The Benefits of Photographing where you live
How many times have you looked at someone’s long exposure photos from distant places and thought, “I wish I could go there and get that?” Or looked at Instagram, Flickr, or another social media site and been disappointed because you think where you live is too boring for long exposure photography. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone and so many of us have had exactly the same thoughts.
In truth most of those amazing photos you see are captured because the person taking them lives there or travels to it often. Some people will go somewhere and have all the luck with them to get amazing shots, but for most us that never, or rarely, happens.
Every one of us lives somewhere that has photo opportunities and it is up to you to find them. You need to start looking at where you are with new eyes.
Long Exposure Photography Opportunities
With photography such as long exposures and using Neutral Density Filters everything is dependent on the weather. When you are travelling you might have only one opportunity to do some long exposures, but if there aren’t any clouds in the sky, or it is raining then your one chance is gone. However, when you are taking long exposures of where you live you can wait for the perfect conditions to get what you need. You can go back over and over again. You could end up with that photo that everyone is envious of.
What make ideal subjects for long exposures
There are obviously some subjects that are very appealing for long exposures. The three things that many people do are water, clouds and people. You could smooth out the water, make clouds very blurry and make people seem blurry or disappear completely from scenes.
Any type of water way is good to smooth out. Oceans, rivers, lakes and waterfalls all make great subjects. You can do very long exposures which will completely smooth out the water and give it a frozen quality, or you can do exposures of around a second that will make it so you can see the movement of it.
Architecture is also great if you can see the clouds moving. Though, any landscape can be good for this if you can see movement above then you can do a long exposure and get that very blurred look. While architecture is a very popular type for clouds, think outside the square. I got a shot recently when I photographed the clouds moving behind some dead trees.
Long exposures can be great on streets and road to give people a ghostly appearance. If you use a long enough exposure, you might find that everyone disappears and the street can appear empty.
What is around where you live?
You now need to think of what is around you and what might be great for long exposures. If you are near the coast, then anywhere with rocks or piers are great. If you have some interesting buildings around the town or city near you. They don’t have to be high rises, but could be anything that is interesting. Capturing the moving clouds over head can be good. Also the longer exposure will help get rid of cars or people that may cross in front of you.
Think about what type of long exposures you are drawn to and see what there is around you.
How far can you travel in a day?
Another consideration is how far are you prepared to travel and how often. I have places that I have photographed many times, but they are anything from an hour to two and half hours from where I live. It makes a good day trip.
If you have a radius of around where you are and a time limit on how far you are prepared to go, then you are extending your opportunities. It isn’t quite as easy to see what the weather is, but you can get a good idea and can decide whether or not to travel.
I have a radius of around 100 miles. I have the coast in the south direction and around a 2 hour drive. If I want to head north, I can find some great country areas and waterfalls. There is something different in each direction. Hundreds of opportunities for long exposures.
About 5 hours from where I live is my mother. She lives in a desolate part of the world, and perhaps the gateway to the outback of Australia. When I go up there I know that I will have lots of opportunities to take photos. I go up there a few times of the year and it is one of the places I visit often. Means if I don’t get something I like on one visit then I may be able to get it on the next.
How to find places of interest to photograph
To find great places you need to be prepared to do your research. Google where you are to find what is around you, especially with the Google Image search. You can use Google maps to help you do further research and see what is there.
It is also a good idea to look at lots of long exposure photography and see if you can find some subjects that are similar to where you live. It is a great way to see how others have photographed them and gives you inspiration.
Different ways of photographing the same thing
While you are photographing the same place repeatedly continue to think of different ways to do it. Find different angles, if it is possible. You have the advantage over people who might visit the same area once. They might only get to do the obvious angles. You can photograph it in different weather, different seasons. You can take multiple photos over time to show how it changes. You have all the advantages.
Best Subjects are where you live
Photographing around where you live offers you so many advantages and not many disadvantages. We all live somewhere that we think is boring, but you have to look with new eyes. It is your challenge to make the best long exposures you can, and if first time it doesn’t happen, then go again, and again. Just keep going until you get the one.
About Leanne Cole
Leanne Cole is a fine art photographer from Melbourne, Australia. She enjoys photographing Melbourne and the state of Victoria. Leanne is doing a lot of long exposure photography and loving the results. She also writes about photography and edits the magazine Dynamic Range, which is about promoting photography by women. To help fund her passion she teaches and does individual sessions catering to the needs of the student. You can find her on her website, she is also on Facebook and Instagram.
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13 stops is popular when photographing near the sea where 2-3 minute exposures are ideal for transforming fast moving clouds and turbulent water into ethereal masterpieces.
16 stops is the most popular density for long exposure photographers, who typically make exposures of 5-8 minutes.