Long exposure at Lake Eola

Deborah Sandidge and Jason Odell led a sunset photo walk around Lake Eola in downtown Orland on Friday evening.  I’ve followed their work online and wanted to meet them, so I signed up.  Conditions weren’t the best for sunset photography, but I still had a good time.  I used a neutral density filter to make several long exposure photos and I thought I’d walk you through my process.  First of all, here’s the final version:

Lake Eola - Orlando, Florida
Lake Eola – Orlando, Florida.  Long exposure, cloudy, sunset. You can click on this image to see a larger version on Flickr.

And here’s the initial version of this photo:

-_D8C7377- Ed Rosack

f/8, 25 seconds; after initial adjustments in Lightroom.

Here are the steps I went through to get to the final version:  First, I corrected the distortion to make the buildings vertical in Lightroom.  Then I edited it in Photoshop.  I used content aware fill to finish the vertical distortion fix, then added a layer and masked out noise from darker areas.  Finally, I ran the single image through Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 to enhance color, contrast and details.  Back in Light room again, I finalized exposure, contrast and white balance and applied sharpening and a small amount of vignette.  I like how it came out.
For comparison purposes, here’s a 1/20 second exposure of the same scene.

-_D8C7376- Ed Rosack

f/8, 1/20th second; Same initial adjustments as the version above.

Looking at the long exposure version, the main differences I see are:  the smooth sheen on the water surface, the much more prominent tree shadow in the lower right, and the radial motion blurring in the clouds.  The tree shadow surprised me the most.  In the short exposure version, the water ripples break up the shadow.  They don’t in the long exposure version, which makes the shadow much more interesting.

There are lot of upsides to long exposure photography and a few downsides.  For instance, since the wind was blowing so hard on Friday, some of the smaller tree branches are a little blurry.  Also, when you use very dense neutral density filters, your camera probably won’t auto expose or auto focus correctly, so you’ll have to take care of those things on your own.  And some of these filters can also add a color cast to your photos, so you may need to be careful with your color balance.  But all in all, it’s a great technique to have in your bag of tricks.  Have you tried it yet?  Why not?

You can see more photos from Lake Eola in this set on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

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