Slow right down
At shutter speeds as slow as 30 secs even the slightest movement of the subject will blur. So this is the range for classic seascapes in which the water is rendered as a misty blur, and clouds seem to move across the sky. These speeds also allow you to shoot at night, recording the eerie appearance and unnatural colours of artificial lighting and city traffic.
Again, you'll need to predict how the movement will change during the exposure – the effect will get greater as shutter speeds slow, especially as you approach 30-sec exposure times.
It usually needs to be almost dark to use shutter speeds longer than one second, so shoot just before dawn or after sunset when there will still be just enough light to see, and the sky will be bright enough to show detail.
An ND filter or polariser will reduce the light for really slow speeds. As it gets lighter you’ll need a stronger ND filter – such as the Lee Big Stopper or Light Craft Workshop ND500MC.
Step-by-step: Settings for long-exposures
Create light trails
Try using long exposures to record the trails made by traffic at night. The basic technique is similar to other long-exposure subjects, but you need to ensure that you don’t use too narrow an aperture or you’ll fail to record the trails. This is because the light is moving, rather than stationary, so the exposure for the traffic isn’t as affected by the length of time the shutter is open.
It’s best to shoot around 30 minutes after sunset to keep some sky detail. Start with a 30 sec exposure at f/11 if you’re close to the road. The further you are from the traffic, the less light will reach you, so you’ll need to set a wider aperture of around f/8, or even f/5.6, for distant subjects.