This is the first chapter of a new series about Long Exposure Photography. A new post will be published every Wednesday.
I love long exposure photography. This technique allows me to distort reality, to depart from it, to create something new that doesn't necessarily exist, to find my own voice and offer a unique vision of the world.
I realize this might sound a bit crazy, or at the very least, like I'm exaggerating. Truth is, I'm constantly seeking scenes I can capture on a long exposure.
But, what is it?
In Long Exposure Photography, you expose your images for a longer period of time than usual. As simple as that.
When you take a photo with your camera, be it a phone or a SLR, most likely you -or your camera- are using speeds of between 1/60th to 1/1000th or faster. These speeds freeze the world, and create snapshots of a brief moment in time.
I'm sure you've taken a photo of a fast moving object, which appeared blurry on your picture. Maybe it was a car at night, or a dog running too fast for the settings of the camera. It was probably not intentional, either. You wanted to freeze that car, that dog.
Just imagine for a second what would happen if you exposed such a photo for a little bit longer. A shot of a busy street at night for 2 seconds -cars and people would show up very blurry, even if you'd still be able to recognize them.
We are entering Long Exposure Photography territory.
A new world
What would happen if we kept the camera capturing the scene for 10, 20 or 30 seconds, though? Most certainly, you wouldn't be able to tell individual cars or persons.
What about 10 minutes? Or even longer, hours?
A whole new world opens to us, one that we can imagine but we can't see.
Is it luck or creativity?
While you can make your own guesses, a big part of long exposure photography is left to chance and luck.
This is not to say your guess isn't educated, though. After gaining some experience shooting long exposures, you can predict what the scene will look like.
There's always room for accidents: sometimes they'll be of the "lucky" kind, and more often than not, they'll ruin your image.
It can get frustrating at times, but I find this to be an important component of Long Exposure Photography, and one that I came to enjoy. I love surprises, and I must admit I feel a little bit disappointed when the image looks exactly like I've envisioned it.
It's not for everyone
Long Exposure Photography is not for everyone. It requires specific gear, patience, and a different approach to photography.
I love the abstract images I get when I use it. Other photographers prefer to show the world as it is.
It tells a story
Long Exposure Photography can tell a story, usually the passing of time. Capturing the clouds moving, the water flowing, the cars passing by... All of this captures a period of time instead of a moment.
When you add fixed elements to your scene, the story can get deeper and more interesting. Some components of your image will be affected by time, while others won't. The possibilities are endless.
Take Long Exposure Photography as what it is: yet another tool on your belt.
I love it because it allows me achieve what I want in an image. I use it along others: black and white, color filters, square format.
In this series, we will talk about everything related to Long Exposure Photography: how to take a long exposure, what kind of gear we'll need, tips and tricks, how to find a scene suited for a long exposure, how to do extreme long exposures, how to do it on film, and many more things.