The post’s title might lead one to think that this is going to be a philosophical post, which I regret to inform you, it is not. This is a post on process, and the ability through some doing, to capture just a bit more than an instant in time with a camera. Ansel Adams once noted that “You don’t take a photograph; you make it.” This spoke to his process of spending hours in the darkroom on a single photograph. Although he captured it through his camera, the photograph was as much about what he made of it as what he took. This is why post-processing is such an important part of photography, whether in the physical dark room, or in digital software, such as Lightroom and Photoshop, which I use.
This trip, I set out to make photographs. On the days that Kemp did not burst into our bedroom with the drive to go hiking with daddy, I took it upon myself to go to Garrapata and try out something that I had been wanting to do for a while: long exposure photography.
The premise of long exposure photography is pretty simple. The shutter of the camera stays open for a longer period of time, letting more light in, and capturing a much longer “exposure.” An “average” exposure in good lighting might be 1/250th of a second, whereas my long exposures this trip ranged from 1 seconds to 30 seconds. If I were to have taken them by simply setting the shutter speed longer, too much light would have hit the sensor, and the shot would have been overexposed and completely white. To counteract this, I gave my lens sunglasses…basically.
A neutral density (ND) filter blocks out a substantial portion of light so that the shutter can stay open for a long time, while allowing just enough light in to correctly expose the shot. I used a 10-stop ND filter, which is on the darker, denser end of the filters. This allowed me to capture 1 to 30 seconds of exposure in bright morning light. This photograph is an awesome example of what resulted. This one is only about 2 seconds, but it captures the movement of the waves, rather than freezing them in time like some of my other photographs. You can’t see the individual droplets of water, but you can see the curves and currents, which are absent in the others.
One long exposure shot takes about 5-10 minutes to set up, because you have to frame the shot, focus the camera, put the filter on, adjust the settings manually to account for the filter, shoot the photo, and then go back to make sure everything was exposed correctly. As such, it was a perfect exercise to undertake whilst Kemper wasn’t around. The chorus of “I want a cimminum roll,” or “Are you finished yet,” would have made the morning a bit less enjoyable than it was simply taking my time and capturing 10-20 photos, rather than the hundred or so every other morning. Still, I missed the little guy’s company. Luckily, he did not stay away for too long.
Photographs are generally about capturing an infinitely small moment forever. Sometimes, however, you can capture a bit more, like the curves of a wave or the flow of the current over the rocks. I have always loved long exposure shooting, and I was so excited to be able to try it out this trip.
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