Long Exposure Seascapes
December 23, 2010
One of the most creative ways of presenting an image is through long exposure. How long to expose, depends on what is being photographed and the desired effect. Ocean scenes present us with an unlimited choice of subjects, and, only your imagination limits the possibilities.
I’ve lived near the ocean for most of my life. Despite this, I’m still awed by its tremendous power, anger, and beauty which most people take for granted.
Digital photography has changed the way we photograph the ocean. With film, we couldn’t afford to practice long exposures. Waiting for processing, and the cost involved, just didn’t make it worthwhile. Now, in the digital age, it’s just a matter of setting up, experimenting, and, if you don’t like what you see, delete and try again later.
Shooting long exposure seascapes means selecting the right time and place to set up. Sometimes I just like to catch the awesome power of the raging sea and admire its full fury. Continuous shooting will eventually deliver that one shot with the perfect flow.
Caution should be uppermost in the minds of anyone who’s lived near the ocean. An area that is free of water at one moment can be inundated by a 20-foot swell the next.
To prepare for long exposures during the day, a neutral density filter will prove very beneficial. For this, I use a 10-stop ND filter, sometime referred to as a “welder’s glass”. It reduces the amount of light entering the lens so much, it’s practically impossible to see through it. So, before attaching the filter, ensure that proper focusing has been done, the horizon is straight, and your camera is solid on a sturdy tripod.
Long exposures, such as the one below, are able to distort light falling on the sensor and blend various colours and tones that would otherwise not be possible. These surreal effects can be pleasing to the eye, and give one a different perspective on how we view our surroundings. A combination of a neutral density and blue and gold filters were used to produce this ocean scene.
Capturing movement in water or clouds can also add a little punch and flavor to a seascape, while, at the same time,
instill a sense of motion and speed.
The constant motion of the ocean with the ebb and flow of the water can also evoke a mystical effect giving the impression that rocks are literally floating on water. Add to this other ND graduated color filters and become even more creative.
Whatever your reason for going down to the sea, nature will always ensure that you don’t leave disappointed. Doing long exposures of your favorite scenes will enhance the beauty you capture and help others to view things the way you do.
Bio: Spencer Dove is a retired school teacher and an avid amateur photographer living on the northeast coast of Newfoundland. He has been doing some form of photography for about 25 years mostly in his home province. His other favorite places to photograph are the Canadian Rockies and Prince Edward Island.
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