Tips & Tricks from the Pros: #2 – Long Exposure

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Derek Shanks give us some tips for shooting better long exposure photography.

Steady and Still

If you own a heating bag for those aches and pains (you the know the ones that are filled with grainy, rice-like materials?) and you don’t want to carry a tripod around all day – throw one of these in your camera bag and you have something that you can place a camera on and manipulate positioning to your liking.

Or, if you’re the creative type, you can make a rice bean bag for yourself. This works really well shooting on rocks, ledges or those hard to reach areas your tripod can’t fit or are simply too high to reach. And, of course, after a long day of carrying around your camera gear, you can throw the heating bag into a microwave and soothe those sore muscles.

In-Camera Timer

You can always use your camera’s timer to jump into a shot. Why not try using the timer, up to 30 seconds, to capture images during the evening and shots in low light. You will need to achieve stability to minimize camera shake.  This works well on tripods, tables, ledges or heating bags as mentioned above.  I still recommend having cable releases and remotes as well, but sometimes you just need to work with the bare minimum and this method helps.

Slowing Down the Hands of Time

You will definitely need stability to use high powered Neutral Density filters that are in the 8 – 10 stop range.  Use these filters in high traffic areas and, magically, people will disappear from photos. Use this at rush hour and you will capture images that look like a ghost town. Use the filter near water and watch the ripples and waves smooth and calm like glass and wait for rushing clouds to create wonderful motion trails in the sky. Waterfalls look like they are clouds of smoke. I recommend having a look at the B+W 1000x 10 Stop ND Filter (77MM Thread) and have fun with the stability options I have suggested. Pick up the largest size filter and appropriate step down rings to accommodate other lenses you may have in your kit.

Suggestion: Focus your shot before attempting to use the filter. The opacity of the filter is very dark and makes focusing difficult. Aim first with the lens bare, turn off autofocus and then place filter onto the lens and fire away. Imagine shooting F/22 up to 2 minutes in broad daylight and the endless possibilities of new shots you can now experiment with.


The accompanying photograph was captured using a heating bag, B+W 10 Stop ND Filter and the in camera timer. Given that the stone statues were low to the ground my tripod was too high for this vantage point and composition. The bag proved to be advantageous as the composition fit perfectly. It was a cold day and I did indeed throw the heating bag into the microwave to help the hurting shoulder later.

Submitted by:

Derek Shanks – Digital / Photo Sales Representative
Vistek Toronto
[fragile glass]::derek shanks photography::