I’ve been experimenting with long exposure photography. By that I mean anything with an exposure time of more than about 5 seconds. The photograph of the wriggly rocks above has an exposure time of 40 seconds and can only be achieved through judicious use of a neutral density (ND) filter, and a good, sturdy travel tripod — I recommend the Mefoto range.

I recently invested in the Lee Filter System and it ain’t cheap, but the quality is first class and the results speak for themselves. In this case I used Lee’s Big Stopper which does what the name indicates: it stops light entering the lens. The Big Stopper is a 10-stop neutral density filter and reduces the amount of light entering the lens by 1000 times! If there was no piece of black glass in front of the camera the picture would be totally whited out, hopelessly overexposed. The Big Stopper enables the shutter to stay open while water and clouds (or people and traffic in towns) move through the frame. For seaside photos the effects can be quite beautiful, adding a sense of motion to the composition, turning the ordinary into something memorable. Waterfalls and rivers (like the header photo at the stop of this blog) become milky, clouds scud across the skies, people and traffic disappear from urban landscapes. The contrast between the stationary, sharp part of the photograph and the soft, moving parts is very pronounced and effective.

One side effect of such exposures is for a cold, bluish tint, but that can easily be corrected with Photoshop or another editing programme. Sometimes the blue temperature enhances photos. And if you convert to black and white it makes no difference. With Lee’s system you can place other filters behind the Big Stopper (there’s also a Little Stopper, 6-stops, available) like graduated neutral density (GND) filters which are used to darken the sky, thus balancing the exposure between land and sky. I’ll save their use for a future post. But, suffice to say, since I bought the Lee filter system my interest in landscape photography has been completely rejuvenated and my technical results transformed.

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