Featured Photo: Sonoma Coast – Fun With Long Exposure Photography

Sonoma Coast – Fun With Long Exposure Photography

I just came back from a trip to Sonoma to welcome in Year 2012.  On New Year’s Eve, I took a few of the photos on my trip with a technique called long exposure, keeping the shutter open for long durations.  This technique keeps stationary objects sharp while blurring, smearing, or even obscuring elements that are moving.  In these photos, the moving waves of the Pacific  appear ethereal and otherworldly.

Sonoma Coast

The above photo is a long exposure shot of the rocks at Goat Rock Beach during the setting sun, captured by leaving the shutter open for five seconds to create the otherworldly misty look of the waves pounding the rocks. This is a technique that I used last year at Black Sand Beach near Shelter Cove in the Lost Coast region of Northern California.

Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens, two Tiffen 0.9 neutral density filters, F/36, 5-second exposure, ISO 200.

Sonoma Coast with Adam and son

This is great fun!  Here, Adam and his son sat still for ten seconds in this unusual photo. The photo is a long exposure in which the shutter is held open for ten seconds, creating the otherworldly ethereal look with the surf in the rocks below.  You can see where Adam’s son checked up on me to see whether we were finished or not, blurring his photo.  Anything that moves will blur, appear as a ghostly image, or in some cases, actually disappear.  If I have my shutter open for several minutes or more, as I do with my night shots in Joshua Tree, I can wander through the frame without it appearing in the finished photo.

Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens, two Tiffen 0.9 neutral density filters, F/32, 10-second exposure, ISO 200.

Shimmery Pacific Expanse

And in this ten-second long exposure photo, the Pacific is turned into a glowing ethereal expanse, with Adam and his son watching the sun set for the last time in 2011.

Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens, two Tiffen 0.9 neutral density filters, F/32, 10-second exposure, ISO 200.

I set my camera to have a very small aperture (opening).  This creates a larger depth of field, keeping more elements in the photo in focus.  And also, because the day was still bright, a small aperture allows less light to enter the camera, enabling me to keep the shutter open for longer periods of time without overexposing the shot.

But to allow the shutter to stay open for even longer, I also used two Tiffen neutral density filters.  Neutral density filters are colorless filters that reduce all the colors of light equally, allowing for greater exposure time and additional flexibility.  Two of these stacked together allowed me to keep the shutter open for five to ten seconds, even in relatively bright light.

Equipment:  Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens, two Tiffen neutral density 0.9 filters, Feisol tripod, Nikon MC-DC2 Remote Trigger Cable.

5 thoughts on “Featured Photo: Sonoma Coast – Fun With Long Exposure Photography

    • Thanks Amelia! Greatly appreciated. I forgot to add that the photo on my blog header uses the same long exposure technique, only that one was for 30 seconds. There’s also a Long Exposure Section on my photography website, http://www.kenleephotography.com in case you are interested. It’s a really fun technique that can be used with anything, whether it’s crowds, waterfalls, tail lights of cars at night, streams and oceans.

  1. Pingback: Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful | kenleephotography

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