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Slow Shutter Art: 300-sec Exposure for a Different View of the Sea

The sea has many sides to it. Previously, we learned how to use a fast shutter speed to capture splashing waves in action, but using a super long exposure strips away the ripples, currents and motion to reveal calmness and beautiful blue tones. Read on to find out how Akira Yonezu achieved this painting-like minimalistic shot of a sea in Hokkaido. (Reported by Akira Yonezu, Digital Camera Magazine)

Sea and shore shot with 300 second long exposure

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF15mm f/2.8 Fisheye/ FL: 15mm/ Manual exposure (f/10, 300 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight
With ND filter


The story behind the shot

This was shot at a beach in Hokkaido that had waves gently lapping at the shore, and sand that was darker than anywhere else. I wanted to create a shot that was slightly different and decided to shoot a long exposure with the help of an ND filter to remove the details of the waves and simplify the image. To capture darker colours, I shot right after sunset.

The same scene shot without an ND filter

Fisheye lens
- ND filter (see Hack #1)
- Tripod
- Umbrella (See Hack #2)
- Optional but highly recommended: A remote switch

Why 300 seconds?

I initially set my exposure to 60 seconds to reduce the noise reduction processing time after shutter release. However, the waves moved in and out so slowly that 60 seconds was not long enough to turn them silky smooth. A longer exposure will require a stronger ND filter effect, so I stacked two ND filters (which slowed the shutter speed by a total of 14 and 2/3 stops) and shot a 5-minute exposure.

Here’s what else you can do with Bulb mode:
Filling Your Frame Completely with Blooming Fireworks in the Night Sky
Nail the Shot: Perfectly Aligned Star Trails Revolving Around Polaris


Hack #1: Using ND filters on a fisheye lens

The curved, bulging surface of a fisheye lens means that it does not accept filters that screw onto the front of the lens. To get around this, I cut a square gelatin filter to the appropriate size and attached it to the rear of my lens. 

Reminder: To avoid uneven exposure, make sure that your filter is big enough to cover the entire rear lens element!


Some square filter brands might not have the ND filter density indicated on the filter itself. Try to write it down somewhere so that you can easily identify your filters.

Tip: If you are using an EOS R-series camera, the EF-EOS R drop-in filter mount adapter with the variable ND filter can be used with any EF lens, including those that cannot take screw-in filters.


Did you know that a fisheye lens is fantastic for photographing starscapes? Find out more here:
EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM: My Go-to Lens for Photographing Starscapes


Hack #2: Use an umbrella as a wind shield

When I took this shot, a breeze was blowing diagonally from behind me towards the sea. The wind could cause camera shake, so I used an umbrella as a wind shield.  Fisheye lenses capture much more of the scene that you may realise, so make sure you don’t accidentally capture the umbrella in the frame!

Tip: Shifting sand caused by waves coming in and out, strong sea breeze…even if your camera is on a sturdy tripod, there are lots of factors that could cause camera shake during a long exposure. Be careful and check on your setup every now and then!

Find out more about what you can use an umbrella for in:
2 Everyday Items That Could Transform Your Photos

Find out more about artistic effects that you can create with a slow shutter in:
Slow Shutter Art: Creating Surreal, Spinning Radial Blurs
Slow Shutter Art: Turn a Shot into an Abstract Watercolour Painting


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Digital Camera Magazine

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Akira Yonezu

Akira Yonezu

Yonezu dropped out of the Photography Department of the Osaka University of Arts to go to Germany to pursue a career in advertising photography. Since 2005, he has also been pursuing projects in landscape photography on the side. His works earned him an opportunity to shoot images for Canon’s Year 2008 calendar, for which he spent over 1 year photographing Japan’s landscapes. He strives to capture the latent beauty in ordinary everyday landscapes, and constantly seeks new ways of expression through landscape photography.