Beach Long Exposure

Beach Long Exposure

I’d always wanted to try some of those long exposure sea photographs that I see where the water looks as if it has turned to mist. I had the chance to visit the Somerset coast at East Quantoxhead, so I spent an hour or so seeing what I could come up with. On a less than perfect day – the weather you see in the photo was the best I would get all day – it made for some interesting effects.

It turns out the technique is not that hard to do – the hard part is choosing the right image. That, and avoiding the water! You seem to get the best effect with a rising tide, as I had here, but you need to keep your wits about you. I knew the tide here could rise very fast, and was a definite trap for the unwary, so I had to make sure I had an escape route as the coast in these parts is mostly unstable cliffs. If you do this – please be safe!

A 91 second exposure was enough to get the effect above. It would have been nice to have had some colour in the sky but weather is weather and you get what you get.

Edit: To answer the question posed by Javier below, this is how I took the photograph…

You need…

  1. Camera (I use a Nikon DSLR)
  2. Tripod
  3. Some means of remotely firing the shutter (wireless or cable remote)
  4. Neutral Density filter (I used a 10 stop ND filter)

Set the camera securely on the tripod and compose your image. Do this before putting the ND filter on your lens as you won’t see a darned thing once you’ve installed a 10 stop ND filter! I set the camera to Manual mode and set the ISO to the smallest value (ISO 200 in my case), set the aperture to a value to allow you to capture foreground and background detail (I set to somewhere between f/11 and f/16), and set the shutter speed to ‘bulb’ (so the first press of your remote opens the shutter and the second press closes the shutter). Now make sure everything is in focus and then set the lens to manual focus – you don’t want anything to change partway through a long exposure. Once everything is set – the last thing you do is screw on your ND filter. All you need to do now is expose your image. There are little smartphone apps that can calculate your exposure time for you when using an ND filter, but during the day I take a 60 second exposure, check the results, then modify my exposure time accordingly. I use the stopwatch function on my smartphone to time exposure – you do not have to be microsecond accurate as a second or two is neither here nor there in a 90 second exposure. You have full control over what you do, so experiment and have fun – try different things and pick the images you like best.