There’s a certain serendipity to taking long exposure photographs. You have to slow down and think about what you’re doing, working slowly and steadily, taking each step in in order so you can achieve your final image. It’s not hard – the hardest part is composing the image – but it is very relaxing (in my opinion).
Set your camera up on a tripod and compose your image. Add any filters you need to even your exposure, remembering to leave the slot nearest the lens for the 10 stop ND filter. Take a photograph – noting the exposure time. If you like the result, then you’re good to head to the next step. If not, recompose and re shoot until you’re happy. Keep this image – it will be useful in post-processing if you want to make sure the white balance is correct in your long exposure image (every 10 stop ND filter has a colour cast – even the excellent Lee filters – you may or may not want to remove this, hence keeping the original shot for comparison).
Set focus to manual, set exposure to manual, and add the 10 stop ND filter. Using the exposure from the ‘ordinary’ image, calculate the exposure time for your long exposure image (with a 10 stop ND filter this is easy – take your original exposure time and double that 10 times – simple!). Now use a remote release to trigger your camera, and wait. Enjoy!
Handy tip: You will have changed all sorts of settings on your camera whilst taking long exposure images. When you’re done, check to make sure you’ve put these back to where you normally assume they are – set focus to auto, exposure to your choice (aperture or shutter priority, or wind the shutter speed back manually), and reset anything else you’ve changed. It’ll save you making an incorrect assumption with your camera settings the next time you take a photograph, possibly losing a good image in the process.
Handy tip #2: Before starting a session of long exposure images (or any photography for that matter), give your lens and filters a quick once-over for any noticeable dust spots. I obviously remember to do this every time and I have no need for the Spot Removal and Repair function in Lightroom – no way!
Photography stuff: 12-24mm lens at 12mm, 121 seconds at f/10, 3 stop graduated ND filter to hold back the sky, 10 stop ND filter, tripod, remote release.