Discover the magic of long exposure photography

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Using Neutral Density filters

Lions Gate Bridge

Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver, Canada. Tenenbaum shot this image with a three-stop neutral density filter at f/22 with a two-second exposure.

Shooting with neutral density filters reduces the amount of light hitting your camera’s sensor. Adding an ND filter allows you to extend your exposure times on bright days without blowing out highlights in an image. But ND filters also allow you to “cheat” long exposure shots. In this shot of the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver Tenenbaum was shooting in the middle of an overcast day at f/22 with a three-stop ND filter. The two-second exposure time helped create the streaks caused by car headlights.

“There are cheat sheets that you can keep in your filter bag, but there are also apps now that will do the calculations for you,” she says, in regards to getting the right exposure.

Although Tenenbaum says she prefers the old school paper cheat sheet, she notes that LExp – Long Exposure Calcs is a good digital choice. There are also several kinds of ND filters depending on how much light you want to block. Darker filters will result in longer exposures. Variable neutral density filters allow you to tweak just how much light you block by rotating like a circular polarizing filter. They’re convenient, but often hundreds of dollars to get something of good quality.

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