Phototip 1 – daylight long-exposure

Click for full size image

THE Thames nocturne of blue and gold
Changed to a harmony in grey;
A barge with ochre-coloured hay
Dropt from the wharf: and chill and cold

The yellow fog came creeping down
The bridges, till the houses’ walls
Seemed changed to shadows, and St. Paul’s
Loomed like a bubble o’er the town.

Then suddenly arose the clang
Of waking life; the streets were stirred
With country waggons; and a bird
Flew to the glistening roofs and sang.

But one pale woman all alone,
The daylight kissing her wan hair,
Loitered beneath the gas lamps’ flare,
With lips of flame and heart of stone.
Oscar Wilde

A number of people have asked how some of my photographs were taken so I have decided to post some tips to help assist with the creative process. I hope they prove useful…!

This shot should be easy for anyone to replicate.


The composition was relatively straightforward, the main aspects being using the bridge to block out most of the ugly hotel that looms behind the main subject, shifting the image to slightly off-centre and ensuring the camera remained as level as possible to avoid the distortion which can happen when a wide-angle lens is tilted upwards.

For this shot I used the following equipment:
Fujifilm X-Pro1 camera
Fujinon X 14mm lens (equivalent to 21mm on a full-frame camera)
Hoya circular polarizing filter
Hoya ND400 neutral density filter
Velbon Ultra Max Mini Tripod

The camera was set as follows:
ISO 100 (low setting to maximise exposure time and reduce noise)
Exposure was 10 seconds at f22 (camera set for aperture priority)


As it was quite windy, with the wind blowing towards the camera, the tripod was used without the legs being extended to ensure a rigid base for the photograph. A polarizing filter was used to provide an extra couple of stops of exposure and to increase the contrast of the blue sky that was just visible between the clouds (polarizing filters work best when the camera is pointing at 90 degrees to the direction of the sun).

To increase the drama of the shot I used a neutral density filter to allow for a long exposure photograph – this introduced movement into the clouds and smoothed out the river somewhat. The camera was set to spot metering (which only measures the light at the centre of the frame) and a reading taken at the cusp between the bridge and the sky to ensure both the sky and the bridge were correctly exposed. I have found that for shots like this it is essential that the sky is correctly exposed and not burned out! If you do not have a spot meter then it may be worth while bracketing the exposure to ensure it is just right.

Post processing was done using Lightroom 4 – the photograph was shot in colour but I think it looks better in monochrome.

The technique can be used for any photograph where there is a need to smooth out the water or add drama to the sky. Good luck and happy photography!

About photoponica

A documentary style photographer - started with film now shooting digital with the Fuji X system.
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3 Responses to Phototip 1 – daylight long-exposure

  1. Mark Kertesz says:

    Stunning monochrome. The tones & framing is beautiful, love this shot.

  2. veritymilligan says:

    Excellent image and workflow!

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