Things We Love: Long-Exposure Photography

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One of the things I love most about photography is that, through it, we can transcend the limitations of what can be observed with the naked eye. Everyday life looks different when it’s frozen in a still image and, thus, photography allows us to study our world in unique ways. Although this applies to many different styles of photography, one way to create an image that goes beyond our everyday sense of time and motion, is with long exposure.

With long exposure times, we can, of course, blur motion and represent movement in our pictures in subtle or dramatic ways. I remember visiting New York City as a young boy, and being inspired not only by the colossal buildings, but also by the movement of the people and traffic buzzing all around me. That experience probably has something to do with why, as an adult, I’m drawn to shooting cityscapes with long exposures. I think I try to capture the movement of the city that I observed as a kid, as well as the awe that I felt along with it.

When I was out west, in Joshua Tree National Park a few years ago, I tried some high ISO night sky landscapes, with exposure times around 30 seconds. I wasn’t going for star trails, but instead for a sharp representation of the star field. I was blown away by how much more of the stars the camera could capture than I could see with my eyes. In this case, it wasn’t the blurring of motion that augmented my ability to observe the stars, moreover, it was the sensitivity of the camera to light that allowed for more of the stars to be exposed, and show themselves. This, like the cityscape example above, speaks to what I find so fascinating about long-exposure photography—it acts as an extension of our sense of sight.

Is there a photographic technique you have absolutely fallen in love with? Be sure to share your favorites in the Comments section, below!

The “Things We Love” series articles are written by B&H Photo Video Pro Audio staff to talk about products and items that we love. Opinions expressed in the articles are those of the writers and do not represent product endorsements from B&H Photo Video Pro Audio.

6 Comments

i've been playing around taking pics for about 5 or 6 years . I got a nikon d3300 for a present 3 years ago , it is my first real camera so to speak ...   I've taken few a good shots but lack the lens power with kit lens for my knowledge of it ...  Anyway , 3 years into it I feel i need formal training now to bring me up a few notches  ... Any advice as to good classes or training would be appreciated ...  

Mike G. wrote:

i've been playing around taking pics for about 5 or 6 years . I got a nikon d3300 for a present 3 years ago , it is my first real camera so to speak ...   I've taken few a good shots but lack the lens power with kit lens for my knowledge of it ...  Anyway , 3 years into it I feel i need formal training now to bring me up a few notches  ... Any advice as to good classes or training would be appreciated ...  

Hi Mike! Thanks so much for your comment.  Check out the B&H Photography Podcast at the link below. It's a treasure trove of knowledge on all things photography. Check it out, it's an amazing resource.

https://bhphotovideo.com/explora/podcasts

Good article...  Photography allows us to capture not only what we can see but also in many cases what we can't.  Sometimes the answer is very short exposures to capture fleeting events.  Other times the answer is a long exposure to capture what we only wish we could see if our eyes had the dynamic range in both intensity and wave length.  The bottom line is for the photographer to capture an image that has meaning to him/her and if others grow from exposure to the captured image than in my eyes it's a success...

Very interesting article. I am new to photography and learning new technics everyday. Two years ago I traveled to Yosmite and took my Panasonic GH5 with a 12-35 lens and took my best shot at capturing some great photos. Day and night shots. I was just out of a photography class at the time. I have to say I did get a few really awesome shots.  

Tom S. wrote:

Very interesting article. I am new to photography and learning new technics everyday. Two years ago I traveled to Yosmite and took my Panasonic GH5 with a 12-35 lens and took my best shot at capturing some great photos. Day and night shots. I was just out of a photography class at the time. I have to say I did get a few really awesome shots.  

Sounds like an amazing trip, I'd love to get out there. Thanks for your comment!

Peter S. wrote:

Good article...  Photography allows us to capture not only what we can see but also in many cases what we can't.  Sometimes the answer is very short exposures to capture fleeting events.  Other times the answer is a long exposure to capture what we only wish we could see if our eyes had the dynamic range in both intensity and wave length.  The bottom line is for the photographer to capture an image that has meaning to him/her and if others grow from exposure to the captured image than in my eyes it's a success...

I completely agree! Thank you for your comment!

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