A Stormy Day and Some Long Exposures (and some myths debunked!)

We’re having some stormy days in Dorset lately which is a good excuse to get the tripod and neutral density filters out and do some long exposures on the coast. All shots on a Canon 60D using a Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6 lens.

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

Kimmeridge Bay and Clavell’s Tower. 10mm focal length, 15 seconds at f16, heavily tweaked in DXO Filmpack using the Rollei Retro 80s film profile – then even more contrast was added! The composition was helped by the very strong wind blowing the clouds and waves straight at the camera.

There isn’t a great amount of light around, but if shutter speeds of up to thirty seconds at ISO 100 are to be used, a x8 (three stop) ND filter isn’t enough by a long way. There were all taken using a stacked pair of x8 and x64 (six stop) Hoya ND filters and even then f16, f22 and f32 were all used to get long enough shutter speeds. The first myth to be debunked here is that old rule ‘never go below f16 – resolution will suffer because of diffraction’ – here the advantage of a slow shutter speed easily outweighs any slight softness created by a small aperture so just use it anyway!

Surprisingly there was no vignetting from the stacked filters.

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

3.2 seconds @f25. This one at the same location was taken with a view to converting it to a ‘moonlit light’ type shot. The brightness is dropped and a blue tint added to give the illusion of a moonlit bay. I’ve just finished reading ‘Moonfleet’ so that’s probably what made the shot come to mind.

The second golden rule which didn’t seem to apply was that muck on a wide-angle lens at small apertures will spoil a shot as it will be visible. I’ve always meticulously cleaned the front filters of such lenses, but despite the front filter being caked in dried salt and sand by the end of this shoot nothing was visible on the shots – at 10mm focal length using f32 in some shots! Something else not to worry about!

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

A bit more abstract – f13 10 seconds. Post processing as per the first shot.

It’s best to take lots of shots at different apertures and shutter speeds as the variation between different wave timings and slow shutter effects is remarkable. I couldn’t predict how the waves were going to hit the beach so just took ten or so shots at each tripod location – even then some weren’t too good. This is pot luck in short!

A heavy tripod is recommended and even then don’t extend it but use it at it’s lowest setting with the centre column down. Strong winds were shaking the camera with the legs extended by even one section and if it blows over onto rocks in salt water it’s probably time to wave the camera and lens goodbye….

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

2 seconds f10 with the wind blowing from left to right. Post processing as he first shot.

I had more difficulty than ever keeping the horizons straight so several of these were straightened in pp. Composition in a gale is more difficult than it looks even using the flip out LCD and grid lines – the viewfinder is very dark due to the ND filters and close to the ground which means it isn’t very comfortable to use.

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

5 seconds @f5.6.

For these conditions shutter speeds of 2 seconds to 15 seconds produced the best results. At 30 seconds the sea became too ‘blurred’, below 2 seconds and not enough movement was captured.

A very different location – the sheltered marshes behind the dunes at Studland and the pool surface was just being ruffled by the wind.

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

5 seconds @f10. Generic Ektachrome film profile in DXO filmpack brought out the red hues which contrast with the blue sky reflection.

Next a similar shot at the same location.

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

5 seconds at f10 – a blue cast seemed to suit this one but it would work well in black and white.

Finally it’s worth mentioning that the most important kit when shooting stormy weather near the coast isn’t camera kit at all – good outdoor clothing is essential otherwise you’re likely to get freezing cold and wet – not good for concentrating on photography (sorry to nag).

DN0A0105

What not to do (as I did) – get caught by a large wave (it’s on it’s way out in this shot) which overtops not particularly waterproof boots, giving you freezing cold, wet feet for the rest of the day. Oh – and almost lose your camera at the same time! Thanks for the picture Jayne even if you were laughing when you took it. The first picture on this post was taken when this happened so it was worth it.

The best part of shooting in bad weather is that you feel that you’ve done something productive rather than sit around indoors and I really must do more of it. With better boots, a towel and a spare set of socks next time though.

Thanks for looking – hope you like them!