Long Exposure Question

Started Apr 24, 2014 | Discussions thread
Jim Radcliffe
Jim Radcliffe Forum Pro • Posts: 11,783
Forget the rules..... kinda.. Experiment

jrk wrote:

I've seen many photos that folks have taken that required a long exposure to achieve. Sometimes ND filters were used and sometimes simply shooting at night or very low light conditions. How does one know how to determine the exposure when shooting in these scenarios? I realize when using an ND filter I can calculate the exposure based on normal (i.e. without the filter) then factor in the filter, but what about at night. Is it trial and error or are there some basic rules? Thanks

Forget the rules because every situation will be different.  I have found that trying to follow rules eats up more time than simple trial and error.

Note:  Take extra batteries.  I usually always have four fully charged batteries when I go out doing long exposure shots (day or night).

I do a lot of night photography and the easiest way to determine what will work is to set the camera up with a remote release and set it on bulb.  Obviously a sturdy tripod is a necessity.  I usually shoot wide open to begin with.  Take a shot and adjust one of three things until you begin to see what you are trying to achieve on the LCD.

The three things you can adjust are:

  1. ISO  (last thing to adjust due to noise)
  2. Shutter Speed  (most used)
  3. f Stop (if it is really dark.. wide open, otherwise you can play a bit by stopping down and going longer with your exposure.  Distance to subject is also important.

When using Bulb mode the Fujis will display the amount of time that the shutter is open on the LCD.  It will count UP and that info is also displayed in review of the photo.

Set the ISO to 800 or 1600 to begin with.. if it is really dark, move to ISO 2000 and up.  I've had good luck with the Fujis up to 3200.

When I am shooting a starscape (wide field astrophotography) I usually try not to go beyond a 25 second exposure because you will begin to see star trails caused by the rotation of the earth.  The longer the exposure, the more stars you will see but be careful of ambient light that may interfere with your shot.

If you are shooting during the daylight you will shoot at the lowest ISO setting possible and use a neutral density filter.  I use a variable neutral density (very pricey) so I can shoot long exposures to get milky water and clouds and even make people disappear in crowded places... really long exposures.

Don't throw away the rules completely but honestly, you will learn more by experimenting.. that is the beauty of digital photography.. you can learn faster.

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Jim Radcliffe
The ability to 'see' the shot is more important than the gear used to capture it.

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Fujifilm X-E2 Fujifilm X-T1 Fujifilm X-H1
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