I’m on my way back to Tampa from San Francisco from teaching my Lightroom 4 Live seminar. A huge thanks to all that came out by the way. We had over 400 people there and they were an absolutely awesome crowd to spend the day with. Anyway, I decided to go out and shoot in the evening after the seminar.
The Photo I’ve Been Trying to Get
I’ve been to the bay area a number of times. On just about every single visit, I try to get out and shoot the Golden Gate Bridge. I’d personally love to get one of those photos where the top of the bridge is coming through the fog, but instead, all I get is fog. In fact, most of the time I’m there you’d never even know there was a bridge off in the distance. I’ve been there for sunrise, sunset, you name it. The weather gods (which are just plain crazy in the bay area to begin with) just seem to have something against me I guess.
This Visit Was No Different
Well, Monday I decided to head to Baker Beach and try my luck there (yes, I know it’s a nude beach but it was cold enough that everyone kept their clothes on). Unfortunately there was this foggy layer of “blah” in the air, and the sky wasn’t really that interesting. And the tide was such, that I couldn’t really get close enough to the water or rocks to make an interesting photo with the bridge. So I snapped a few “I was here photos” of it and decided to try something different. I just bought a Lee Big Stopper filter from Adorama a few weeks ago. It’s a 10-stop Neutral Density filter that extends your exposure times by quite a bit (thanks RC Concepcion for letting me borrow the adapter since mine seems to be on an eternal backorder). I’ve been eyeing this up for a while. My two friends Brian Matiash and Nicole Young turned me on to it and I’ve since realize that I really dig long exposure photos. There’s just something in the moving clouds and/or water that grabs my eye. So I crept my way up toward the rocks (where you can’t even see the bridge anymore) and started shooting. The photo at the top of this post is one of my favorites. It’s a 70 second exposure shot at f/16 with a Nikon D800 (man do I love that camera). I had to dodge a few waves here and there and I have lots of blurry photos from grabbing my tripod in the middle of the exposure.
What I Learned
I learned a few key things for my first long exposure ND filter shoot.
1) You need to set your camera shutter speed to Bulb because the max shutter speed of 30 seconds (on my Nikon at least) isn’t long enough with the filter on.
2) You need to compose and set your focus before putting the filter on. It’s so dark, that your camera’s auto focus system won’t work once the filter is attached. Plus, you probably won’t be able to see to compose your photo. Luckily Lee has a great system that makes it easy to take on and off when you need to do this again.
3) Needless to say you absolutely need a cable release. Since you’re in Bulb mode, you don’t want your hand on the camera the whole time.
I’m really excited to get out and shoot some more long exposures with this filter. I found it really slowed me down. Since you spend anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes (probably longer in many cases), you really get to take it easy. Another added benefit is that you end up with a lot less photos to edit.
How About You?
How about you? Anyone out there caught the long-exposure bug? Got any cool photos or sites to share? I’d love to see ’em. Thanks!
I have the long exposure bug…the only thing I don’t have is someone to go out with at dusk/night and shoot. I am also looking for a place for a nice starry sky/Maybe the Milky Way, but someone suggested I go around Ocala, and frankly, no offense to anyone there, but there’s no way I am going to go there at night by myself! LOL
I do have a few beaches in mind where this might work…
This is my absolute favorite shot out of all your shots…I wish I had in my office on a canvas at least 24×36! I could stare at it all day. Its GORGEOUS Matt!
Matt, thx again. I wish the documentation that comes with the big stopper would be crystal clear about the light leaks that can torpedo your images. Some blogs mention how to fix the color cast, which is easy enough to fix, but apparently the only way to fix the light leaks is to avoid them in the first place.
Keep up the good work with the blog.
Matt, thx for the reply, but maybe I wasn’t very clear in my post. My question is how to clean up the light leaks in post? LR or PS? Should I take the brush in LR and add exposure, or is there more?
Sorry about that. You can’t remove it in Lightroom. It would basically take a lot of cloning and healing in Photoshop. Even then, I’m not sure you could make it look right. Just depends on how bad the light leak is and where it is in the photo. If it’s over sky, then maybe – if not, you may be out of luck.
Matt. I just used the big stopper for spme shots at Sequioa National Park. I realize that i’ll need to set the white balance to ~10000K in LR, but I learned I have a light leak on the D800. Couple of questions. I took a gray card picture without the big stopper and the white balance change didn’t make a difference on the filtered photos (because of the filter in place). When people say to take a gray card image, should I take long exposure shot with the big stopper in place? I think I know the painful answer to that. More importantly, how do I fix the photos with the light leaks? Converting to B/W is an option, but do you have any other tricks?
Take a look at this post concerning Light leak: https://mattk.com/2013/02/11/long-exposure-light-leak-with-my-lee-big-stopper/
As for the color balance, I just fix it in post. It’s always there but a quick fix with the white balance adjustments.
I use this Nikon MC-20 Remote Trigger Release with Timer
built in used now for $25, cause Nikon discontinued it.
It great for long exposures cause I can dial in 2 sec to any number for exposures.
Thanks for the tips.
