Inevitably, while working with long exposures, you are going to have elements included in the picture that you had not planned on. At the beginning of this work, I found it very frustrating and figured images were ruined if a person walked into the scene or a plane flew by, and oftentimes I would stop the exposure and wait for a clear scene. Many times, the clear scene doesn’t come and the light passes and you miss the shot, which with this mindset, leaves you going home flustered. The secret is to embrace it. Embrace being in the moment, outdoors, doing what you love. Magical things can happen when you allow it, and some of my favorite images have been from the tracks of planes, boats, or with ghostly figures of people entering into my composition. If, however, you want to avoid this look of the blurry peeps or passing cars, know this – the general rule of thumb is that something needs to be stationary for approximately 20% of the exposure to register. Therefore, the longer your exposure, the more likely you will have a clean image.
Although this image was quite a long exposure and over four minutes long, the people that are registering are all standing or sitting around, enjoying the sunset. If they had simply been walking by, you would not see any signs of them at all. In fact, there surely were some people that walked through and do not register in the picture. This was taken at La Jolla’s Windansea, a popular surf spot in Southern California, during an inland fire which caused for some ethereal sunsets along the coast.
AN IMMORTAL MOMENT Mono Lake, Eastern Sierra, California
This is why you have to set the alarm to 4-something and get up out of your warm sleeping bag and get out there! It’s called Sweet Light and it is always a sight for the eyes and makes the heart giddy – or is that the sleep deprivation? Either way, it’s well worth waking for, even after a late night of cold-adult-beverages and the company of good friends. Hell, you can sleep during the day when the light sucks! and if you’re a little slow (a.k.a. hungover), there’s nothing like the Sweet Light to lift you up.
We camped at Oh Ridge Campground for a couple nights which is the perfect place to stay to shoot at Mono Lake. It overlooks the scenic June Lake and is a 20 minute drive from the campsite to the parking area at the State Natural Reserve along the north shore of Mono Lake.
I went down three times to this area over the couple days and walked away every time with shots I was happy with. Sure, I was lucky with the stormy skies, but even with clear skies, I think you could make some compositions work here – it’s just that interesting of a place! This image is looking west with the sunrise at my back. Most of my efforts during this spell were with a black and white aesthetic, but for this 10 minute period, it was impossible to ignore the color version of this amazing scene.
Watch the video below to see into the time exposed of the above picture, a new image of mine from San Francisco. This is what I love about long exposure photography! There is so much going on, but the scene becomes distilled over time. Birds, boats, fog horns, the sound of the ocean lapping up onto the shores – this all makes up the experience one gets while “out there” in the world, and it is my feeling that long exposure photography is better suited to capture and evoke this mood, or essence of life.