The enchanting colours of twilight provide eternal appeal for the landscape photographer. Moreover, as darkness falls we often enjoy harnessing the potential of long-exposures. We may then allow time to reveal itself, smearing cloudy skies and water into a beautiful homogenous blur, introducing a compelling new dimension to mitigate the loss of spatial depth inherent in our two-dimensional imagery.
As landscape photographers, we have become accustomed to such clichéd crepuscular creativity. It is accepted that images made using long exposures will usually be accompanied by twilight hues; either dark saturated blues or the beautiful pinks, yellows and oranges of the ‘golden-hour’. How refreshing then, to start making such images in daylight, images curiously devoid of twilight colouration.
This image was made in the middle of the day using an extremely dense 10-stop neutral density filter. An exposure requiring a shutter-speed of 1/30th second will require around 30 seconds with this filter attached. One difficulty in using such a dense filter is that it darkens the image in the viewfinder to such an extent that accurate composing and focusing are almost impossible with the filter in place. With the camera on the tripod I selected the composition and manually focused the lens, then made some test images to examine the histogram and determine the perfect exposure. Once I was content with all this preparation, I carefully attached the 10-stop filter being careful not to defocus the lens and a 2-stop neutral density graduated filter to control the sky.
Fine-art photographers often favour black and white for very long exposures. There is a purity in such an approach, removing the potential distraction of colour and lessening the need to concentrate their efforts around twilight. The option of using dense neutral-density filters in the middle of the day opens up a whole new world of possibilities for long-exposure images. The very same distraction that the black and white photographer avoids can be used to emotively shape such images with an unexpected midday colour palette introducing a welcome subliminal sense of mystery.