Long Exposure Daylight Photography

ND Filter


The photo above is of Twin Falls in north-central Arkansas, taken using a technique known as long exposure daylight photography. On this day, we decided to take a drive and try and shoot some waterfalls. There had been several weeks of rain in the area, so we were hopeful there would be plenty of runoff going over the falls in the area. One of the falls we intended to photograph was Twin Falls. The drive down to Twin Falls is down a steep mountain road that is not paved and is very rocky. Once you navigate the steep terrain, the road ends at a parking lot close to the Buffalo River at the Camp Orr Boy Scout Camp. From the parking area, it’s a short hike down the trail to the falls. The trail is marked with a sign, so it’s easy to find. You can check out our latest trip to Twin Falls including 360° photos on this page.

How I Got The Shot

Once we arrived at the falls, I set up my camera on a tripod. A sturdy tripod is a must for doing long exposure daylight photography. Any vibration will ruin the clarity of your shot. Next, I framed the shot and locked down the camera on the tripod. I focused for the final shot and set the lens to manual focus. Setting to manual focus prevents the camera from seeking to autofocus once you attach the filter. I suggest you do all these steps before attaching the neutral density filter because once you add the neutral density filter it will be extremely hard or impossible to focus through the viewfinder. Next, I screwed on a 3.0-1000x neutral density filter I have for long exposure shooting. This filter decreases your exposure by 10 stops of light.

Finally, I set my camera to the bulb setting and attached my intervalometer. You can read my review of the Shoot Intervalometer I use here. I programmed the intervalometer for 1 shot with a 60-second exposure. I used a Sigma 18-250 lens I use for travel photography to save weight. This lens has served me well when traveling or hiking where weight is a concern. If you want to go out exploring but only want to carry one lens, this is a great option.

The camera settings were f16, 60 sec, ISO 100 at 23 mm. I spent about 15 minutes doing ten different shots to be sure I had a well exposed and sharp image. I suggest you take the time to shoot multiple images because you don’t want to get home from a trip and find you have a bunch of out of focus images. This is especially important when you are out in the field and all you have is the LCD screen on your camera. The shot may look in focus on the LCD screen, but when you get home and look at it at 100% on your computer screen, you may be disappointed.

Another consideration is not to bump your focus while screwing the neutral density filter onto the lens. Use can use a small strip of gaffers tape to lock the focus if you are having issues with the focus. Since this was a shady area already, and the 3.0 neutral density filter blocks 10 stops of light, it became impossible to focus through the viewfinder once the filter was attached.

If you want to learn more and take your photography journey to the next level, you might like the Photography Master Class. This video course will definitely help you on your journey to be a better photographer.

Check out more great photography tips on our Photography Tips & Tricks page.