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Dragging The Shutter Pt.1

I was recently out at Rattray Head for a sunrise photography trip. Sunrise was my main aim for the morning but I had a back up plan - if the sunrise failed to materialise I would do a few long exposure images.

Long exposures - to me at least - generally means a shutter speed that is slower than a third of a second. The idea behind slowing down the shutter speed in landscape photography is to bring a sense of movement, it can also be used to smooth out water if that is the desired effect for the image.

Movement in a still image can help convey an extra dimension i.e. if you are photographing a seascape or a river or waterfall. When the shutter is open for a period of time it allows the photographer to show the passage of time within that image. For instance a typical waterfall scene where the shutter speed is high would freeze the water and generally looks unnatural to the eye, whereas a shutter speed around half a second to maybe 2-5 seconds allows the water to flow through the scene with the camera recording it's passage as a blur. The longer the shutter is open the more extreme the effect can be - there is no right or wrong to this, merely the preference of the individual taking the photograph.

A 10 stop 'ND' filter attached to the front of the lens.

A 10 stop 'ND' filter attached to the front of the lens.

Now you might be wondering at this point how you can afford to have a long shutter speed during the majority of daylight hours. Normally the shutter speeds that are required would lead to an overexposed image, especially if you were trying to take photographs during the middle of the day. Even with the camera set at the lowest ISO and the smallest aperture (largest f number) you would struggle to reduce the shutter sufficiently. The answer lies in Neutral Density filters - these can purchased as either circular filters (the type that screws on to the front of your lens) or as part of a square filter kit. The filters come in different strengths to reduce your exposure by a set number of stops - they do have a variety of other uses but I'm concentrating on the use for landscape photography - so by putting these 'sunglasses' in front of your lens it allows you to slow down your shutter at your preferred exposure settings for the scene you wish to photograph.

In the video I've linked to below this article I was at the beach at Rattray Head. This is one of my favourite locations in the North East, the lighthouse just seems to be ideally placed for sunrise, sunset and playing with long exposures with the waves rolling up the beach. In the video I go through my settings, why I've chosen those settings for the particular images and I also show the images I captured during my few hours on the beach.

Please do give the video a watch, if you have any questions then please leave them below and I will do my best to answer them. I'll write another blog which will include my images as well as a few thoughts on what and why I chose those particular compositions and settings.