Photography isn’t only about holding a camera, taking aim and shooting. I learnt this the hard way much after I decided to make it more than a serious hobby. What I didn’t know when I first started was that different genres of photography require different skill sets as well as equipment.
Since I first started, I have been finding opportunities whenever possible to hone my skills and learn as much from masters of the art.
I recently had the opportunity to practice long exposure photography with Dinesh Maneer on a trip to Gokarna. On a side note, if you think Goa has gorgeous beaches, you must visit Gokarna This quaint little temple town in Karnataka located just about 40 km south of Karwar has some of the most beautiful beaches in India. They come all shapes and sizes with interesting names like Om Beach, Honey Beach, Half Moon beach, Paradise beach and so on. Unique to the landscape here are the large rock-like formations which made for many exciting compositions. The beaches aren’t very crowded, have just a sprinkling of restaurants a fair share of tourists. Methinks the ones that find Goa overcrowded make Gokarna their preferred destination.
But I digress. As I said, my interest in Gokarna was to practice the art of long exposure photography which applies to night photography and Star trails as well, but I’ll restrict this post to landscapes.
Here is the equipment you need for long exposure
1. Tripod: Personally, I consider this to be the most essential piece of equipment for any photographer, especially for long exposures. There is nothing better than a light and sturdy tripod and never ever compromise when making a purchase decision. A good ball head with an arrangement to lock the position firmly will complete your setup.
2. Camera: Duh! Seriously though, any camera that allows manual settings will do just fine. A full frame body as against a crop sensor is preferable.
3. Lens: Wide angle lens with the equivalent of 16mm. Anything wider is welcome.
Filters: A minimum of One Soft Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filter – 2 stop, One Hard GND – 2 stop, Neutral Density Filter – 6 stops. A ring holder matching the lens dia is necessary to enable mounting of the filters.
4. Remote trigger
6. Post-processing software like Lightroom or Photoshop
Scout for a favourable location and ensure that the weather conducive to good photographs at the time of your trip. If it’s raining heavily, it is better to stay indoors, call off the shoot, and organise some pakodas and chai. Get to your location with enough time to spare for a survey of the landscape and your environs. If you want to shoot a sunset or sunrise, google local times in advance. The few minutes before sunrise and after sunset are most crucial as the sky will flash a multitude of colours. The sky during these moments is at it’s magical best, and it is essential you don’t miss it because you got your timings wrong. It is often said, ‘the nut behind the camera matters most’. The image you compose will validate the truth of this statement.
Comply with the rule of thirds. I used the rock formation to set up my shot. Set up your tripod, check the image composition in live view, take a test shot to make sure the focus and exposure are correct. Lock the tripod head and wait for that moment. Most lenses come equipped with image stabilization or VR mode. Disabling this mode is essential. Set your camera in Manual mode or Aperture Priority. Choose a small aperture in the range of f11-16 and most importantly ensure that you are shooting in RAW mode. Choose an appropriate ISO value. Do not set the White Balance (WB) to AUTO in the camera. The WB should be set in any of the preset modes and the WB can be fine tuned during post processing.
Use the ND filter if you are shooting flowing water. This filter helps freeze the movement of water. Ideal when shooting on a beach or when shooting waterfalls. The GND filters extract the colours in the sky not perceived by the limited dynamic range of the camera. Ensure that the dark portion of the GND is blocking the upper portion of the lens – this should coincide with the horizon and the sky.
At the opportune moment, use the remote trigger to take multiple photographs of the sky as the ambient light change rapidly. Sometimes you will have to alter the ISO or the aperture setting in between shots. Keep experimenting, and I promise the results will not disappoint.
Here are the photographs I took of the beach at sunset, sunrise on the banks of river Gangavali and sunrise by the fishing hamlet. Let me know what you think.