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Long or shor t?
Q When should you take a long-exposure water image – and when shouldn’t you take one? Alison Trent
A THERE is no hard and fast rule as far as I am aware,
Alison. You simply make a creative choice. I know that longexposure images that render water as a soft haze aren’t to everyone’s tastes, but their popularity is something that has grown with the advent of digital photography and the ability to see results almost instantly. I enjoy seeing a wellexecuted long exposure: it can turn a scene into something extra special.
To really try to answer your question, I think you have to consider how shooting the same scene at a fast or a slow exposure will change the appearance and mood of the resulting photo. A long exposure, which for me is anything longer than you can handhold without high risk of camera shake, has a more peaceful feeling about it.
If you look at the two shots here of the same scene, you can see what I mean. The long exposure of 30 seconds makes the sea feel calm and tranquil – but as you can see from the shorter-exposure image of 1/60 sec, it was anything but. The change in mood and drama between the two is quite distinct. In the short exposure, the sea seems powerful and even a little threatening. Whenever you make a creative choice like this, it’s worth thinking about the outcome, and what the different possible exposures would bring to the outcome. It’s also worth remembering that the longer the exposure, the more the water will blur; so if you want to retain some detail in waves, it’s worth experimenting with the length of your exposures to find the right balance.