Using a slow shutter speed allows you to blur out subjects such as moving people or cars, and sometimes even make them disappear from the photo. This makes your photos more impactful, and is highly effective even for shooting natural landscapes. Follow me as I try out the D750 and fully utilise its extremely beautiful image quality. (Reported by: Koji Ueda)
I took a shot of the ocean at different shutter speeds. If a fast shutter speed is used, the shape of the waves is properly captured. However, slowing down the shutter speed would blur the moving waves, which then overlap, resulting in the water surface taking on a smooth appearance.
Using a slow shutter speed in such a way enables you to take impressive photos that look different from the scene that you see before you. You may be shooting in the daytime, but if you use a tripod and set a narrow aperture (such as f/16 or f/22), you should be able to achieve a shutter speed as slow as around 10 seconds.
What happens if you slow down the shutter speed even more? I took shots with exposures of 57 seconds and 165 seconds at the same location as my very first image above. Compared to the image taken with a 13-second exposure, the wave details have been further obscured, and the ocean looks even smoother as a result.
When using exposures of around 1 to 3 minutes, it can get rather difficult to control the light intensity with the aperture alone, so you would most likely need to attach a neutral density (ND) filter onto your lens. I would recommend denser filters such as the ND400 and ND1000.
When using a slow shutter to shoot natural landscapes, a rule of thumb would be to use a shutter speed of 30 seconds. This is because changes in the flow of clouds or water are more noticeable at up to 30 seconds.
If you are seeking to capture changes over a period of more than 30 seconds, I would recommend using an ND filter to slow down the shutter speed. There are several types of ND filters available, each classified based on its dimming effect. They reduce the intensity of light that enters the lens, and enable you to obtain the right exposure even at slower shutter speeds. I would recommend carrying some filters along with you if you intend to carry out slow shutter photography in the daytime.
For modes such as shutter-priority auto, the shutter speed is limited to a maximum of 30 seconds. If you want even slower speeds, try using bulb exposure. In bulb exposure, the shutter remains open while the shutter button is pressed down. You can use bulb exposure by setting the shooting mode to M (Manual), and turning the main command dial to adjust the shutter speed towards the slow end until "bulb" appears.
When using bulb exposure, you need to set the shutter speed yourself. I usually take the following steps:
For example, when shooting at f/11 and ISO 100 in Mode A, let's assume the shutter speed was 1/15 sec. Ultimately, if you want to use a 1 minute slow shutter for your exposure, a correction of about 10 stops will be required. By using an ND1000 filter, which enables a correction of 10 stops, an exposure of around 1 minute is possible.
There are smartphone apps and simple calculation charts available to help you save on the hassle of making such calculations yourself. When using bulb exposure, the shutter remains open while the shutter button is pressed down. Hence, remote release cords can come in very handy for bulb exposure as they have a feature that locks the shutter button while it is pressed down.
Nikon's remote cord (MC-DC2) lets you lock the shutter button while it is pressed down. This is essential for bulb exposure because having the ability to perform shutter operations remotely means that camera shake can be minimized. The cable length is approximately 1m.
What kind of landscape photographs do professional photographers actually produce using a slow shutter speed? Here are some can learn from them to incorporate slow shutter effects more effectively into your photos:
AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED/ FL: 35mm/ Manual exposure (f/5.6, 120.9 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB:Direct sunlight
The lake’s surface was calm, but an exposure of around 2 minutes resulted in a surface that appeared smoother than what was observed in person. In natural landscapes where there is little movement, as in this case, composition is important. If you use a wide-angle lens, the sky and lake surface occupy a large part of the image, which can easily make the photo appear too ordinary. In such cases, think of what kind of finish you can produce using the slow shutter when you compose the photo. Place subjects such as a tree in the example, to give the composition some balance and as well as prevent the entire image from looking too dull and simple.
AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED/ FL: 35mm/ Manual exposure (f/2.8, 256.6 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Direct sunlight
Slow-shutter shots of natural landscapes work well with a monochrome effect. Particularly when shooting the surface of a lake with cloudy skies overhead, such photos tend to appear very generic when shot in colour. In such cases, you can give your photos an impressive finish by shooting in monochrome, which allows you to depict the scene in light and shadow.
Born in Hiroshima in 1982. He studied in San Francisco, USA, and produced works for TV programmes, commercials, short films, and so on. He developed an interest in portrait photography after purchasing a DSLR camera, and aimed to become a professional photographer. After returning to Japan he started working as a professional photographer. He currently contributes to digital camera magazines as well as other magazines and websites.