Photo ideas: long exposure landscape photography

Photo Ideas: long exposure landscapes

Intentionally moving your camera when taking long exposure landscapes can be a great way to give your photos a contemporary twist. Here are some ideas to get you started…

Tired of textbook landscape photos? Want photo ideas that offer you something a little more impressionistic? Then go slow and get moving. By using slow shutter speeds and moving the camera smoothly during the exposure, you can create striking abstract landscapes. Shoot handheld for unpredictable results or – as we explain here – use a tripod and move the camera in one direction for more defined scenic ‘streaks’.

Choosing the right subject is the key to success with this technique, so keep an eye out for landscapes that have strong lines – the vertical lines of the tall trees in this forest were perfect. Before you start taking your shots, try 
to visualise how the image will look with the treatment applied by looking at the scene through squinted eyes.

To achieve the effect seen in our main image, simply move your DSLR up and down during a fairly long exposure (in this case we used 1/3 sec). As you would imagine, there’s an element of trial and error involved, so you’ll need to be prepared to experiment – and of course, don’t forget to pack plenty of memory cards. We found that to get the best results we needed the right combination of vertical panning speed and shutter speed. We also got better results on dull overcast days, when exposure times were naturally extended.

Best camera settings and technique for long exposure landscapes

1. Set your shutter speed

Take control by switching to Manual shooting mode – Shutter Priority will also work – and dialling in a slow shutter speed. Anywhere from 10 sec to 1/15 sec will work. We ended up shooting at 1/3 sec for this project. If conditions are too bright to achieve this slow speed, use a lower ISO setting. Already there? Fit a Neutral Density filter.

2. Straighten up

A sturdy tripod is essential, ideally with a 3-way head so that you can precisely control the movement in one direction. Align your camera so that it pans in the vertical axis – if it’s slightly off, your vertical lines will appear at an angle.

3. Get moving

Use a cable release so that you don’t create any unwanted horizontal movement during the exposure. Start moving the camera vertically just before you fire the shutter so you capture a fluid motion.

Control your motion with a sturdy tripod and a 3-way head to avoid the kind of unwanted shake that results in this kind of indistinct blur. That said, you might find images like this just as appealing – Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) photography is on-trend right now.

We panned our D-SLR through a vertical axis during a slow shutter speed of 1/3 sec to create this striking abstract landscape.

Exclude the foreground from your composition for a more abstract effect. This adds a fabulous air of artistic mystery to the whole scene.