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Create a fine art HDR sea scape from start to finish

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Create a fine art HDR sea scape from start to finish


Piers and jetties make wonderful subjects for long-exposure photography. It’s something about the lines leading you through the image and the perspective, combined with the poetic nature of an open body of water. But they aren’t always easy to shoot correctly, and sometimes you’ll need to shoot multiple exposures to get the result just right.

In this video, Gary Gough walks us through a shoot in Hartlepool, UK of the dilapidated skeleton of an old pier. He shows us how he shoots it and then edits it to create a beautiful fine art HDR seascape.

First Gary walks us through refining his composition. It’s great to hear his train of thought as he makes adjustments. Gary admits that he’s only using the polariser to reduce the amount of light by around 1 stop rather than using it for the polarising of the water. In this case, I might prefer to use an ND filter but maybe he just prefers the polariser. Either way, it does a similar job.

He begins with a shutter speed of around 1/8 second. He then takes two more images 1 stop brighter, and then 2 stops brighter, only by changing the shutter speed to retain consistency in depth of field. For the longer exposures, Gary uses a graduated ND filter to stop the sky from blowing out. The main aim is to capture as much detail under the pier as possible.

The final image is a 2-minute exposure to capture a smooth water effect on the sea, accomplished with the addition of another ND filter.

In post all that’s left to do is to combine the 4 different images, using the lighter exposures to create definition in the underside of the pier and keeping the long smooth surface of the water plus detail in the sea.

Once you’ve done it several times it’s actually a very straightforward workflow which creates beautiful timeless images.

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