First off, a huge thanks to the 350 Lightroom fans that came out to my Arlington/Dallas Lightroom seminar yesterday. I’m very lucky to have such nice crowds in each city I go to. Now it’s on to Atlanta, GA for the same seminar tomorrow.

Anyway, I took the photo above the other week in Bandon Beach, Oregon (click to see it larger), and I wanted to share one of the tricks I used on it (and other photos) for post-processing long exposures. See, one of the cool things to me about long exposure photos is the motion that we’re able to see in the photo. Combine that with the silky smooth effect you usually get from any water that happens to be in the photo, and I think you get a really powerful image.

But here’s the problem. 30-60 seconds is typically fine to smooth out water, but if you’re sky isn’t moving very quickly, it’s not long enough to give any motion to the clouds (which is an important part of long exposures). So what’s next? Well, you could increase your shutter speed. But, in my case, this was taken late in the morning (close to noon) when it was bright out. I was already using a 10-stop ND filter, and even though it was cloudy out, I couldn’t increase the exposure time any more than I already did without blowing out the sky in the photo.

So instead, I resorted to my favorite little trick in Photoshop. You can even download the original image to try it out on your own.

Step 1: First, you open the photo in Photoshop and make a selection of the sky with the Quick Selection Tool.

Step 2: Then, press Cmd-J (PC: Ctrl-J) twice, to duplicate that selection on to a new layer two times. Your Layers palette should look like this.

Step 3: Then click the topmost layer to target it. Then go to Layer > Create Clipping Mask. Now your Layers palette should look like this. (Note: Creating the clipping mask keeps the blur you’re about to add restricted to the actual shape of the sky, so it doesn’t start to feather/blur outside of the original sky area, and into the rest of the photo).

Step 4: Finally, go to Filter > Blur > Radial Blur. Select Zoom for the Blur Method, 57 for the Amount and click in the Blur Center area to move the Radial Blur center point toward the top right of the photo. Click OK when you’re done and you’ll have the same blurry streaky skies that you see in those cool long exposure photos.

Photo Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 16-35mm
Lee Big Stopper 10-stop ND
Aperture: f/22
Shutter Speed: 60 seconds
ISO: 100

Anyway, there’s a little peak into one of the tricks I do on my long exposure photos when I’m not able to get the exposure times exactly as I’d like. Enjoy and have a good one!


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