If you are reading this, you have very likely seen the amazing long exposure seascapes and architectural photos that have become very popular lately. Of course, long exposures have been popular for a long time and during the years when photography was first invented, the photographers had no choice but to use very long exposure times as the emulsions used just weren’t very sensitive. But it is going through a revival and I don’t really know when and by whom long exposures became popular again, but I do admire a lot the work of Kees Smans, Joel Tjintjelaar and Sunstone Maria among many others.
Joel Tjintjelaar has a great set of tutorials available on his website which I can recommend strongly if you are curious how it is done and if you would like to try yourself.
However, the reason for this blog entry is that the chances are that your DSLR has a function built-in that sort of simulates the effect and can give quite decent results without requiring anything more than a tripod and maybe a remote control. No neutral density filters required at all. I’m referring to the multi-exposure option of your camera. I’m not aware of the details of the many different brands of DSLRs out there, but my Pentax K20D has a multi-exposure option available under the Rec Mode menu from the Menu button. When you select this to enable it by setting the number of exposures you want to take, you will find an Auto EV Adjust option that can be checked.
So what does this do? The Pentax manual states the following for the multi-exposure option: “Select the number of shots between 2 and 9 (Auto EV Adjust can be set according to the number of shots)” and that it is all it says about this useful feature. Why do camera manuals go out of their way to hide the coolest features of the cameras they describe? Why not add an appendix with “These are some of the cool features of the camera you have just bought and this is how you use them”?
Anyway, if you select several exposures and enable the automatic adjustment of the exposure, everything in the scene that is not moving will show up crystal clear, but everything that is moving, like water or clouds, will get that smooth, velvety appearance you are after. Just keep pressing the shutter with intervals of a few seconds or minutes (maybe) until you have reached the number of exposures you selected and the camera will fuse the different exposures together into a single, perfectly exposed image. If your camera wants to refocus for each exposure, make sure to set it to manual focus.– I find that it works best if you select 5 or more exposures and use a remote control, wired or wireless, to avoid any camera shake. I think that this is as simple as it gets.
If you have a different brand of camera drop me a comment and let me know if your camera implements such a feature.