I have been promising a post about shutter speeds and sea photography for a while. It seems I am going to do two; this is the first. Long exposure photography, achieved with ND (neutral density) filters, has become ever more popular in recent years. I enjoy it too. Adjusting the length of the exposure, even during the brightest time of day, is one way to expand the creativity of my image making. Over time, I have found that I have begun instinctively to know roughly what shutter speeds are going to achieve the effect I am after. The following pictures were all taken within an hour of each other earlier this month, at one location, Climping beach on the West Sussex coast.
The ‘Big stopper’ is a 10-stop ND filter. That is, it reduces the light getting to the sensor by 10 stops, so an exposure of 1/250th of a second becomes four seconds. The first two images here were taken using a Big Stopper. Note how in the top image, at 20″, breaking waves have become an ethereal mist, really not like water at all. Reduce the time by a half and there is more of a hint of wateriness, but not much.
At four seconds (below), some of the movement of the waves is beginning to appear.
This increases as the exposure time gets shorter.
And then (below) we begin to reach my favourite zone for capturing breaking waves, something between half a second to 1/5 usually seems to suit me – I like to capture some sense of the form and energy of the waves, but without ‘freezing’ them.
My favourite picture from the morning is this one, at 0.3″. I am fascinated by the way the water splashes, scattering into different directions, and this shutter speed seems to be good at capturing that with an almost painterly effect.
The exact shutter speed will vary with the force of the surf. My second post on this topic will be from a very different set of conditions experienced at the coast in Norfolk last week.
Finally, not every shot of the sea has to be a long exposure! Sometimes you just have to go faster. Turning round from my chosen breakwater, I saw these gulls playing chicken with the waves:
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A backlog of 365s: 365/59 is from 2010, taken at RHS Wisley.
365/58 is from 2009, when I was at my daughter’s school gathering images for their new prospectus. This one was a bit of fun, experimenting with shutter speed during a PE lesson.
365/57 is from 2014, taken in my garden as I started to flex my macro muscles for the forthcoming bug season. It always takes a while each year to get my macro ‘eye in’ after the winter when I tend to concentrate on the landscape.
There may be a hiatus for a few days as I am off on an adventure. More anon.