2016 Challenge, WEEK 26 – OUTDOOR – Water (Long Exposure)

Whether you’re photographing a cascading stream, river or ocean waves breaking on a beach, you can always make your images more interesting by using a slower shutter speed. Doing so may seem intimidating or even expensive. This week we’ll explore low cost tricks and techniques to add a little spice to your images using slow shutter speeds and long exposures..

Montreal Back River at Sunset (Start of Fall)

In the above image I simply took advantage of the lower light situation at the end of the day to acquire a slower shutter speed. The fast moving water combined with a slow shutter speed of 1/30th of a second captured the illusion of movement. It was captured hand held leaning against a tree for stability. I also used a 50mm lens on a full frame (35mm on crop factor DSLRs) It’s easier to hold stable a wider angle lens than a longer focal one.

Steve Troletti Photography: NATURE & LANDSCAPES &emdash; Lanaudieres River - Downstream from Dorwin falls in Rawdon

In the river above, a 30 second exposure was used. I didn’t have ND (Neutral Density) filters on me to slow down the scene. I decided to use a polarized filter to get some help in lowering my light by a stop or so. I also reduced my ISO to 100 and closed my lens down to f/22 at 18mm. Again the lower light of an overcast and rainy day gave me an edge. In some cases, when I use a compact camera or my smartphone, I can achieve similar results by placing my sunglasses, polarized or not, in front of my lens.

macgyver-style iphone tripod

Although a tripod and a remote shutter (wired / Wireless) simplify the task of taking long exposures images, there are plenty of options. I’ve never let the lack of gear and gadget stop me. Almost all cameras including smartphones have a timer release mode. This will allow you to trigger your camera without shaking or moving it. You can always use your environment to help you stabilize your equipment. Rocks, branches, leaves and even trash can all help you point your camera in the right direction when used wisely. Just give it a little MacGyver. I personally always carry a small roll of duck tape and electrical tape to help out with these situations.

Liffey Falls

Using your environment to stabilize your equipment will often keep you low to the ground. That can open up a whole new world of composition ideas as in the above image. In many cases, taking your photos lower than eye level will add a perspective of grandiose to your images.

Misty river

Long exposure on apparently still bodies of water will also bring out interesting effect of smoothness and textures. Water almost always moves. The wind can create movement and texture that will add a surreal look to your images.

To fully take advantage of the sunlight, early mornings and late afternoons will provide a lower angle and softer light to work with.

I personally love Neutral Density and Variable ND Filters. Here’s a little test I did with the Tiffen Variable ND filter a couple years back – Tiffen Variable ND Filter for Photography and Video – First Impressions. The image below was created with that very same Tiffen filter.


The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge.org. or #photochallenge2014.
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2016 Photo Challenge is fun and easy.

About Steve Troletti

I'm a Location Scout, Editorial, Nature, Wildlife and Environmental Photographer based in Malibu, California. I specialize in Nature and Urban Nature photography including Infrared Landscapes. The Bulk of my work takes place in the Los Angeles, California area, Greater Montreal Region, Canada, Switzerland, France and Varese in Northern Italy. Ethical wildlife photography is the main priority and focus of my work. A minimum disturbance of the animals, their habitat and the environment is my top priority. This applies as much to total wilderness areas as it does to urban nature environments. Ongoing education of environmental issues and building awareness for the protection of wildlife and wilderness areas around the world is what drives me to document the beauty that surrounds us.