Looking Straight Up architectural Building Long Exposure Black and White

Long Exposure Photography

Hi there

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.

Glass Squares Building Long Exposure Black and White

Glass Squares Building Long Exposure Black and White

London Shard architecture Building Skyscraper Long Exposure black and white

London Shard architecture Building Skyscraper Long Exposure black and white

London architecture Shard Skyscraper Building Cityscape

London architecture Shard Skyscraper Building Cityscape

 

 

 

 

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:

Seascape long exposure old derelict Brighton West Pier in England in the Ocean in black and white looking towards the metal structure with sea waves

Seascape long exposure old derelict Brighton Pier in England in the Ocean in black and white looking towards the metal structure with sea waves

seascape ocean minimal long exposure metal post with seagulls moving dramatic clouds in black and white

Seascape minimal long exposure in black and white

 

Seascape long exposure at sunset of wooden groyne and ocean sea with fence and seagull bird

Seascape long exposure at sunset with wooden groyne and seagull

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.

Waterfall Blurred Waters gushing in Snowdonia Wales UK

Waterfall Blurred Waters Gushing in Snowdonia Wales UK

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.

Seascape of stone pebbles on sandy beach with long exposure sea water waves receding back into the ocean

Seascape of stone pebbles on sandy beach with long exposure tide receding back into the ocean

Lights

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:

Buckingham Palace and the Victoria Memorial in London England with Car light trails at night panorama

Buckingham Palace and the Victoria Memorial in London England with Car light trails at night panorama

London Tower Bridge at night with car and bus light trails

London Tower Bridge at night with car and bus light trails

London Gherkin Building at Night with Car Light Trails

London Gherkin Building at Night with Car Light Trails

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.

 

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