Over the last three or four years I’ve been working on a series of daytime long exposure photographs with the help of using ND filters (Neutral Density) ranging in different strengths. In some cases even stacking multiple ND filter’s together to achieve longer exposure times specifically to use during broad daylight.
These images I shot on the Capilano river in North Vancouver as tests using my Nikon D3 digital slr. I took these in the very beginning of my experimentation using ND filters as I was learning how to slow my exposure times down beyond that of the slowest shutter speed /aperture combinations cameras offer. This was mainly so I could achieve motion blur for moving subject matter over a long period of time during daylight.
The actual series I have been shooting after I completed a few digital tests digitally are all shot on 25 asa B/W film using my Hasselblad 500CM with an 80mm lens using ND filters ranging from minus two, four, eight and in some cases up to minus twelve stops when stacking a couple of them together. All are timed manually with a stop watch while mounted on a tripod with corded manual shutter release.
This type of photography is a painstakingly long procedure with each shot taking quite a long time to set up just to be able to shoot one frame. I had to work out the proper exposure times which of course are depending on the subject matter and available light and what your wanting to achieve in your image etc etc. There are many variables and it really just depends on the situation at hand.
It really opened up a whole new world to me in photography. It made me slow down and really think before shooting. It forced me to calculate longer exposure times than what I had ever done before with some shots being up to two minute long exposures with an aperture of f/22.
Sure I had played around with night time long exposures quite a bit over the years but shooting long exposures in the daytime is a little bit different. Especially once you have a couple stacked ND filters you cannot see through your viewfinder at all. You have to compose your shot first then attach your filters, then work out your exposure time via light meter for the appropriate aperture setting desired, you are then ready to finally shoot the picture.
It really just made me think a little more about the photo I was shooting and what I was trying to accomplish using this technique instead of being so digitally trigger happy all the time shooting a digital format. When you shoot film you have to think about what your shooting as its costing you money from buying the film to then developing it. The exact opposite to that of our digital format cameras these days where we can shoot all day until the memory cards are full with no real financial loss.
During this learning process I had to disband the age old saying “Shoot First, Ask Questions Later” as this technique of daytime long exposures is the exact opposite of that. I had to do a lot of research in the beginning and had to ask the questions first and then go shooting with knowledge that I had then acquired from asking the questions. That age old saying quickly turned into “Ask Questions First, Shoot Later” and appropriately so.
For these images I don’t feel they are anything that amazing in regards to being great photographs really but more so were just some of my early tests as I was new to using ND filters specifically for this purpose and was just wanting to try something different that I wasn’t really accustomed to. I chose to work out the early kinks on my digital slr before moving to film to avoid extra costs of the trial by error stage of experimenting this technique with film.
This series I’ve been working on is called “Still Motion” which focuses on each photo having some still subject matter along with some motion blur in the same image. All are and will be shot on medium format 120 b&w 25 asa film. Give me a few more years as I am still stockpiling images and shooting new ones to compile a solid collection.
Hopefully this post will encourage others to get out there and try something different even if it isn’t this particular technique. Photography is an amazing creative outlet and is unlimited to what you can think of and create to then share with others.