Midday Long Exposure | No ND


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Jun 17, 2013
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I wanted to try a technique of capturing a long exposure without actually capturing a long-exposure. I thought the cloud formation behind my hotel and bright direct sunlight looked interesting. The clouds were moving rapidly to the shore over-top the hotel so I wanted to do a long-exposure to capture this.

I setup the camera it had it take 10 shots at 1min intervals. I stacked them in PS as a Smart Object and blended them using Mean. I need to play with the intervals and length better next time, but I ultimately had to resort to a little bit of motion blur to blend the movement a little better--maybe 15-30sec intervals for the same 10min period.

But in the end I achieved pretty much what I was going for, and was able to capture a 10min exposure without the use of any poverty filters.

Bethany Beach Ocean Suites by The Braineack, on Flickr
Hmmm...yeah I think thats pretty cool. However since I would have just used an ND filter, it seems like a lot more work to accomplish the same thing.

Do you have an ND filter but just didn't want to use it?
wasn't much work. There's an interval timer within the camera, took about 3 seconds to set it up.

Post took a few minutes, I opened all 10 frames in one PS file. I highlighted all the layers right clicked and picked "convert to a smart object" Then I went to Layers > Smart Objects > Merge and chose Mean. Then I made a very quick layer mask and added a slight motion blur to the sky to blend the frames a little better because there was a 1min gap between each so the motion it averaged wasn't fluid.

I'm not spending $300 for a filter holder and two plates of glass, and I wanted to see if I could mimic it easily without needing special tools and lugging even more crap with me to the beach. :)

This was simply an experiment I wanted to try while I was sunbathing. I've toyed with ND filters before and dont like having to deal with long exposures and figuring out the math. Then for some reason Nikon decided that it's WAYYYYYYYYY to difficult in 2015 to have a user input a shutter time longer than 30s and requires external devices to control the shutter for any longer.

I can see Nikon's research and development team right now:

R&D #1: Hey gang, look at all these cool photos on 500px.com.

R&D #2: WOWIE!!!! Long at all these cool long exposure photos!

R&D #1: You think we should write a few lines of code to help users achieve these easier?

R&D #2: no, let's require them to hold the button down by hand like they did they in the 1920s with a long wire cable. It worked back then, why should we try to keep up with the times and actually innovate. I like resting on our laurels. Instead, lets design a camera that looks exactly like a film camera from the 60s, we should include the film advance lever and mechanical timer and everything...digital is over.

R&D #1: You know Sony actually let's you see a long exposure shot appear in the LCD screen as you're exposing...

R&D #2: you're fired. exposure that.
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I can see a reduction in IQ with my $50 Tiffen CPL filters...
The method is intriguing. It has the advantage over an ND in that it is variable without limit. The need to blur is the big downside. You need to make a mask for that. That might have been quick and easy on this image, but it won't be easy on all. It seems to me that the best approach would be to combine this with an ND. Carry one ND and do an interval shoot with it. Instead of one quick frame every 10 seconds for 10 minutes, take 20 30-second exposures continuously. Then you don't need the blur and you only need one ND filter in your bag. A remote release + continuous burst mode would work as well as the camera's interval function.
yeah im pretty sure if I had done more frames at shorter intervals within the same period i wouldn't have needed to blur.

doing what you're suggesting would work, you can set the number of frames to take at each interval. But then you're dealing with 400 frames for 1 image.

i have another set I did at 30sec intervals at 10min as well, but the lighting conditions changed between a few frames, so i didnt try using them. But ill see if the software deals with that better.

the clouds were moving quite fast so there were big changes from frame to frame that the software couldn't "deal with"
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doing what you're suggesting would work, you can set the number of frames to take at each interval. But then you're dealing with 400 frames for 1 image.
That's not what I was intended to suggest. I was thinking only 20 frames for 10 minutes. Each one would be a full 30 second exposure. That way you capture the whole 10 minutes rather than just slices of it. This is the same thing as is done for star trails. If conditions only allow for a shorter exposure then you'd need to have more frames or to leave a gap between them and blur.
yeah gotta, same page then. This was a first attempt, so we'll see if I have time to play with the one I did in 20 frames over 10 minutes tonight.
Very interesting image and composition. Some of y'all amaze me with your ingenuity and knowledge.

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To be honest, I'm not really sure what the point is. It's just a picture of a hotel with the sky blurred. Now I realise this is something of a test, but I still ask myself why the sky is blurred. Does it look better than it would if you'd caught the delicate structure of the cloud? Does it actually communicate movement? I don't think so on either count because clouds are naturally soft, and there are high level cloud formations that much resemble what you've changed the probably cumulus cloud into. We're used to seeing clouds with different textures and though to you who saw the clouds before and after and can see the relative difference and thus attach the feeling of movement, to me they just resemble a different type of cloud that occurs naturally. See here:
Cirrostratus clouds
Altocumulus clouds
It looks like technique for technique's sake. Does it really matter to the viewer seeing the web version or a print what the invisible difference in IQ is? Is IQ really important seeing as you're using it as a technique to blur things?
I don't understand this need in digital to change things, to leave the stamp saying 'this is obviously digital'. Looking for a subject to use the technique on rather than looking at the subject. Looking to produce a digital abstraction to make the image rather than letting the subject do so.

So if you removed the digital/technical wow factor by showing it to somebody who really didn't care for technique and just wanted to see the picture, what does it become? More than the sum of it's parts or just a hotel with an odd looking sky?

Sorry about the contrary opinion. :(
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What are you even talking about?

Are you just responding for repsondings sake?
I believe this was an exercise in creating a long exposure like image without using a ND filter nor a small aperture.

Experimentation is a useful learning tool.
What are you even talking about?

Are you just responding for repsondings sake?
I am assuming that because motion blur is highly dependant on distance you experiments with blurring the clouds are meant to be applied specifically to clouds because your timings and intervals wouldn't have the same effect with closer subjects. That being so it seems like a very elaborate way to produce soft an blurred clouds when soft and blurred clouds are a natural and common sight. You can take shots of natural cloud formations that can look similar to what you've produced with a lot less effort. I'm not sure the casual observer might not just mistake it for a different type of cloud formation. It's a perfectly valid point as the clouds in your image resemble common mid-level cloud types to me. I'm not doubting your technical skill.

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