top of page
  • Writer's picturePhilip Preston

Long Exposure Photography For Seascape Images

I recently spent a couple of days doing some long exposure photography on the coast of north east England, not something I do often, but certainly hope to do more of. In case you might be wondering what I mean by 'long exposure' photography, it generally (but not always) involves using one or more filters on the end of your camera lens to reduce the amount of light falling on the camera sensor, enabling you to make exposures lasting seconds or even minutes. A common way to do this during daylight is through the use of Neutral Density (ND) filters, these are available in a variety of strengths, but the one used for my recent trip was a 10 stop ND filter, which is a bit like putting a pair of strong sunglasses in front of the camera lens!

The key to long exposure photography is combining static and moving elements in the image, in the examples below, I used a static metal fence and moving sea water. The first photograph had an exposure of 5 seconds at F13, ISO 200, using a 10 stop ND filter, giving a smooth silky appearance to the sea water during a high tide water level, and creating an interesting minimalist image featuring a rather mundane, metal fence.

Long exposure seascape photography, Fylde coast, UK. Philip Preston photography
Exposure of 5 seconds at F13, ISO 200, using a 10 stop ND filter.

In the photograph below, water levels were slightly lower as the tide was going out, and the camera was moved to the side for a different composition. The lower level sea water has exposed tops of rocks adjacent to the metal fence, adding another interesting visual element to the photograph, and the use of an ND filter has again added smoothness to the water.

Long exposure seascape photography, Fylde coast, UK - Philip Preston photography
Exposure of 12 seconds at F10, ISO 200, using a 10 stop ND filter.

In the final photograph from this location, the camera has moved forward for a closer view of the fence and rocks

Long exposure seascape photography, Fylde coast, UK. Philip Preston photography
Exposure of 20 seconds at F11, ISO 200, using a 10 stop ND filter

To summarise, certain subjects may, by themselves, not be considered visually interesting from a photographic point of view, but if they can be combined with other visual elements in the image, and certain techniques employed (eg, long exposure photography), the end product may be much more interesting than originally thought. So the next time you walk by a mundane metal fence, with a bit of thought and effort, you might be able to turn it into a visually interesting and aesthetically pleasing photograph!

A word of caution! When taking photographs at the edge of sea water, especially when you are standing in it, always be aware of whether the tide is coming in or going out. Its easy to get completely absorbed when trying to capture that next great image, but your personal safety should always come first, so be aware of what is happening around you. Better safe than sorry.

Tech details: All images above started with some basic adjustments in Adobe Lightroom, such as white point and clarity settings. Monochrome versions of the colour originals were then created using Nik Silver Efex Pro2, with a blue tone added. Finally, some finishing touches were made in Lightroom again, eg, gradient and radial filters added to 'balance' exposure across the whole image.

All the above images are available for purchase on my Fine Art America / Pixels store.

bottom of page