Woodbridge North Lake ©Gizella Nyquist

Now, that the family picture wall is finished, I will need to start working on my daughter’s school yearbook soon. Before I start it, I decided to take a break from the “must/needed” projects and do something for fun. I’ve heard about a long exposure tutorial/class on Kelbyone.com taught by Matt Kloskowski. I watched the class Friday night (I really like Matt’s teaching style). Saturday morning I grabbed my camera bag on the way to my daughter’s art class, and decided to try out the technique Matt presented. Although the location didn’t have the perfect setting for a (daytime) long exposure photo, it did have a lake and it was a pretty bright, sunny day. So it was kind of ideal for trying out an ND (natural density) filter, and follow Matt’s recommendations.

Basically, the plan for the picture was this: by using a very dark filter on my lens I would be able to expose the scene for a long time, therefore smoothing out the water in the lake. This is one way of using long exposure photography, among many others.

I found a spot by the lake, on the narrow grassy area between the walking path and the water, which seemed like a good one to stay at and try out my new knowledge. I had taken about 8 pictures, when I suddenly heard a scary sound. Yes, the sound of the sprinklers starting. I immediately grabbed my camera on the tripod, and rescued it first – with just a few water drops on it.   Then I had to go back for my camera bag, my phone (which I had used for finding out how long I should expose) – all pretty wet by this time. My clothes didn’t stay dry either, obviously. A neighbor walked by and saw me struggling with my equipment. She told me that she had never seen these sprinklers come on at this time of the day. Another neighbor walked by while I was cleaning off my stuff, and he said the same. This unpleasant event made me think about not taking any more photos that day, but I decided not to give up. I searched for another area and continued practicing anyway. I came home with some images that I can use to learn more from, and I am looking forward to trying out what I learned – but this next time at the beach.

For those of you interested in the technical stuff as well, here is what I learned from Matt – with the least technical explanation:

  • set your camera to Aperture priority with the desired f-stop (11, 16, 22, etc.)
  • autofocus on something in the foreground (at around 1/3 or so of your composition)
  • switch your camera to manual focus
  • check what speed your camera suggests for the chosen aperture
  • use a calculator (like NDTimer iPhone app) to find out what speed you need to use with the filter for the same exposure (For example: my auto metering suggested 1/80 for f-stop 20, and I used a 10-stop or ND1024 filter, then my exposure time increased to 13 seconds, which was enough time to smooth out the water surface.)
  • switch to manual mode and set the speed
  • place your ND filter on your lens
  • take your picture.

If you are interested in the whole long exposure class, you can watch it on Kelbyone.com (membership required).

I posted one of the “before sprinkler” photos at the beginning of the article in color. Let me share another version of the image – I prefer it this way. How about you?

Woodbridge North Lake ©Gizella Nyquist