I love the photo you took at sunset of the sea and rocks with the Lee Big Stopper filter, it’s fantastic. But can’t you do the same without the filter by just stepping down the aperture and extending the shutter time?
After manually focusing and placing the filter in place how do you determine the aperture and shutter settings?
Matt, please be careful photographing out on sea rocks you can easily slip or be knocked over by a strong wave.
Hi Fred. I was at f/22 for most of the photos. I still couldn’t get a long enough shutter speed which is why you need the ND filter.
And thanks for the concern. I was standing on the beach when taking this, safely away from large waves. Thanks though. Always good to be safe!
Are you concerned with diffraction on the D800 at fstops above f11?
Love the new blog Matt – I used to have the B&W +10stop but changed to the Lee Big Stopper after a 6 month wait for it last year. I thought these people might spoil the image when I set up but I kind of like the effect: http://500px.com/photo/8745120
Thanks David. Very cool shot! I like it! The ghosted people definitely make the photo.
I have the B&W, why did you change?
Try the NDTimer iPhone app as mentioned by Joe L., it helps tremendously. It will even calculate ND filter stacking. I’ve also had to turn on Long Exposure Noise Reduction as well as closing off the eyepiece to prevent light leak issues. Matt, maybe you’ll be doing a Kelby training course on the long exposure techniques?
As mentioned by another poster, I use Live View to focus with the b+w screw on filter on, helps a ton, unless it’s low light, and I have to pre-focus. Also, another trick I learned to calculate the exposure with the filter on, set the camera to iso 6400. For every second, it’s one minute at iso 100 or divide by 2 for iso 200. Made calculating it in my head so much easier. Just don’t forget to bring down the iso when you take the actual shot- learned that the hard way.
I would SOOOO forget to turn down my ISO 😉
Fantastic shot Matt. Like everyone else who’s commented, I love the possibilities that 10 stop filters can provide, and have been using the B+W 10 ND10 for a little while now. This is a shot I took the other night when the conditions were perfect for a long exposure.
Love the clouds!
Love long exposures! …
Taken using the Canon 7D + 10-22mm + Hoya NDx400 @ Port Macquarie in New South Wales, Australia.
Hey Matt, (or anyone else interested)
The super easy trick to find a focus point when you have a 10 Stop filter on the end of your lens…..whether its a BigStopper or a B+W……is just to turn on your Live View….BAM
You then can see your image…even with the ND filter on. You can compose…..drill into a specific point and manually get razor sharp focus……move your box around on the screen and get perfect exposure, etc.
Anyways, I got tired of unscrewing or pulling out my Lee Filters and just turned on Live View one day…..loved this solution ever since..
Hope that helps.
Great info! Thanks for passing it along! Like you, I get tired of screwing filters off and on.
Love The Ski Report… great ideal as usual…
I was in New England and I was standing next to this guy named Matt K. or something and I snapped this sorta longish exposure…. Here is the link and a few others in there as well.
Just got a Singh-Ray 10 Stop and can’t wait to give it a try after seeing yours.
Bless your heart, Matt.
I remember that photo Jim! Have fun with the 10-stop. And my heart does indeed feel blessed 😉
Wonderful capture! That marine layer in CA this time of year is a real bummer. I’ve tried long exposures, but haven’t had the right equipment. You’ve piqued my interest again! I’ll have to swing over to B&H and check out that filter!
I just love how they call it a “marine layer” while the rest of the work calls it fog 🙂
Wow ! What a great picture. Now, I want the Lee Big Stopper Filter too. Yes, both Adorama & B & H both have it back ordered. I have just one big nagging question for you: How do you know how long to expose for, i.e. you said you exposed for 70 sections. How did you know 70 seconds? Trial and error? Thanks !
Lee has a chart on their website that helps figure out how long. That said, there is a lot of trial and error too 🙂
I’ve been caught by the long exposure bug recently but use a B&W ND1000 filter instead of the Lee. This filter does the same job (it’s also a 10 stop) but it tends to introduce a pretty significant warm cast to the images. I’m a slave to manual settings and don’t normally use auto white balance so had been fixing this in Lightroom later. On the advice of a friend, however, I tried AWB while using the filter and discovered that, on most scenes, it did a great job of cleaning up the colour cast thus saving me one step in post processing.
Yeah, mine get a blue cast but I kinda like it for this photo. I tried warming it but wasn’t as happy with the color.
Great shot Matt! On my last trip over to Europe I borrowed a 10 stop b+w ND filter from a friend and became totally addicted to it that I’m going to have to pick one up myself. I loved using it on the Seine in Paris to make the water super slick or on the fountains outside of the Louvre to get some cool daytime long exposures.
A few of my favorites are in this post:
….and a long exposure daytime shot outside of the Louvre is here
Great stuff Joe. I really like the fountain shot with the long exposure. Thanks!
Matt, I have been using a new cable release system that let’s you hook your iPhone/iPod to your camera and use it as a cable release. It’s called Triggertrap and it gives you all kinds of crazy control for long exposures, time lapse, and lots more. I wrote a post about it on my blog – http://www.revellphotography.com/blog/2012/05/a-fantastic-way-to-fire-your-camera-triggertrap-mobile/ It beats the heck out of looking at a watch and trying to time long exposures with a regular cable release.
