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If you were interested in learning about long exposure photography techniques and did a Google search: “How to do long exposure photography”, you would find 32,300,000 search results giving you 1000 lives worth of information, tips, pointers, techniques and more.  Over 32 million!  Long exposure photography is obviously a very popular topic, and one you could study forever. I’m nearly 20 years into this study myself. But, what is a much more interesting search to do is - instead of asking How to, we ask Why? Why make long exposures?  Asking How to activates something in the thinking-mind that wants to research, study, and gain knowledge.  Curiously asking Why? is born out of a different part of our self and activates something else entirely - the inner creative.  When activated, the inner creative is more inclined to go out and photograph life and experiment with different techniques - not just sit at home and read about them.  When you understand the Why, the how to comes quite naturally. There are countless reasons why to make long exposure photographs.  Let’s look at some of them and you will begin to see the endless possibilities available to your photographs.

Capture a Hint of Movement to Add Drama


You can create a hint of movement in the water, as seen here with a 1/8 second exposure of a wave exploding upward from the rocks. 


Because you don’t want your photos to look like the guy who jumped off the tour bus and took a quick snap with his camera on full-auto dummy-mode.  And also because it lends itself more to the feeling that the wave is crashing and splashing and blowing up into the sky. It’s much more dynamic and compelling. It adds drama.


Create Transition Lines Through Movement


Create some movement in the water, as seen here with a 4 second exposure. 


Because it adds dynamic and gives the viewer a sense of motion. But, most importantly, the movement in the foreground water creates transition lines which helps move your eye from the foreground to the primary subject matter - the sea-stacks in the distance.


Add Spaciousness through Extended Exposure


Extend your exposures out to several minutes to smooth out the water completely, as seen here with a 4-minute exposure. 


To distill and simplify the scene. To create a smooth surface for the light to reflect off, naturally enhancing the light and colors. And to evoke a sense of stillness.


Create Cloud Movement for a Dynamic Effect


Extending your exposures is not only useful for smoothing out the water, but to capture movement in clouds, as seen here in a 2-minute exposure. 


It makes the image more evocative and moody. You can also create transition lines in the sky, better leading your eye into the scene and to the landscape.


Create the Falling Water Feeling


Using exposures of several seconds or more are perfect for waterfalls. 


It creates that smooth-silky look which more clearly communicates the magical vibe most of us receive from being around waterfalls.  In this case, a several minute long exposure was used to also smooth out the foreground pool, creating spaciousness. This adds to the feeling of tranquilty.


Capture Lightning


Long exposure techniques are generally a requirement for capturing lightning. 


Because you likely aren’t lucky enough, or quick enough to capture lightning in an instant.  Extend your exposures out to 2 minutes and shoot one frame after another after another while lightning is striking consistently in an area, and you have a good chance of capturing it.


Capture the Starry Night & the Milky Way

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Use time exposures to capture the starry night and the Milky Way. 


Because the camera has the unique ability to record time in the still image. With a bit of extended exposure - like, 15-30 seconds - you can capture and record the night sky in a way your eyes have never seen.


Capture Stars Streaking Across the Sky


Extend your exposures to 15 minutes or longer and capture the stars streaking across the sky.


To remind the viewer that we are a spinning planet in space. Or, to create a sense of other-worldliness. In this case, I’ve always felt the Silversword plant is alien, as if from another planet. So, tend to try and evoke these feelings.


Make People Disappear


Extend your exposure to several minutes and make people completely disappear from your image.


Because sometimes you want to photograph a scene and exclude the people, but it’s not possible or ideal to come back at a time with no people. In this case, I used a 4-minute long exposure and made thousands of people going through this corridor disappear, so that I was left with the scene that interested me.


These are just a handful of reasons as to Why? to make long exposure photographs.

Make it personal.  Express and communicate.  Get funky with it.  Experiment.  Play.  Get out there and make photographs, and have fun!  When you’re having fun and bringing the camera into alignment with that, good things happen.

A workshop is an excellent way to learn the How to. I teach people a good understanding of the How to in one 10-hour workshop. Then, they can get out and start exploring these many aspects to Why?