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[Part 2] Capturing Drifting Clouds with a 60 sec Exposure

Long-exposure photography is a technique that can be used for more than just night shots. In the second article of this series, I will introduce a technique that can be used in daytime landscape photography. (Reported by: Aki Goto)

60 sec

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 121mm/ Manual exposure(f/18, 60 sec.)/ ISO 50/ WB: Daylight/ Filter: ND400

A picture of clouds drifting in the sky above land formed by sedimentation from the eruption of Mount Aso 90,000 years ago. I wanted to capture a magical image by superimposing the drifting of the clouds alongside a manifestation of the passage of time.

Shooting with a 60 sec exposure with a release timer

I discovered some fascinating trees with clouds drifting above on a hill some distance away. As there were many clouds drifting about with the wind, I thought of expressing them magically with a slow shutter. To distinctly show that the drifting clouds were the main subject, I created a composition by dividing the screen into 3 parts with the upper 2/3 made up of sky, and the ground arranged in the lower 1/3 of the screen.

I secured the camera onto a tripod mount set up on the asphalt road, and removed the lens hood so that the camera would not be shaken by the wind (Point 1). I then stabilised the tripod by hanging my camera bag on the centre column to weigh it down.

Due to the strong light intensity in daytime photography, simply lowering the ISO speed will not slow down the shutter speed drastically. Thus, a ND filter was used. The filter that I used was the ND400, which can filter light density up to the equivalent of 8.7 stops. I achieved an appropriate exposure with a 60 sec shutter speed in this scene by using the expanded ISO, setting the ISO speed to 50, and narrowing the aperture to f/18 (Point 2). As the ND filter would result in a darkened image on the viewfinder and in Live View shooting, as well as make it difficult to focus the image, it was fitted onto the camera only after AF had been used to focus on the subject (the trees).

The last thing to prepare was the release timer. I attached it to the camera, and entered the exposure time in seconds. The release timer helps in preventing vibrations, so be sure to get it ready for long-exposure photography. Set the shooting mode to Bulb mode if you are using a slow shutter that exceeds 30 sec with the release timer. On this occasion, the shutter timer was set to release the shutter after 60 sec (Point 3).

Point 1. Remove the lens hood

It is easy for the camera to shake due to the wind during long-exposure photography, so I removed the lens hood to reduce the surface area exposed to the wind. You can also use an umbrella or your own body to block the wind.

*Photo for illustration purposes only. Shot taken with another lens.

Point 2. Expose for 60 sec at f/18

Although it also depends on the speed of the cloud movement, it is possible to take a distinct photo of drifting clouds with a 60 sec exposure. This shot was taken with an exposure of 60 sec at f/11. Due to over-exposure, the subtle changes in the clouds have been drowned out.

Point 3. Shoot using a controller with a timer

The remote controller used was the Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3. The shot was taken with the shutter speed set at 60 sec on this occasion.

Timer Remote Controller

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Aki Goto

Born in 1972 in Kanagawa Prefecture and graduated from Sophia University and Tokyo College of Photography. Goto published a photo collection work titled "Land Escapes," and is also actively engaged in works such as “Water Silence,” an installation that merges photographs with videos.

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