Photo Essay

Photographing Oceans with Long Exposure

Corona Del Mar

I love the sunrise or sunset at the beach; the quality of light, the chance of color, the richness of color.

I became a bit bored with typical shots so I thought I'd play with doing long exposures..after all, that IS what a tripod is for, right?

To properly expose and keep detail you have to keep the camera perfectly still, shoot at the higher range of your fstop, lowest film speed, and filter the light before it gets to your sensor with a neutral density filter, and use a bulb or intervalometer.

The effect is ethereal...

1. Tripod, sandbag to add weight, with sturdy tripod head.

2. ND filters to fit your lens of choice (in my case 77mm with my 70-200mm IS lens) You will need to get to at least 8 stops in bright daylight. I have a FADER HD variable filter so I can just move that around to my liking. But if you stack them, you can get cheaper filters and just add them.

3. Set camera to bulb setting, and set Aperture to F22 (not the top of the range, but up there)

4. Set ISO to 50 if possible, or lowest

5. Connect a wireless trigger (got one on Amazon for $40, has an intervalometer too).

6. Set your shot to include some static things; when the waves go to mush you want to have some sharp contrast. Try to keep lens flare off the surface of the ND filter (color shifting happens).

7. Trigger off the Bulb for 30 or more seconds. Increase the time to get proper exposure.

8. If you are overexposed, crank the fstop to its highest (smallest aperture)

and try again.

One thing for sure you are going to have fewer throw away images because you have to sit and hold the shutter every time, you make them count.

Overall, much fun shooting these and I'm looking forward to more beach scenes...maybe even rivers!!

VOTE: Do you like this story?

Tell a friend about this story!

Tell a friend about this story!

  1. or

Hi there!

thought you might like this story!

—The JPG team

8 responses

  • Davide Simone

    Davide Simone (Deleted) said (25 Jul 2012):

    Outstanding, love it

  • Vin Weathermon

    Vin Weathermon said (25 Jul 2012):


  • Migdalia Saavedra

    Migdalia Saavedra gave props (25 Jul 2012):


  • Jason Platt

    Jason Platt gave props (25 Jul 2012):

    my vote!

  • Shannon Burch

    Shannon Burch gave props (26 Jul 2012):

    So Beautiful.....

  • Michele Wambaugh

    Michele Wambaugh (Deleted) said (3 Aug 2012):

    So well done! Beautiful results & great how-to instructions! TY!

  • Vin Weathermon

    Vin Weathermon said (6 Aug 2012):

    thanks everyone!!

  • Felicia

    Felicia   gave props (1 Oct 2012):

    Awesome :) I voted...

Want to leave a comment? Log in or sign up!