From time to time I receive similar questions so to save both me and you time, I’ve put together this frequently asked questions. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’re after more detail or your question isn’t listed as I’m more than happy to help.
Tell me a bit about yourself?
Sure! I’m a 24 (soon to be 25) male from Melbourne Australia. I spent all 23 years of my life in Tasmania, Australia but fancying a change, I moved to Melbourne at the start of 2011. When I’m not running around with a camera, I work in IT and am particularly interested in business analysis.
What are your favourite photographs you’ve taken?
How did you get interested in photography and what drew you to long exposure photography?
Unfortunately I don’t have a cliché and slightly corny story about how I picked up photography at a young age and that I became instantly hooked on capturing the world through my own eyes.
Photography actually came to me by luck when I needed a camera for my year 11 photography class that I signed up for on a whim and to meet my subject requirements. The course was primarily based around shooting film which introduced me to the process of developing film and basic camera techniques. The course was interesting but it wasn’t until after I’d finished the course that I started to experiment in my own time with long exposures of moving traffic. Having shot these first few photographs with a film camera, I rushed to our local Big W to have the film developed and consequently became instantly hooked and fascinated by the effect of long exposure photography. Around this time, digital SLR cameras were just starting to enter the market so I took the plunge and purchased a Canon 350D (or Digital Rebel XT/Kiss Digital N for you other folk).
As fun as shooting film was, the purchase of a Canon 350D allowed me to take photos and review them on the fly, allowing me to quickly learn and experiment with different techniques. I’m not saying film photography is bad for learning but it didn’t suit my needs at the time. Looking back, it would have probably forced me to slow down and spend more time composing my images and learnt more about composition but consequently it would have slowed my learning of basic camera technique. Each to their own though. I wish I shot more of both at the time now.
I’m drawn to long exposure photography as I love how it transforms a scene that’s different to what the human eye can see. In case you’re curious, this one was one of the first photos I took back in 2006 around the edge of the Tasman Bridge.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
What equipment do you use?
I’ve accumulated a bit of gear over the years which includes:
- Canon 5D Mark II
- Canon 350D
- Canon 17-40 4.0 L
- Canon 24-70 2.8 L
- Canon 50 1.4
- Canon 580ex
- B+W 110 Neutral Density Filter
- Cokin .3 .6 .9 Z-Pro Graduated Neutral Density Filters
- Hoya R72 Infrared Filter
- Manfrotto Tripod
- Lowepro Mini Trekker AW All Weather Backpack
- Adobe Photoshop CS5
- Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
But I find the gear I use most are the Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 17-40, Cokin Z-Pro kit, B+W 110 10 stop neutral density filter, tripod and remote.
I’m buying a camera and unsure what to buy. Do you have any recommendations?
Good (and slightly hard) question. Why? We all have different requirements, brand preferences and budgets but here’s a few kit recommendations that should hopefully meet everyones budget:
The budget kit
Where there are two options, I’ve bolded my preferred option. The other camera or lens isn’t necessarily bad but it’s just my personal preference which I would purchase if in that situation.
What are day time long exposures and how can I capture them?
Funny you ask.
I’ve actually created a day time long exposure guide that compares how daytime long exposures can transform a scene, the necessary equipment to take daytime long exposure photographs and a handy guide on how to calculate long exposures.
How can I calculate long exposure shutter speeds?
My daytime long exposure photography guide has a neat little cheat sheet that is located at the bottom of the article.
But… I haven’t used it personally as I find with heavy filters like the B+W 110 (10 stop neutral density filter) you quickly get a feel for how the filter works and are less dependent on using charts. By this I mean if shooting during the day and it’s strong day light, I’ll generally shoot around F16, 30-60 second exposures and with an ISO of 50-100. While for sunset/sunrises where there is constantly changing light and not much of it, I’ll shoot around F9-11, 3-10 minutes, ISO 100-200. I probably start out during a sunset shooting around 30 seconds to 3 minutes but this quickly becomes longer when the sun disappears below the horizon. Once this happens, I bump the exposure times anywhere from 5-10 minutes. My best advice for calculating long exposure shutter speeds with hard neutral density filters is just to experiment. You will slowly get a feel for how it works over time.
Do you have any tips on photographing waterfalls?
