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Photography Equipment for Long Exposure Shots: What You Really Need

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Related course: Wow Factor Photography

Let’s talk about what essential photography equipment you will need to create long exposure photography. In this article we’ll take you through everything from the most important to the unexpected.
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Camera

Try not to focus too much on the brand and on any small feature or lack of it of a certain camera body.
A landscape photographer should keep in mind two characteristics. The first feature to look at is the sensor’s dynamic range, the second is to make sure the body is weather sealed.
Dynamic range is the ability of the sensor to register information. It shows you how much data you will get in the shadows and in the highlights.
Weather sealing ensures that the body of the camera can resist hard conditions such as water, dust, sand and humidity.

Lens

When we talk about lenses and landscape photography, we tend to think of super wide lenses.
It is a common idea that the only lens for a landscape photographer is something with a focal length from 15 to 20mm.
In fact, it comes down to personal preference. At first, I was fascinated by these focal lengths. But now I shoot all my landscape with a 24mm wide angle lens.
A wide angle lens will often bring every element into your compositions. This includes those elements that you would like to remove because they only create trouble.
As for camera bodies it is important that your lenses resist the elements. Always look for weather sealed lenses.

Tripod

You cannot do long exposure landscape photography without a tripod. So you have to start looking for the tripod that best suits your needs. Here are some helpful options.
It must be stable and sturdy, so it can absorb vibrations.
I love seascape long exposure photography and I usually put my tripod right in the water or near the incoming waves. In this scenario, the salt in the sea water is the first enemy of your photography equipment. It will corrode the tripods aluminium legs or the closing system of the sections.
The solution is a sturdy carbon fibre tripod. Yes, I know, it’s not a cheap solution.
Image of a camera and tripod set up on coastal rocks for long exposure photography. Photography equipment.

Remote Shutter

This small tool is very cheap and very useful. If you want to get perfect crisps shots you’ll need it as part of your long exposure photography equipment.
You can find many options on the market, from simple cable ones to wireless ones you can control from your phone.
I prefer the good old-fashioned and very simple remote shutter with cable: it does not need a battery, it costs very little, and it gets the job done.
Image of a remote shutter camera accessory for long exposure photography. Photography equipment.

CPL

The polariser is one of those filters that every landscape photographer should have as part of their photography equipment. Its main effect is to remove reflections from non-metallic surfaces.
So it will remove glares from the tree’s leaves and it will remove the reflections on water letting you to see underneath the surface. And it saturates the colours.
One thing to note is that the CPL lowers the light that enters the lens.

Close up image of a NiSi v5 CPL polariser filter for long exposure photography. Photography equipment
NiSi v5 CPL

GND Filters

Graduated Neutral Density filters are glass plates with a completely transparent first part and another where they act as an ND filter. The part that acts as an ND filter can absorb 1, 2, 3, up to 6 stops of light.
The main feature of GND filters is the edge of the transition from the transparent part to the dark one. You can find a Hard, Medium, Soft or Reverse transition.
The Hard transition is made by a sharp line that divides the two parts. This transition is useful when you have a straight line that divides the sky from the rest of the scene. It is useful at sea with the line of the horizon.
The Soft transition is used when the line that divides light and dark areas is not clear. For example when you photograph mountains.
The Medium is a middle way from the two before. It is my favourite one because most of the time, I’ll have something in my pictures that goes over the horizon line but not in a way that a Soft can be handy.
The Reverse transition are a Hard filter but with the darkest part on the middle line of the plates fading to the edge.
I use the 100mm slot-in filters with a dedicated holder by Nisi.

Close up image of 2 NiSi ND filters for long exposure photography. photography equipment
On the left my NiSi 3 stop Hard edge GND filter
On the right my NiSi 3 stop Medium edge GND filter

ND Filters

The undisputed kings of long exposure photography are the ND filters. These filters will let you slow down the shutter speed so they are a completely blackened plate of glass.
Without ND filters and under normal conditions, it may be impossible to take long exposure photography.
These vary from clear 1 stop to very dark 20-stop glasses.

Close up image of a Nisi 6 stop ND filter for long exposure photography. Photography equipment
My Nisi 6 stop ND filter
Close up image of a Nisi 10 stop ND filter for long exposure photography. Photography equipment
My Nisi 10 stop ND filter

 

Spare Batteries

It is very likely that you will find yourself in remote places. Better to have more than one spare battery on you. And keep in mind that the cold has a negative effect on battery life.
I always go out shooting with a full recharged battery in the camera and at least two batteries in the backpack.
This is a strong photography equipment lesson learnt on the field: after hours of driving and walking I was on location with a single battery that died after ten minutes.

Cleaning Cloths

I have thousands of these. In every zip or pocket of my backpack and bag. There is nothing worse than going home and finding all your photos ruined by stray drops of water.
To avoid having to throw away your well-composed photograph, you should always keep your lenses and filters clean. It is very easy to get lenses dirty when you are in the field.
This is also very annoying to resolve in post production if not almost impossible. Another lesson I learnt the hard way.

Bubble Level

Even if modern cameras have an integrated digital level I still prefer the old-fashioned analogue bubble to mount on a hot shoe.
With this I can better adjust the positioning of my camera for long exposure.

Image of a camera on tripod with an old fashioned bubble level for long exposure photography. Photography equipment
My old-fashioned bubble level

Headlamp

You will be walking about in the dark before dawn or after sunset. Having a light source beyond your smartphone is always a good idea.
It’ll keep you from falling off cliffs while doing ocean photography or help you find all your photography equipment in your camera bag.
And now that you’ve got all the photography equipment you need, check out our article on how to shoot some amazing long exposure landscapes!

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