Dude! I’m so going to get one!
I just got this bug. I got the Hoya ND400 which is a 9-stop filter. My experience was that you really don’t want to get a normal screw on filter because you are always taking it on and off. I use the light meter in the camera, so you have to take it off for that. And to focus. Get the photo all set and the exposure. Then you put the filter on, turn the autofocus off, and hope you don’t screw up the focus in the mean time. Manually set exposure and shoot. Then, if you want to reframe the shot, unscrew the filter, possibly turn on autofocus, and repeat. Looks like the filter you got is MUCH more convenience for putting on and off.
Hi Matt, great to see you on the long, slow side of things. I’ve just started working on a series of night/seascapes that you might enjoy. As always, 500px is a great source of inspiration for this kind of stuff.
Funny–I was out on Monday as well, trying out my new Hoya ND400. These are going to be fun to shoot!
Matt, I really dig what you’ve done with this – 70 seconds of Golden Gate (yes, that’s the Golden Gate Strait at Baker Beach) dreaminess. I also caught the long exposure bug last year and haven’t found a cure…not that I want to. Here’s one of my favorites: http://robdweck.com/2012/05/31/to-make-this-dock-my-home/
If you’d like a copy of my eBook for your next trip out here, let me know and I’ll send you a copy. You can check it out at http://goldengatebook.com
Like you, I’ve recently tried some long exposure with my ND filter. I’m hooked!
Here’s one of my first serious attempts:
Both processed in Lightroom, and all I know I’ve learned from you and other NAPP teachers. Thanks for all your “mentoring” over the years, even though it’s all been virtual.
I just recently had a chance to practice my first long exposures with water on a sunrise. After thoroughly enjoying SO many photos of it, I had been dying to try it myself. Unfortunately, Big Lee Stoppers practically don’t exist over here in South Korea at the moment, so I had to improvise. To make matters worse, I had forgotten my adapter at home and ended up having to hand-hold two square nd-8 filters. If you think holding your finger on the camera would be hard for minute long (or more) exposures, then imagine trying to hold to graduated nd filters in just the right place. HA. Anyways, I thought the shot turned out great, and I’m officially hooked with the long exposure and water sunrises. Here’s one of the shots from that morning
The best advice is really the composing and setting your focus before filters, as it is essential. I can back that up by giving a little more advice, don’t forget your filter adapter!
Great shot by the way Matt.
Thanks for coming to SF. I enjoyed the class.
I’m the one with the large file format issue with panarama images.
I enjoy reading your blog and killer tips
Hi Matt. You probably don’t remember me but I was on Bill Fortney’s New England Workshop with you last fall. Anyway, I just read your post and I really love the big stopper too. You probably already know this but you didn’t mention covering the rear viewfinder with a cap. I learned the hard way. I was taking two minute exposures of a waterfall and after I got home, I had streaks of light due to light coming in the viewfinder.
This is the image that it happened to. Thank God for content aware fill. http://www.lensaltiel.com/landscapes/dreary-day-at-beckley-furnace
Great pic by the way.
I have been using the Singh Ray VD Neutral filter to do long exposure shots of the Jemez River in New Mexico. You can see some of them on my website. It has been a lot of fun to manipulate length of exposure, f stop and even ISO to prolong the exposure and not blow out highlights. I also a Nikon Timer with cable release for some really long exposures.
How do you calculate the proper shutter speed when you put a big filter like that on? Is there an iPhone app for something like that you would recommend?
Matt, how much did the whole system cost you? It looks like I would need to buy the big stopper filter, the adapter ring, and the filter holder….right?
Thanks for this post – I LOVE the photo.
Nice shot, Klokky!
You ought to consider doing this for a LIVING!
(*I kid, I kid)
My first experince wiht a 9 Stop Hoya ND Filter is at http://tjpowell.net/2012/05/chagrin-falls/
I have a 9 Stop Hoya ND Filter and I experience the same issues. As a result I looked around for a solution to get the filter on and off easily. I found the Xume Adapters work great. I posted my first experience with it at http://tjpowell.net/2012/05/chagrin-falls/
I took this one with the B+W 10 stop ND filter. You do have to screw it on and off which isn’t as easy but it takes up less space than the Big Stopper and frame. I always meter the shot without the filter on and use the iPhone app NDTimer to figure out my exposure time.
I got a b+w 10-stop filter about a month ago and love using it. It’s just a hobby of mine so I didn’t splurge on a Lee, so it’s a pain to focus/compose. Sure do love the results though.
This is one of my favorites so far, it looks excellent as a MetalPrint:
Great photo Eric!
I, too, like long exposures. I haven’t done one as long as the one you have here, but the ones I have done as till fun. My favorite is http://www.ollisphoto.com/Other/Southeastern-Pennsylvania/22935659_293dLV#!i=1842854196&k=5cXWGTn&lb=1&s=A
This was taken shortly after sunset and probably one of my favorite images to date. It’s a 30-second exposure. Hope you enjoy!