Sure do. I’ve put together a waterfall photography guide that helps you work out what camera settings you should use for waterfall photography, compares how shutter speed can affect the photograph, my step by step process of setting up a shot, ideal weather conditions for waterfall photography and other little tips.
I’ve got a fabulous new product called X, can you promote it on your blog?
Maybe. I get enquiries quite frequently so before you send an email please ask yourself whether it is relevant to the blog? Long exposure related equipment I’m likely to be interested in. But please not bother with software promotions. At the moment I’m quite happy with what I use sorry.
How do I use a neutral density filter?
Neutral density filters are a dark element placed over the front of the glass. By using neutral density filters this allows you to capture a longer exposure time than if you were shooting bare. Neutral density filters are especially useful for landscape photographers when taking photographs of waterfalls so they can slow the exposure time of the camera down to capture the blur of the water. For example, I set up my camera in a waterfall scene but my camera gives me a reading of 50th of a second. This is much too fast and doesn’t capture the movement in the effect I’d like. Because I’m shooting at f/22, I can’t push the f stop up any higher (to obtain a longer exposure). Instead I screw on a neutral density filter which allows me to get a more ideal exposure length of 5 seconds.
While portrait photographers can use neutral density filters too so they can shoot more wide open and capture a shallow depth of field. For example, the portrait photographer might be shooting in a bright scene but wants to shoot at f/1.4 to isolate the subject. By using a neutral density filter, they can stop down the lens and rather than be restricted to f/5.6 due to the scene being incredibly bright, they can use a neutral density filter to shoot at f/1.4 depending on the strength of the neutral density filter used. This is useful as it allows you to restrict the depth of field and better isolate your subject.
How do I use the B+W 110 10 stop neutral density filter? Why is my camera screen black?
Congrats on the purchase. It can be frustrating initially but once you learn to tame the beast, it’s a lot of fun.
Now down to business… Good news – your camera is fine and there’s nothing wrong with it. When using the filter, you need to put the camera into manual mode. I don’t think there’s ever been a time where it has been bright enough that I could use AV mode and the camera would meter accordingly. Because the filter is so dark you’re forced to use manual mode.
As a general guide, I find shooting F11-F16~ (give or take) and around 2-5 minutes during the day is a suitable long exposure time. However when shooting sunset or sunrise I’m shooting around F5.6-11 and exposure times of 2-10 minutes. It sounds quite vague but you quickly get a feel based on conditions what exposure times work and what doesn’t. I’m quite lazy and prefer to take a guess, fire off a shot and then adjust accordingly (whether it be adding or reducing the shutter and aperture). I rarely use the filter for exposure times less than 30 seconds. It’s rare that I shoot anything under 2 minutes with the filter. If I was looking for exposure times of 3-5 seconds I’d probably opt to using the Cokin Z-Pro graduated neutral density filters and bump the aperture up high (22~) and lower the ISO. But for when I want exposure times over 1 minute, the B+W is my filter of choice.
Also if you’re shooting with a camera that has live view, you can sometimes get lucky if there’s quite a bit of light by turning on live view and composing the photo with live view on. This doesn’t really work for sunset/sunrise photography due to the limited light availability.
I’m a new photographer starting out, do you have any tips?
This is such a hard question to answer because it’s almost a long essay in itself but my best piece of advice is to be inspired by the work of others. By this I don’t necessarily mean copy what others are doing but slow down and look at how they:
- Set up the camera in terms of composition. Do they compose their images with a foreground element? Are their compositions rather simple without much distraction?
- How do they process their images? Are the colours vibrant or subdued?
- Do they get down low or shoot around waist-high?
- Are they using much depth of field in their shots?
There are lots more you can learn from others but it’s a fantastic way to learn without needing to blow the budget on expensive photography courses which will try teach you composition.
I recently started a new blog and am having trouble getting any inbound traffic. Do you have any tips?
Great content and inbound links = success.
What am I on about? Good question. I’ve put together a guide on Search Engine Optimisation for Photographers that is a great resource for photographers looking to optimise their blog, target keywords and attract more traffic.
How can I subscribe to your blog? Is it possible to subscribe via email?
You can subscribe via RSS, email or both. Up to you!
Do you have a Facebook page or Twitter account?
Are you related to Alex Sim-Wise?
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) no.