I’ve had an idea I’ve been toying with in my head for awhile, and I wanted to try it in real world application. Yesterday was a gorgeous day here in San Diego, perfect for a day of fun experimentations. I grabbed my big tripod and headed out to Sunset Cliffs to play in the afternoon light.
My experiment was with Neutral Density Filters. ND Filters (for short) are simply filters that block a certain amount of light while taking a photograph. That allows the photographer to make very long exposures during the day which could be used to indicate a passage of time.
As you can see in these shots I used the ocean to show that passage of time. Both pictures are 20 seconds long. With such long exposures the ocean takes on a blurry, hazy, ghost like appearance which can be very cool. A friend of mine, Cole Thompson, is a master at this technique and has an impressive collection of coastal photographs that put these two pictures to shame.
One of the reasons I started playing around with this is because I’ve wanted to begin incorporating this technique into portrait work.
You might ask: “How can I take pictures of people with 20-30 second exposures?”
Easy! I take two pictures. One with the ND Filters on, and one without, and combine them later using masking techniques in Photoshop.
As you can see in the photo below; I took a picture of this Fisherman named John without the ND Filters at 1/45th of a second. And when he stepped away to bait his hook out of view, I took another exposure at 20 seconds.
With a little Photoshop work, we now have a fun photograph that would not necessarily be possible otherwise.
I’m really looking forward to using this technique on everything from family portraits to my own style of fine art environmental portrait work for individuals, and who knows… Maybe even weddings that take place on the beach, or formals after the wedding. The sky is certainly the limit.