When the sun dips below the horizon, a whole new world is revealed. The long
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What Does a Long
Exposure Sunset Mean?
While there is no clear definition, I categorize long
When the conditions are too dark for standard shutter speeds, you may opt a long
Tools for Long Exposures
First, you need a camera equipped with manual mode. You need control over settings like shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.
Next, you’ll need a lens. Wide and mid-range lenses are the most useful focal length for sunset and landscape photography. You’ll also need a sturdy tripod. A good tripod will not shake or be easily blown around in the wind. This opens your creative options and the conditions under which you can shoot.
Some additional accessories that may help you get long
ND filters come in a variety of different types. Square filters that require a holder attachment for your lens are common. You can also get round ND filters, that screw onto your lens. My choice is the variable ND filter.
A Variable ND filter is adjustable. As you rotate the two elements in the filter, the view gets darker or brighter. In a single filter, you can often accomplish 8 or more stops of change. Quality is inconsistent between brands. High-end ND filters are expensive, but there are some deals out there if you keep your eyes peeled.
Use a Small Aperture to Create Depth of Field
Strong foregrounds are a key to success in wide-angle landscape and sunset photography. Often (though not always) you’ll want both your foreground and background to be in focus. If that is your goal for the image, you have to use a small aperture to create a sufficient depth of field.
The small aperture (f11 and higher) will require you to either crank up your ISO, or use long shutter speed. As long as I have a good tripod, I usually opt for the longer shutter speed to maximize image quality.
I can’t emphasize how important the depth of field can be. During a recent sunset shoot in the mountains of Colorado, it was stormy. The last of the afternoon thunderstorms were blowing off, and the sky was dark and ominous. I wanted to use that to create an image with a threatening mood. The rough and spiky desert vegetation was just the trick. A deep depth of field was absolutely necessary to retain detail as well as the mountains in the background.
When creating your image, consider your needs and the final image. Use your camera settings as one of the tools to create that image you envision. Long exposures may be just what you need.
Creating Motion Effects with Long
Motion effects are very important in landscape and sunset photography. Smooth water, blurred clouds, and the lights of passing cars can all make compelling elements. To create motion effects, you need to have some part of your composition in motion. That can mean blowing grass, fast-moving water, or slower moving elements like clouds.
The slower the subject moves, the longer your shutter speed will need to be to create a sense of motion. While a fast river can blur smoothly in under a second, slowly lapping waves on a lake or the ocean may require several seconds.
Clouds may require an
You can use bulb mode which allows you to create as long of an
A workaround to blurring clouds is multi-exposure composites. You may find it easier to take several exposures over the course of a few minutes. You can then merge them using Photoshop or other post-processing software. While this technique is outside the scope of this article, it’s a good one to learn.
Pitfalls of Long
Exposure Sunset Photography
Blown Out Highlights
I’ve mentioned this before, but you need to watch your highlights when using long exposures. I like mirrorless cameras because they allow me to see a live histogram as I compose my image. Lost highlights are a real problem in long-exposure sunsets, so be careful.
If your camera budges even a bit during a long
What can you do to avoid it? First, be careful and don’t touch your camera or tripod during the photos. Second, use a remote shutter release, or your camera’s two-second timer to avoid vibration from pressing the shutter button.
If you shoot with a DSLR, the slap of the mirror is sometimes enough to cause vibration. Most cameras have a “mirror lockup” function. Find this, and learn how to use it when creating long exposures.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, use a good, sturdy tripod. The stable base will limit wind interference, and absorb other minor vibrations.
What Is the Best Setting for Sunset Photography?
A tricky question – the answer depends greatly on the situation in which you find yourself. In general, you’ll want a deep depth of field to keep both foreground and background in focus. That means a small f-stop, from f 11 or f 16 on up to f 22. Using small aperture means you’ll either have to crank up your ISO or extend your shutter speeds. Often, that means creating a long
When Should I Take Long
You should make longer exposures when you have insufficient light for short shutter speeds. It can also be used if there is an effect like smooth water or blurred clouds you want to create, or you need an extreme depth of field.
How Do You Capture Long
Clouds, unlike water, or blowing grass, move slowly. To get an effective blur in the clouds, you’ll need to use an
Experiment with long
To capture stunning long