Long Exposure and Windy Conditions

Do you find yourself packing it in when conditions aren’t optimal? Or do you see difficult conditions as a personal challenge?

After shooting the sunset at Logan Pass in Glacier National Park, I took one last shot. The light was fading fast and it was awfully windy – but those conditions would work in my favor if I could create the image I wanted.

So, I set up my tripod low to the ground, framing my shot so that I was really close to the pretty purple and yellow flowers that dotted the hillside. I guessed that I needed about fifteen seconds to get the effect I wanted, so I chose my camera settings accordingly… f/11, 15 seconds, ISO 100). I made sure my ND Grad filter was adjusted appropriately to help even out the exposure. And then I stood back and waited while my shutter was open.

The fading light meant I needed that long shutter speed – and the high winds ensured that a long shutter speed would blur anything that moved while the shutter was open. Fifteen seconds was just right to blur the colorful flowers, and get a bit of motion in the clouds. My concern was that I’d end up with too much blur… and I wanted to be sure that you can tell those are flowers in the foreground. My shutter speed selection ended up being just right. Just enough blur to produce an interesting effect – and not so much that you can’t tell they are flowers. To me, the scene feels like something out of a story book.

Later, in Photoshop, I made some very basic adjustments. I checked my color balance to ensure that the scene looked natural, adjusted the contrast to bring out the rich colors and tones in the image. I used my Wacom tablet to draw a quick selection for the foreground and create a curves adjustment layer mask to brighten the foreground just slightly.

I always enjoy playing with the conditions I have at hand. Rather than seeing the wind as an obstacle – or the fading light as a problem – why not take those conditions and turn them into tools… something you can use to create something unexpected? Rise to the challenge!

About Author Varina Patel

There is nothing more remarkable to me than the power of nature. It is both cataclysmic and subtle. Slow and continuous erosion by water and wind can create landscapes every bit as astonishing as those shaped by catastrophic events – and minuscule details can be as breathtaking as grand vistas that stretch from one horizon to the other. Nature is incredibly diverse. Burning desert sands and mossy riverbanks… Brilliant sunbeams and fading alpenglow… Silent snowfall and raging summer storms… Each offers a unique opportunity. I am irresistibly drawn to the challenge of finding my next photograph, and mastering the skills required to capture it effectively.

  • richard boe

    I have been looking for someone covering this very subject for months. By the way I have followed you and your husband Jay for months as well. Truly inspiring work for a semi novice as myself. Wind affects every shot we take from lots of wind to dead calm and we can use that. You did beautifully. Several months ago I was wondering around on a rainy day and found a old 55 gallon steel drum turned up on end. Since the flat end was up a puddle of water had accumulated. The drum itself was rusty and old, which I considered an improvement because of all the color created by the rust. There was a strong wind that day as well and as I wondered by this little puddle I noticed the wind blowing ripples. With the cloudy sky reflecting off the water, the rusty oranges, browns and reds, the absolute clarity of the water the colors were reflecting in the ripples sort of like a rainbow. I wondered around in circles around that drum for five minutes trying to get the correct angle and lighting but I finally got a series of shots showing the wind rippling this small puddle. My problem is since the water is so shallow, certainly less than an inch, the colors of the rust are overpowering the highlights of the ripples. That ruins the depth, texture. I want people to see the colors but also the natural waves. Do you think it’s just a simple matter of contrast or do you think pp and preserve the hilights later? Just, what do you think. I can post one if you would like. Thanks for your advice and continuing to share your vision of the world.

    • Without the image, it’s very difficult to offer advice! Feel free to post a llink… It sounds like a neat image! Thanks for your kind words!

  • Very nice effect. Thanks for the tip and challenge!