Long Exposures over the Ocean

In a recent pair of videos on my YouTube channel, I discussed long exposure photography over the ocean using the Fujifilm X-T3. Of course, the camera isn’t important, but it was the tool I had with me at the time. Below, you can find some of the images I made, plus all the details of creating them.

First, I’d like to start with a pair of images that demonstrate one reason you might want to use a longer exposure. The first image uses a shutter speed of 1/180 to all-but-freeze the action in the waves. This gives us a sense of the strength of the waves but also gives us a lot to look at. Personally, I find myself looking all around the frame and not ever coming to rest on what I was actually making the photograph of, the Dragon’s Head Rock.

Yongduam - Dragon's Head Rock - Jeju Island - South Korea - Long Exposure Photography

In this second image, I use a B+W ND1000 filter on the lens to subtract 10 stops of light and allow my shutter speed to extend to 27 seconds. To me, this results in an image that has a clearly defined line of contrast leading to the main subject and allows me to rest on exactly what I wanted you to see.

Yongduam - Dragon's Head Rock - Jeju Island - South Korea - Long Exposure Photography

To further demonstrate this, here are the examples from my second video. In these shots, you see the difference between 1/300, 1.5 seconds, and 10 seconds. You can see that the water progressively becomes smoother and smoother.

Jeju Island - South Korea - Long Exposure Photography

Jeju Island - South Korea - Long Exposure Photography

Jeju Island - South Korea - Long Exposure Photography

As you can see from the above, the rough ocean can be smoothed out using longer shutter speeds. With smoother water or less waves, you will need longer shutter speeds to achieve a smooth looking surface on the water. Sometimes, exposures of even a few minutes are required to get the desired effect. It pays to experiment with your shutter speed and see what you can achieve.

As we saw above with the Yongduam (Dragon’s Head Rock) image, one benefit of using longer shutter speeds is focusing the viewer on something other than the texture of the water. This is the case with my image of the waterfall below. Taking the shutter speed from 1/50 to 27 seconds using my ND filter does a great job of directing your eye to the waterfall.

Jeongbang Falls - Jeju Island - South Korea - Long Exposure Photography

Jeongbang Falls - Jeju Island - South Korea - Long Exposure Photography

To wrap up this set, I’ll leave you with a 4 minute exposure at Haedongyonggungsa in Busan. Look at the effect this shutter speed has on the water. It’s almost like looking at a perfectly smooth surface.

Haedongyonggungsa - South Korea - Long Exposure Photography

You can check out the two videos about these techniques here and here.