WEEK 31: B&W – Long Exposure Clouds

Last week we had some motion blur images in a challenge brought to us by Eric Minbiole. I thought we could step things up a notch and push our long exposures a bit more.

WEEK 30: Motion Blur

There’s going to be two major differences in this Photo Challenge compared to last week’s challenge.

  1. The camera will remain stable (No Camera Movement)
  2. The images must be taken or post processed in Black and White.
HYDRO by Steve Troletti

HYDRO by Steve Troletti

Technically the camera and the subject matter will be frozen still while clouds and other elements like water and blowing leaves will show a number of signs of movement. The image above was taken years ago with an IR filter on a digital camera. It’s approximately a 30 second exposure at 18mm on a crop factor Nikon. It’s taken from a vantage point on a bridge that crosses the river looking west at a Hydro Power Station.

The Monolith by Steve Troletti

The Monolith by Steve Troletti

I took the above image again in infrared on a non-converted entry-level camera. This was an exposure of just over 30 seconds necessitating a remote shutter release cable while using the camera in BULB mode. BULB allows you to get a manual timing of the exposure with a stop watch passed the 30 seconds available in the manual exposure settings of most cameras. A remote shutter release will be necessary.

Here’s a video tutorial that addresses exactly what we are trying to accomplish. It’s by NIK Software which has been acquired by DXO who now offers the full suite for Photoshop CC and Elements. – https://nikcollection.dxo.com/

Now that you’ve watched the video, you should have a better technical comprehension of our ultimate goal and how to get there. With the right subject and favorable atmospheric conditions, you should be able to get something close to the image below.

...by Gaston Roulstone on Unsplash.com

…by Gaston Roulstone on Unsplash.com

It’s not all about long, long, long exposures… On some cameras you will just not be able to manage the noise created by extremely long exposures. It doesn’t mean you can’t obtain the same, if not better, end result. In order to create a masterpiece of photographic art, you may opt for stacking multiple shorter exposures into one refined image with little to no noise. Here’s a video tutorial on image stacking for long exposures.

By now you’ve figured out you’re going to need some tools. From expensive pro-gear to the D.I.Y. genuine imitation gear, we can all accomplish well refined long exposure image.

The tripod – You can’t get away from the fact that you will need to stabilize your camera and it will have to remain as still as possible for a long period of time. Even when using a tripod, be careful of your movements. Just by shifting our weight or walking back and forth, you can create vibration that is transmitted through the tripod legs and that will affect your final image. Naturally a wooden deck is more apt to move with your weight than a solid slab of rock, either way both can produce movement or vibration. You need to remain conscious of that throughout your shoot.

...by Geoffroy Hauwen on unsplash.com

…by Geoffroy Hauwen on unsplash.com

Cable release or wireless remote – This will allow you to operate your camera without touching and risking movements and/or vibrations that can affect the sharpness and clarity of your image. I would also suggest you use the mirror up feature of your camera, if available. The mirror up feature allows you to raise a DSLR’s mirror and wait for the camera to totally stabilize itself before pressing a second time to initiate the exposure.

Neutral Density (ND) or Variable Neutral Density Filter – I much prefer a 10 stop or 15 stop Neutral Density filter than a Variable ND filter. The reason is that you may encounter cross-banding on wide-angle lenses, especially on Full Frame Sensors. This usually occurs when you push the filters to their limits. One filter I do like is the Tiffen Variable ND filters. You can always wait for the end of the day and take advantage of dimmer light versus the full sunlight present at midday. Using a lens from a pair of sunglasses or even a cheap circular polarizing filter will help you reduce light.

Ron Whitaker unsplash.com

Ron Whitaker unsplash.com

Should you be using a smartphone to accomplish this challenge, everything remains the same. There’s a whole array of tripod adapters and remotes for your phone. You can also use DIY options or purchase lens attachments and filters to reduce light. The most important feature will be manual control over your phone’s camera. I use Moment Pro Camera for my Android phone. A quick search on Google Play or the APP Store will reveal manual camera apps that can even produce RAW images on certain compatible phones.

The rule of thumb, lower your ISO, close your aperture but not too much as you can lose sharpness and shoot in manual mode. There are tons of resources in the accompanying videos and we’re all there to help and discuss this Challenge on our FaceBook Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/trevorcarpenterphotochallenge/


Gaffer Tape is an industry standard, it’s like duct tape for photography gear. It can be removed without leaving any residue. If you’re going to tape on anything to your phone or camera, I highly recommend it over other tapes.

Smartphone Resources and Camera Apps
  1. Moment Pro Camera for manual control (IOS / Android)
  2. Mec Multiple exposure camera for automated long exposure stacking (Android Only)
  3. Taking Long Exposures with an iPhone
DIY Neutral Density Filter
  1. DIY $10 10-Stop Neutral Density (ND) Filter
  2. How to Build a Cheap and Simple Variable Neutral Density Filter
  3. Graduated Neutral Density Filters can help control overly bright skies
  4. I like the idea of using a lens from sunglasses as they often are graduated helping darken the sky while giving clearer exposure to the ground.


To Complete Your Challenge

You must create a black and white long exposure photograph taken with cloud movement. Depending on how fast the clouds move , you may be able to achieve the look you are looking for in one long exposure or by stacking multiple long exposures. Even if the cloud movement is favorable to one long exposure, you may choose to stack multiple shorter long exposures to reduce noise.

The image can be taken indoors but preferably outdoors. It can be of a natural landscape, rural or a cityscape. It doesn’t have to be done with a wide-angle lens. Depending on your subject, you can be closer in as long as the cloud movement is apparent.

Here are a few more inspiring examples on FLICKR.

The friendly community guidelines are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to our active community on our Facebook GroupFlickr Group or 500PX group (or all three). Tag the photo:  #10thanniversaryphotochallenge #2018photochallenge #photochallenge #tempusaura
  • The shot should be a new shot you took this week, 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 2018 Trevor Carpenter Photo Challenge is fun and easy.


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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.