DIY Daytime Long Exposure

I found myself on a Friday afternoon, lounging around and wasting the day away. I had to nip that in the bud real quick!

So there was this beach I went to last year with Sierra and the pup, and it had an awesome, half-sunken barge. It looked pretty creepy to say the least, and since I didn't take my camera the first time I went, I needed to revisit and capture the eeriness. It was a perfect place to reenact an image I had taken a few years back...

Mother nature took it's course and this is now buried under sand.

The Basics:

To give a quick little background on long-exposure photography, you'll need to understand the basics of a camera. A camera works by allowing light in at a specified amount of time to capture a scene. The shutter is the "door" that allows the light in. If the door is open too long, the picture will be too bright (overexposed), if it is shut too quickly, the picture will be too dark (underexposed). Most of the time your camera handles this internally and usually shoots between 1/120 and 1/400 of a second. So your shutter "door" will open and close between an 80th and 400th of a second. That's pretty quick!

So...a long exposure photo is a picture that has had the shutter "door" open for longer than normal, yet remained properly exposed. The point of long exposure is to capture movement in one photo. Anything that is not completely still during a long exposure photo will show up as blurred. These photos are pretty easy to achieve at night, just set your shutter to stay open for a few seconds, walk around with a flashlight, and reap the sweet nectar of the light gods!

Star-Spangled Hammered

Long exposure's are pretty popular at nighttime so I'm sure you have seen a few photos that resemble the one on the right. The real challenge though is trying to replicate these photo's during the day, when the sun is on full blast. Daytime long exposure is used to sometimes show calm where something is chaotic, to erase something from an area, etc. It is very difficult to achieve a daytime long exposure photo without the use of what is called a Neutral Density Filter. In basic terms, this filter makes the outside world much darker to the camera than it really is, thus allowing a longer exposure. Good quality ND filters can get into the couple hundreds of dollars, but...there is a very easy DIY solution, and I will show you, and the results.

The DIY:

For a cheap ten-dollars, you can swing by home depot/lowes/OSH/you get the idea, and pick up a 10-stop piece of welding glass. Essentially, that is all a ND filter is, a very tan piece of glass. Welding glass, as an ND filter, has it's troubles though, but thankfully it's an easy work around (I'll touch on that at the end). For the time being, and if you're on a budget, it will work perfectly.


Don't forget: shoot RAW!

So, grab you're welding glass, a few rubber bands, and rig it up like so:

I grew up on red-neck innovation so this was right at home for me! And that's it really. Just toss a sweatshirt or blanket over the camera during shooting to minimize light leakage. It takes a bit of tweaking to get your exposures correct. I was trying to achieve a large movement in the clouds and calmness with the ocean, so I was doing a 3 minute exposure with f/22 and an ISO of 100. It was giving me very smooth photos which I loved. I had done a few with a shorter shutter speed and larger f/stop (30sec. at f/4.0) but it didn't give me the smoothness and calmness I wanted. It's all personal preference and will vary from person to person, lens to lens, and body to body. The fun part is tinkering!

A quick note, it is very dark looking through the viewfinder with the glass on, so make sure you set your focus before-hand, and turn it to manual so it will remain constant throughout.

The Result:

the hulk!

I mentioned before that welding glass has it's cons. For one, it just adds an extra step to things, which takes time, which is limited to us all. Next, it affects the color of the photo, greatly. Most welding glass has a green tint, so your photos will turn like the one pictured to the right.

Now, there's a few easy fixes for this. For beginners, shooting in monochrome will take the hassle out entirely (monochrome is essentially black-and-white). If you can't live without that color shot, follow the instructions over at DIY Photography.  They go over everything a little more in depth, but more importantly, how to remove that green hue. This is the best way I have found so far, and I use it every time. 

So....are you ready for the big reveal? ya go!

Play around with them too, sometimes they look better as a B&W than they do with color.

And there you have it! It's a fun challenge to try if you've never done it before, and it will expand your portfolio greatly.
Thanks for reading and feel free to ask questions or comment away,