I thought I would start this blog post focussing on a style of image I have been working on recently as part of a small portfolio of black and white architectural images – long exposure photography.
Long exposure basically means making the camera record a larger amount of time in a scene that is usually necessary to just record the image as our eyes see it. The cameras shutter is forced to stay ‘open’ for a large amount of time which can range from seconds up to minutes and enables the camera to record the subtle movement that takes place during this timespan.
Often the allows the camera to photograph elements that our eyes would not really notice as the changes can be quite subtle to dramatic blurring movement depending on the speed of the object moving and the duration that the camera records. This can be clearly seen on the image below where the clouds have blurred by the wind and the building has (obviously) remained static and therefore stays sharp in the frame.
The two pictures above are primarily both of the Shard building in London, England, a skyscraper containing offices and restaurants in the city – a relatively recent addition to the London skyline over the last few years. Despite the obvious color differences between the two images, you can see that the color image is a typical cityscape photograph showing the scene exactly as our eyes would have seen it – whereas the image on the left shows a different mood and feel to the same building. This difference (despite color) is because the shutter on the camera was left open longer to allow time for the clouds (and light) to move for this movement and fluidity to be recorded in the image by way of a long exposure.
I think this contradiction in movement and stability adds drama to the image, especially in comparison to the more traditional photographic cityscape scene in the color image above.
Using Long Exposure Techniques with Water
This effect can be used to great advantage by photographers where water is involved and provides for the opportunities to dramatically alter the appearance of the water and create a more serene blurred photograph. For example, in the seascape photographs below, the long exposure has blurred the water (and clouds) adding more tranquility to the scene – the movement of the ocean waves has been flattened and drawn out over time by the long exposure resulting in an image showing the water as flat,cloudy and opaque liquid:
The same technique can also be used to blur the fast moving water in a waterfall to produces the beautiful effect where the water seems to be flowing in a soft and graduated way.
Now the above images recorded (in photography terms) a long period of time – images recorded in minutes rather milliseconds. However, effective long exposure photographs can also be made where the camera actually records for a lot shorter duration, for example in the next image below, just a half a second was enough to capture the movement of the ocean tide retreating back in itself – this capture of the movement of the water again adds an additional dynamic to what would otherwise have been quite an ordinary image of stones on a sandy beach.
One final example I would like to share is the use of long exposure photographs to capture light trails. This is where the lights – often of cars or other vehicles are recorded as streaks of light in an image:
Long exposure photography is an interesting technique which when used to emphasize static and subtle movement in the same image, can introduce a different look to many types of images.
I will introduce the basic techniques of how to take and process long exposure photographs, including what equipment is needed in future posts so please do check back soon! In the meantime, please do check out some of my recent long exposure architectural work here.