Photography is a function of light over time, and manipulating one of these variables can help you achieve different creative effects. Today we're gonna talk about the second one - time.
Photography is often thought of as something that can 'freeze' a moment, something that can stop time, but it can also do the opposite. I'm fascinated by long exposure photography because of its eerie nature - not a moment, but a period of time being condensed into a single still image. Instead of perceiving time as we normally do - in sequence, photography lets us observe different moments in time simultaneously.
Here are some of my favourite examples of long exposure being used most effectively.
when to use
So, what are the things to look out for if you want to apply this technique to your own work? Here are some of the best subjects to try long exposure on:
Probably the most common use of slow shutter speed, with things like moving bodies of water being most popular. You don't need to be next to a waterfall to try this either, even something fairly mundane, like a sink or a bathtub with running water can look great with this technique.
I don't have a good example of my own for this, so here's an excellent image from mydarksky.org (source) made with a combined exposure of 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Also known as streaking, a very fun type of picture to take as you move around in the dark. You can try different kind of lights to achieve different results, from laser pointers and torches to phone screens and fairy lights.
A variation on streaking, with pictures taken at night but with lights you have no control over, such as car lights that turn into trails, or fireworks.
Finally, you can use this technique as a story-telling device in various types of projects. In my final uni project Let Me Remain, for instance, I used in-camera long exposure in order to communicate the idea of an inner reality associated with sleep and the subconscious.
In my last year's project called Chroma I used slow shutter speed and motion to create a soft, watercolour-like effect. In this instance, a very long exposure wasn't the goal as I got the best results in between 1/5 and 1/20 seconds.
End of Part 1
Next week, i'll be back to the subject of long exposure with part 2, in which I'll cover the technical part and go over specific methods you can use to achieve best results.
If you're interested in learning more about using long exposure creatively, here are some of the resources I would recommend: