Or, if your are thrown off the horse, climb back on!
I went out tonight at sunset to the Pawleys Island Pier to try some more very long exposures with the Fuji X-E1. I used the new 18-55mm lens with a B+W 6 stop ND filter until it got really dark then I shifted to just the lens.
It was just perfect out tonight. A few clouds in the sky, medium wind and very little blowing sand in the air. I setup with an angle on the pier with the moon behind my back. I got there early enough to setup and pre-focus.
I used my Sekonic L758DR light meter with 6 stops of exposure compensation dialed in for the ND filter and started shooting. In failing light, the hand held spot meter makes exposures easy, fast and perfect! I simply aimed the 1 degree spot at the gray/purple band of clouds right next to the horizon and took my meter reading from that. Then I moved it from Zone 5 to Zone 6 or 1 stop brighter. The meter gave me 15 seconds of shutter speed and f/22 so I simply added 1 more stop by changing the shutter speed to 30 seconds! Very easy and by using the Zone system when thinking about exposure it can fast become second nature.
The first 10 min or so I was only able to get 30 second exposures but only at f/22. I did have a 10 stop ND filter in the bag but I decided to just stay with the 6 stop. Even at 30 seconds, they were still quite pleasing! I really like the Time mode on the X-E1 as it makes setup easy, but the Bulb mode is very well thought out. It gives a nice count up timer on the LCD screen and makes for perfect exposure!
Even checking the focus after it gets too dark to see is easy with the X-E1. Place the camera into manual focus mode place one of the pier lights into the middle of the focus square and push the jog dial straight in. This will cause the camera to magnify what is inside of the cameras focus box. You then go back and forth with the lens focus ring till you get the smallest sharpest light! All done.
As it got darker I was forced to re meter the scene again and again. For this next shot the light had faded another entire stop and forced me to again double the shutter speed to compensate for the changing conditions and still allow me to capture the clouds on the horizon at Zone 6!
Things start to get very complicated and fast as the sun falls below the horizon. The next image was metered at 140 seconds but during that exposure, the light dropped another 2 stops! so I split the difference and increased the exposure by keeping the shutter open another stop or 280 seconds. this worked quite well and gave a very pleasing exposure! Please keep in mind that this image was taken after the sun was totally gone and it was quite dark out but with enough light left to give a good exposure of the clouds and pier. You can tell that this image was taken in very low light because the pier lamp reflections are prominent in the picture. Here is that image:
Remember, for every minute of exposure the camera requires a minute of noise reduction. So for the above exposure the total time of forced waiting was 560 seconds! So for this last image a lot of time passed while I waited and it was TOTALLY dark out now. The moon gave very little light but the lights on the pier worked very well and put some interesting colors on the waters surface!
Ok for this last image there is ZERO light left in the sky. The stars are very bright and fill the sky with a wonderful pattern. But, the pier lights are so bright that they pollute the image and wash out the sky blocking the stars in the image. Another complication is that it is just too dark out now to need the ND filter. So I removed it and adjusted the meter so that the compensation is now set to zero. The reading suggested was 425 seconds at f/8. Why f/8? Well I desired the sharpest image possible so I locked the meter to that. I still needed to move the lower sky 1 stop brighter, you know from Zone 5 to Zone 6. This made it necessary to move the shutter speed from 425 seconds to 850 seconds (14 minutes) and now I am ready to shoot. So lets look at this last shot, 850 seconds of exposure then 850 seconds of in camera noise reduction. So I have to wait for 28 minutes from the start of the exposure until the image popped up on the LCD panel!
Here is the final image of the evening, a 14 minute exposure at f/8. Yes the pier light reflections close to the pier/water intersection is a little harsh but still, this demonstrates exactly what you can achieve by thing long exposure, but more importantly, it shows what the Fuji X-E1 is capable of capturing with a little bit of creative thinking!