardwalked path. This evening did not look promising only a few minutes prior with the mountain shrouded in cloud and as it started to clear, there were two layers of cloud at its base and near its summit. I had hoped to capture a long exposure version of the two areas of drifting cloud but by the time I had set things up, the top band of cloud had dissolved away. Such are the risks of long exposure photography when you only have one shot at a changing scene!
Scene 4: Cathedral Cove. I mentioned before that the risk of long exposures is missing very temporary passing light. We stayed at this location for three days so I knew I would have a few opportunities to take images. When I arrived that morning and saw that the clouds were blowing directly overhead rapidly I thought this might be a good scene for a radiating long exposure with the sun. I find 10 stops of light stoppage too much on many occasions and so for this shot I used the 5 stop set up as outlined above. Once again, the form of the clouds on shorter exposure was not particularly appealing hence the change in mindset to using longer exposures.
Scene 5: Burke Street Jetty. We had intended to shoot this location at sunset but with kiddies bed time routine and the distance from Hahei, we decided to forego those plans for this trip and perhaps stay at the town of Thames for future wanderings around this jetty. From Thames , it is also a good base to delve deeper into the Corromandel mountains. Light was flat and grey on this day and there was little in the way of water motion for dramatic fast action shots. The birds themselves were quite content sitting still. This was not a planned shot but a ‘see how it goes’ long exposure which ended up being quite suited to mono treatment I thought.
There are really only a few images I would like to process from our trip left (including a few tricky panoramas to stitch). I hope this insight into long exposure photography has been helpful and we hope to take some more over a brief holiday to the coast over christmas!