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Long Exposure Madness

Although filters such as the Big Stopper can now be very useful for some landscape photographers, it has definitely upset some people.
Are you responsible for their upset?

I remember a few years ago that the favourite film for landscape photography was the Fujifilm Velvia 50. Many landscape photographers love the rich and vivid colours and the highly contrasting images that it could produce. However, there was a drawback. If the film was used for long exposures of more than 10 seconds, the film lacked colour accuracy, even if you allowed for reciprocity failure. This meant that landscape photographers could not extend their creativity into long exposure photography.

Turn the clock forwards a few years and you find yourself amidst the digital era. Many things have changed for the better. ISO sensitivity is now controlled in camera, instant viewing of the results makes life so much easier, but best of all there are no costs of processing film. However, although high ISO capabilities meant that now one can shoot a dark scene without having to look through tonnes of grain, not much has changed on the opposite field. Long exposure photography had to be done during the very early or very late hours of the day.

Turn the clock even further forwards and you wake up one beautiful morning to the announcement of the ‘Big Stopper.’ Many landscape photographers were now feeling ecstatic. At last, their creativity is allowed to thrive. Now they can see and photograph the world through their artistic eyes. Now they can enter an impressionist world, they can show the world that water can be recorded as mist, clouds can be recorded as streaky lines and any moving subject such as people in the landscape can be eliminated.

However, here comes trouble. Although filters such as the Big Stopper can now be very useful for some landscape photographers, it has definitely upset some people on the other side of the camp – I am talking about those who think that water should look like water. The problem is that no one could ever tell me how water is supposed to look. Why couldn’t water look like droplets or mist or even a mass of liquid? Who has the right to dictate how water should look? How about Monet’s favourite impressionist paintings? They don't look like the real thing, do they? Should we discard Monet’s vision?

I remember a couple of decades ago that blue skies and fluffy clouds were in fashion in landscape photography but not anymore. Now is the season for long exposures, freedom of expression and improvisation. All these can now be achieved due to the latest developments in technology and I believe that we should embrace the comforts of such technology. This is not long exposure madness as some people like to refer to it as but complete and utter freedom of expression. After all, even if we admit that we are going through a period of long exposure madness and fashion, like every other fashion this one will surely pass. Until then, let's enjoy the marvels of technology.

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Right on Dimitri. I’ve been at locations where the lighting sucked and the cloud cover was drab and uninspiring. Yet I was able to envision how interesting and intriguing it would be to capture the sea lapping up against some rocks offshore with a long exposure. I was able to salvage what would have been a bust in terms of photography into a rather beautiful scene of creative expression. I never signed on to be a photojournalist when I bought my camera. The idea always was to use the camera as a vehicle for creative expression. Keep on screwing on those dark filters when you feel its right.

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