Stopping Down To Long Exposures Of 30 Seconds

Photography by Craig Boehman.

Bandra-Worli Sealink. Mumbai, India. A long exposure shot of the bridge.

The global pandemic has given me the opportunity to explore other forms of photography that I thought that "I'll get around to it someday". The year 2020 has been that someday-year for me. I'll share with you a few images that share a couple of things in common in that they were all 30-second exposures and the main subjects were therefor water. Each image has an accompanying caption.

Bandra-Worli Sealink. Mumbai, India. A long exposure shot of the bridge.

With a global pandemic still in full swing, I've drastically dialed back my time photographing people up close. This has left time for exploring other genres of photography that normally I only dabble in or ignore entirely.

I decided to dust-off a 10-stop ND filter that I never really test-drove and put it to the test on subjects they're known to enhance: water.

To be honest, I can't say I'm fond of looking at landscape images of waterfalls and rough seas where experienced and hobbyist photographers alike have blurred out the water (and the complimentary fake skies!) for full effect. It's a cliched viewing experience when not handled correctly. But there is something about seeing water tamed, so to speak. After years of photographing water in all its natural sharpness along with adding the occasional Gaussian blur, it's a welcome sight to see different results. Like anything else, methods like this can be abused or put to good use. I'm hoping to put these 30-second exposures to good use while exploring Mumbai during the Covid Era.

Bandra-Worli Sealink. Mumbai, India. A long exposure shot of the bridge.

A 30-second exposure of Bandra-Worli Sealink just after sunrise. There are two things that I'm learning to love about this process. The first is the actual waiting time between shots. You have initial 30 seconds to pass and then the additional processing time of the camera afterward. During this time, which ranges up to a minute or so, I'm free to kick back and examine the scene further. Maybe ideas for other shots develop while I'm forced to wait. This process is the polar opposite of my stance on street photography and photographing people in general, where time is of the essence and you can't afford to dink around and miss something. In fact, there is no time to think sometimes, especially in street photography: one must rely on existing experience and instinct alone to capture fleeting images that transcend the mundane and perhaps wander into the realm of the beautiful.

The second thing I love is not about the process but the end results. When the waters are already relatively calm, these long exposures have the appearance of a charcoal sketch. The lines are minute and really lend character to the vast empty spaces where little texture exists, if at all. That leaves only the domain of color to hold down the minimalist aesthetic. Needless to say, I'm hooked.

A composite comprised of three images. The main background is from Mumbai, at the Bandstand promenade.

The bottom 2/3 of this image are pixels hailing from just off the Bandra Promenade here in Mumbai. I shot in the worst light imaginable but had a 10-stop ND filter to tame the 30-second exposure. Makes for dreamy waterways.

Bandra-Worli Sealink. Mumbai, India. A long exposure shot of the bridge.

I'm a morning person; always have been. I theorize there's a chance that I could have been destined to be a morning person even before my early years as a student, during which years I always had to get up earlier than the average joe because our family typically lived some distance from the school. Regardless of whether determined by my budding DNA or by my early-to-rise environment, morningness is in my blood. There's something somehow truly energizing (maybe exciting?) about rising early to start my day. And nothing proves more enticing than having to get up early to go shoot during the sunrise Golden Hour.

A 30-second exposure of the Bandra-Worli Sealink. This was captured on my Sony A7iii using my Sigma 35mm 1.4. I had to use a 10-stop ND filter to allow for the long exposure: f16 at ISO 50. As a side note, a lot of photographers out there purchase lenses like this Sigma to separate the subject from the background by way of a pleasing blur. What I've ignored for such a long time was the fact that certain subjects, like water, could be blurred out too by using the lens's other extreme on the aperture scale.

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