How Long ?

“Long exposure” quite varies.

a second for waterfalls, 5 minutes during daytime  , both are called “long exposure photography”.

Is there the “best” longtime exposure for each subjects?

After all it totally depends on you, and what is your desire for your image by doing a longtime exposure.

They say there are no rule for the photography, but there is some theories for longtime-exposure photography.

Let me say some Knack depends on my experience.

Waterfall, Stream: 0.1 sec.-30sec.-1munutes

I love streams. My obsession for long exposure photography just started when I saw a silky waterfall image years ago.

After shooting hundreds images of waterfall and streams, I assumed that at most “1 minutes” is enough for a waterfall shooting, though, I rarely set 1 minutes on the timer. Usually “10 seconds” is so enough for capturing a silky water flow.


4sec. with a polarizer filter + ND8.
I needed to avoid the splash, and shortened the exposure time.

D800E,16-35 f4G ED VR(16mm),ƒ/13, 4s, ISO 100
Filters: PRO1D-ND16, C-PL


55 seconds.
For enhancing the reflection of the fresh green to the water, 1 minutes exposure really worked here. Too much exposure makes blow out the highlight in the water, but

NIKON D800E,70-200 vr2(70mm) ,f11,55s,ISO 100
Filters:C-PL, ND400

Autumn Whim

Akame valley, Nara.

You can see those vortex, when you are in the autumn creek.

D800E,PC-E NIKKOR 24mm f/3.5D ED,24mm,ƒ/8,30s,ISO 100

The difference between the exposure time.

1/2 sec., 8sec.,30sec.(Left to Right)


In this case you aim 30 seconds for the first time. If you feel the vortex was not enough, double to 60 seconds.

Daytime Longtime exposure:

60sec. - 3 min. - 10 min.

What effect do you want for  your image with doing a longtime-exposure?


60 seconds:

From my early works:

Souls of the Castle

I didn’t have a big stopper at that time, I set ND400( 9stops)+ND16(4stops).

However 13stops were not enough under the hot summer day,  I had to stop down to F16 for gaining 65 seconds. Usually around 60-seconds is not enough for the silky, creamy sky. On the contrary, sometime the remaining shape of clouds will make the images much unique beyond our expectation..

09/06/2013, 12:43 Osaka Castle.
D7000, 10-24mm (18mm)
ƒ/16,65 sec,ISO 100ND400+ND16


120 seconds


I stayed the hotel “Parc 55” during my first visit to San Fransisco three years ago.

I wished if there were some clouds in the bottom half of the sky, the image would be much balanced.  What do you think?


D7000,10-24,10mm,ƒ/13,120s,ISO 100



Art Tower Mito, Ibaraki, Mito art museuam

Clouds were moving  from bottom right to left up.

The 120 seconds’ exposure  made the clouds so smooth that gave the image a rich texture.
D7000,NIKKOR 10-24mm(10mm),ƒ/13,141s,ISO 100


Tips1 : diagonal line

I composed the tower and the clouds diagonally. Carefully observe the direction of the clouds for better composition.



5 minutes (300seconds)

Since “B&W fineart-style longtime exposure” pioneer Joel Tjintjelaar introduced the idea of “F8 and 5minutes’ “hyper longtime exposure, “5minutes” become the longtime exposure standard especially in cityscape, architecture genre.

In the typical sunny day, achieving “F8, 300 sec.” requires 16stops.

Previously stacking filters are most common usage for 16stops, however since Formatt-Hitech introduced “Firecrest 16”, which was so thin and neutral, hyper long exposure photography became the norm today.


D600,16-35mm f/4G ED VR, 16mmƒ/10, 336s,ISO 100, Firecrest 16

During the longtime exposure, a bird came and stayed for quite long time. It was just an accident but the bird made the image much unique. Thank you!!


Using an “exposure calculator” App really helps you.

There are so many apps for that purpose, and you can pick one  you love.

I’m an Android user, so I just recommend Exposure Calculator, which I rely on. It’s quite handy and free!

Usually, the calculation plus 20-30 seconds produces the better result.


 10 minutes (600 seconds)

5 minutes are enough for most situations, though some time you have to have over 600 seconds long exposure.  I’ve had several cases for around 10 minutes exposure so far.

Especially during the cloudy day with ultra wide angle lense tend to get longer exposures.

Since an ultra wide angle lens captures sky widely, having creamy clouds  start  to end requires much time.


D800E,14-24,14mm,ƒ/8,601s,ISO 100

The Land of Redemption by Yoshihiko Wada on



Calculated Chaos Part4: Singularity

D600,14-24,14mm,ƒ/10,603s,ISO 100


Calculated Chaos Part4: Singularity

Keep try

We can control the weather.
I had 6-times 5 minutes+ a 10minutes  longtime exposure at this time.

When I almost gave up, the ideal clouds came up. I often encounter these similar cases.

“Never Give UP” matters.

Tips3: Direction and speed (of the clouds)

To settle the composition, you have to observe carefully the clouds:

・”From and Where” the clouds go?

・Speed : Slow or Fast? If the clouds moving slowly, you need to have longer exposure.


Experiments give you “Experience”

I’ve had so many failures so far, and will have many. Some time I forgot to screw ND filters , after  checking the composition without any filters, and exposed 5minutes! Of  course the entire image got just a white out!!  But there are no failures in the photography, they were all just experiments.

Without experiments you never improve your photography.

I hope my experiences will help your next experiment. See you!



2 thoughts on “How Long ?

  1. Dear Yoshihiko Wada, Thanks a lot for this new post about LE. I’m now testing the new Lee Super Sttoper! One question: which software are you using to convert on B&W? Origato gozaimas!

    Melhores cumprimentos / Best Regards David Gomes

    No dia 14/08/2016, às 20:20, Yoshihiko Wada Photography BLOG escreveu:

    > >


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