Urban Photography – Long Exposures

This exposure was pure luck.

I had just put my tripod away (at the request of a private security guard) but still wanted to get some relatively long exposures (around 1 second) of the waterfall through the archway of this fountain. Using the best hand-held technique I’ve learned (see Joe McNally’s Da Grip video for a great lesson on this) I set the aperture to f/22 and started taking exposures in burst mode. Out of the ten or so that I took only two were sharp enough to display. Like I said, pure luck.

Looking Through the Arch

Looking Through the Arch
Copyright © 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 50D hand-held, EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM at 50mm, f/22 for 1/2 second at ISO 100 on SanDisk digital film. Post capture processing was done in Lightroom, Photoshop Elements and finished in Noise Ninja. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Normally, this type of shot is taken with the camera tripod mounted using a 5 – 8 stop neutral density filter like the Singh-Ray Mor-Slo or Vari-ND. It also helps to take these shots in the early morning, late afternoon or on cloudy days so that you can use an aperture like f/9.5 or f/11 rather than f/22 where the very small aperture can cause sharpness issues due to diffraction. Singh-Ray filters are not cheap but they work very well for long exposure work.

5 thoughts on “Urban Photography – Long Exposures

  1. Hey Jeff!

    Nice picture, and nice link (Da grip); interesting stuff.

    Looking at the exif data of this pic, I’ve just seen that the cam is 50D; whereas some people advise not to go further f/11 because the gain in DOF could be smaller than the loss because of the diffraction stuff. What do you think?

    • Thanks for reading and for your comments.

      It’s true that the 50D has a relatively low diffraction limiting aperture (f/7.6) due to the high pixel density but you really can take sharp photographs at smaller apertures if you’re careful about which lens you choose. The camera’s DLA is not an absolute value and diffraction depends greatly upon the lens’ optics.


  2. Nice image. For some reason, I never realized that that was a waterfall behind there…and my brain is having problems processing it. Looks like granite or something! 🙂

  3. Da grip and IS can really surprise. I like when photos are symmetric like this one but I think there is a slight tilt that has to be fixed. So slight actually that if it where a nature landscape I wouldn’t notice it.

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