columns in the sea during a sunset

Trying out long exposure photography

Most photographers have a specialty or a type of photography that they are really interested in. And I guess this is the proper way to go because you need to get experience in a specific field in order to be really good but I don’t think that I fit in any category right now. This is because I try to shoot a lot of different kinds of photos, but if I had to put myself in a category I would probably fit more in the landscape photographer category.

I always liked landscape photos, the big vistas, forests, mountains, and nature in general. Even when I watch photography videos on youtube I tend to watch Adam Gibbs or Gavin Hardcastle or someone similar. This probably has been amplified due to covid restrictions and me working remotely from my home the last year and what I really want to do is go outside and photograph nature.

Bilbo Baggins wants to see mountains again
Need to get out of my hobbit hole

My family knows about my hobby, I talk about photography all the time so they don’t have a chance, to be honest, so when my birthday arrived they got me a Hoya filter kit. The kit has three filters, a UV filter, a circular polarizer, and a 3 stop ND filter. ND filters and circular polarizers are used a lot in landscape photography so I packed my stuff and went out to take some photos. And when I say I packed my stuff I mean that I forgot them at home and only realized that when I was already at the location. And just like this, I got a lesson, that I heard from other photographers multiple times, that the most gear you have the bigger the chances to forget it. Either way, that day sucked, it was too windy and cloudy to take photos so I just went up and down across the windy shore like a weirdo in order to find any good spots for another day.

One or two days later an opportunity appeared to me to go outside to take some photos (meaning that my awesome wife said she will babysit our daughter alone so I can go). So I packed my stuff again, checked twice that I got the filters, and then I realized that I had forgotten my camera… No, it’s ok I am not that dumb. My mom specifically says that I am really smart. So I had everything I needed and also the conditions were much better. The sun was shining, there were some clouds on the horizon (some strategically placed clouds in a sunset warm the heart of even the most miserable of the photographers), there was no wind so the sea level was really down which exposed green and brown seaweed and sadly along with that nasty plastic rubbish, masks, boots and whatever you can find in a bay near the city.

A couple of photos i took while i was searching for any interesting compositions

As you can see the water had exposed a lot of potentially interesting stuff to shoot. I really like the wrinkles in the sand but I couldn’t find anything else to add to a composition. Also, I sort of like the photo with the boat. I like that it has 4 layers, the water, the sand, the grass, and the sky. It would be even better if the boat was turned a bit sideways and there was maybe a bit of pink in the sky, but you know beggars can’t be choosers. This image was shot with the circular polarizer so the sky is a bit more vibrant and the clouds stand out more. Probably any of the other three could have been shot with the circular polarizer but I have no idea right now, to be honest.

But all of these were just the appetizer. I wanted to photograph the wooden columns in the sea, which some time ago were part of a wooden pier, and I wanted to do it with a long exposure. I have photographed them again and the first time I was quite lucky! The water was quite low there was no sea rubbish around, there were those sand wrinkles that catch the light so nicely and there were clouds on the horizon. For my first try in a location, this came out quite good, considering also that it was handheld.

The first image i got in the location. I imagine Robert De Niro saying “Not bad eh, not bad”

This time I had my tripod and the ND filter so I wanted to try something different. I went to my car and was waiting for the sun to come down and of course, I misjudged the light and waited too much so then I was moving in a hurry to set up the tripod add the filter and find my composition. Photography requires you to be early and ready when the opportunity appears. You didn’t expect this droplet of wisdom right? So I was moving in a hurry as I was saying and I was taking a lot of photos with different settings but I couldn’t get the desired effect on the water, at least with f/8. So in order to get the biggest exposure time I could I added the ND filter, I added the circular polarizer (which affects a bit the exposure) and I closed the aperture to f/22. I know that this will affect the sharpness of the image but I didn’t have any other way to increase the exposure time, I really wanted to simulate the cool effect ND filters do in the water, and also this image would go on Instagram so who cares.

I was trying sort of the same composition as above and as the light was fading away and I knew that the bloody mosquitos would appear any moment so I went for something different. I moved my tripod to an angle so I can have the sunset almost on the center (they say “shoot the light”) and I shortened the legs as far down as the tripod let me and I took this image below.

I don’t know what Robert De Niro would say about it but I like it. It has flaws of course but it is my first try.

As my camera was processing the 10-second exposure above a guy approached me asking questions and being interested in what I was doing. We chatted a bit about photography, how he has a buddy that goes to forests and mountains to take photos, how he is now trying to take photos with his phone but doesn’t understand the settings, and my favorite that everyone has their thing some men go after girls, some men go to the casino to gamble and other go out to take photos. Then the mosquitos started buzzing so I found an excuse and left my weird friend on the beach.

I got in my car and I was thinking about the day. There were some lessons from the whole experience. Always try new things when shooting, you never know what you can find. Always be early in the place you need to be, the light won’t wait for you. Also considering the prices of the cameras and the lenses, gambling in the casino may be a cheaper hobby.

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