I’ve been really interested in Long Exposure Seascapes for a long time. There is something dreamy and soothing about the misty foamy water and the streaking clouds. Because you can’t see this with the naked eye and rely on the gathering of light into the camera sensor, to me, these type of images become even more artistic. I’m not saying that other photographic techniques are not art, but maybe these long exposures require more vision and creativity.
Above is a recent long exposure seascape that I capture on the rocky coast of Newport, Rhode Island. A light snowfall the day and night before helped to create some incredible visual interest in the rocky foreground and the clearing heavy cloud suggested a great sunrise. I got there early and setup right on the edge of the water. As close as I could get without getting wet. 🙂
Capturing Long Exposure Seascapes
Creating long exposures is fairly easy. All you need to do is make sure that the shutter speed is long enough to show movement in your scene. That being said how much movement and how long to leave the shutter open becomes the important questions. For a seascape like the one above, how much foam is in the water and specifically how much white water is present is important. Most of the time a minute or longer will give you pleasing results for the water. The sky is much trickier. One needs to watch the cloud movement and anticipate how far clouds will move during one, two, four minutes etc. In this case the clouds were moving pretty rapidly and I knew that anything over 2 minutes would work.
Details of this shot
Specifically all of this worked out to an ISO of 100, and Aperture of f/13 and a 4 minute exposure using a 2 stop hard edge ND Grad, and a 10 stop ND filter. My 10 stop (Lee Big Stopper) is actually more closer to 11 stops. So I have to factor that into my calculations while I’m out shooting. Another thing that becomes important is the changing light. In this situation with clearing clouds at sunrise I had to factor in about a 2/3 stop less due to the increasing light. The good thing about long exposures in the cold like this is that you can put your gloves on and hang out watching the sunrise. The bad thing is watching the tide coming in and wondering if you will have to grab your tripod away from an unruly wave thereby messing up your 4 minute exposure.
Remember to compose carefully and set your focus point before putting on an ND filter. Then switch it to manual focus and remember to close the viewfinder. Light leaks are a real problem with long exposures and leaving the viewfinder open will ruin your final image.
After capturing your image, processing long exposures is a lot of fun. Removing the color cast and then deciding how you want to work an image is part of the adventure. I used Lightroom, Photoshop and Nik Color Efex to end up with this result.
The image below is another example of a long exposure image this time really emphasizing the streaming clouds radiating away from the sun and the subject of the large tree on the beach. This might be my most favorite place to shoot and we hit it multiple times a year but most prominently during our LE in Charleston Workshop.
This image is considerably trickier as the sun is directly in the frame causing all kinds of flare problems with filters. For this image a 2 ND Grads coupled with the 10 Stop ND Filter combined to reduce the light in the necessary portions of the frame to enable a 2 minute exposure.
Come learn these techniques in the field at these beautiful locations. Long Exposures in Charleston is the best opportunity to get your feet wet.
Cheers for now!