Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreamy


I’ve been experimenting with long exposures this week by sticking a 10 Stop ND Filter on the front of my lens. These filters are almost black and cut down the amount of light reaching the sensor which means you have to keep the shutter open longer to capture the same amount of light. For example, yesterday was a sunny day with clouds, without the filter my camera was saying that the exposure should be 1/500 second. With the filter in place the exposure time was two seconds. That’s enough to give blurry movement of the clouds. With me so far?

Wild Talacre

But maybe not enough to give me a “dreamy” look. I wanted a longer exposure and one way of getting that is to use HDR. The other way is to by using a smaller aperture in conjunction with the ND Filter to let even less light hit the sensor. In this case you would have to keep the shutter open longer to get the same amount of light. Do you understand the relationship between “f number”  and the size of the aperture in your camera and how it affects the final picture. I have a simple rule of thumb that I use. Nothing scientific. The higher the aperture number i.e. f22 the smaller the opening will be in my lens, therefore the longer I will have to keep the shutter open. Of course I don’t have to calculate it, the camera does it for me, most of the time. Want to understand more? There’s an excellent article with simple diagrams about Aperture and Shutter Speed on Face The Light that you can read. Of course using longer exposures means that you need to use a tripod to keep your photograph in focus. Well the non-moving parts at least.

ND filters come in two types, circular ones that you screw to the front of your lens, or square ones that you place in a filter holder that screws onto the front of your lens. They also come in various price ranges from cheap and cheerful through to extremely expensive, but one thing they nearly all do is leave a colour cast to the final result. Usually it’s red or orange, but if you shoot in RAW that you can compensate by adjusting the “White Balance” temperature.

I use a cheap and cheerful one that I ordered from a company called SRB Photographic, mainly because I’m only experimenting. Also I had seen a review of the filter from a photographer called Brad Kalpin who had recently bought a 10 Stop ND Filter from SRB Photographic and he was quite positive about it’s use. For me reviews are a great way of helping me make a decision about future purchases. What about you? Do you use reviews?

While some people are afraid of snakes, others have phobias about high places – I’m scared of long exposures. – Ralph Bartholomew Jr.

Not me! Now that I have tried long exposure photography I want to do more. I can see the potential for taking photographs that look different and i can’t wait to get out and try that 10 Stop with moving water.

8 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreamy

  1. Andrew October 11, 2014 / 15:20

    I bought a B&W 10 stop ND filter and it’s great fun in moderation! The danger is using it because you can. Mine leaves a magenta cast and I suffer some vignetting. It’s a screw on. Less than US$100 I think. My experience was that you have to set everything up before you put the filter on because you can’t frame and focus easily through such dark glass. Experimenting is half the fun.

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  2. Mike Hardisty October 11, 2014 / 15:29

    That’s the thing Andrew, moderation. Yesterday I experimented with different apertures, single shot manual and HDR. For the single shot I’m lucky in that the Olympus E-M1 has something called LiveBulb, which means I don’t have to calculate the exposure time. Using the LCD I fire the shutter and slowly but surely the picture builds and at the same time I can see the histogram. When the exposure is correct I just release the shutter. However I did use a nice little app to work out what exposure time I needed just to give me an idea of what sort of time the camera should be aiming for.

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  3. Patti Kuche October 11, 2014 / 16:10

    A dreamy shot indeed Mike with the slow advance of those clouds. Great explanation as well!

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    • Mike Hardisty October 12, 2014 / 08:49

      Thanks Patti. It’s not something I would use all of the time, hence the cheap and cheerful filter

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  4. petspeopleandlife October 11, 2014 / 22:39

    I really like the blurred cloud effect. Great camera info as usual. I admire the fact that you are not afraid to share with your viewers how a shot was achieved. To me this means that you are secure about yourself and your photography.

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  5. Mike Hardisty October 12, 2014 / 09:00

    I’ve long since gotten over not saying how I achieved something Yvonne. If anyone asks I’ll tell them. It’s like my photographs. Nowadays every photograph I post to Flickr, Facebook, Google+ and of course my two blogs has a Creative Commons, Non Commercial, Share Alike License. The license allows me to retain copyright but means others are free to use the photographs.

    A couple of years back I realised I was spending more time chasing people who were using my photographs without permission than I actually was taking photographs. In 99% of cases they were bloggers or FB users who just wanted to share pictures. Couple of times it was commercial and we came to a license agreement.

    So I made the decision to remove all watermarks and apply CC licenses for future photographs as well as publish them at 1200 pixels wide instead of full size. 1200 pixels is good enough for blogging and web pages but you could never make a large print from that size. It’s made life so much simpler

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  6. Tina Schell October 12, 2014 / 15:27

    Lovely shot Mike – the long exposure was an excellent choice, as was the B&W.

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  7. Mike Hardisty October 16, 2014 / 16:31

    Thanks Tina, it’s about experimenting but I can repeat it at the moment. Solid grey skies. lots of rain as well

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