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2. My "on spot" work flow for better pictures


This short article will be about the most important "on spot" procedures that I do during my tours. I often have the feeling that some photographers are not carefully enough shooting the picture and mostly rely on mistakes to be fixed during editing. That is certainly not my approach. For every of my pictures I make sure that I get the best possible result straight out of the camera.


1: Histogram

A very underused tool (especially for long exposures) is the Histogram. To quickly remind you: The histogram shows the amount of pixels from Low-Key (black) to High-Key (white). I do not want to discuss this in detail, but I do recommend every photographer to know what it means for their photos. With the proper understanding of the histogram, mistakes like under-/ or overexposing are impossible. The monitors on digital cameras can be very deceiving. Pictures that might look properly exposed at first glance can be a bad awakening seeing them later in Lightroom/ Photoshop. A properly exposed Raw File can make editing easy. Relying on the sole "power of Raw files" is not the right way to go. I always expose to keep all details in the picture, meaning the histogram never really touches the right or left side. This gives the maximum flexibility in post-processing and goes well for high Key and low Key pictures. A properly exposed Raw file can be edited in any direction desired.


A perfectly exposed picture gives you all the freedom in your post processing. Here it fit the lighting conditions and I remain with all details, from dark to bright.

2: Sharpness 

Another underestimated tool is zooming in after taking a shot and checking for possible motion blur. While taking long exposures quiet anything can happen interfering with a sharp picture. Wind, rain, vibrations from people walking by (or yourself too) can negatively affect the picture causing motion blur. One of the most unsatisfying feelings can be thinking you shot a perfect picture and later finding out it is not sharp or contains motion blur. Often times it is necessary to be completely still after pressing the shutter (e.g. standing on soft ground, wooden ground, ...).


Motion blur that was caused by vibrations of the wooden structure my tripod was placed on. I would have been very disappointed finding this out at home. 

​3: How long to expose

For nature photography, most photographers long expose for having a long exposed sky or water. This might decide how long you have to long expose. Because I do not know what look you are going for, I can not give you a formula. There are a few charts in several Photography books giving numbers for how long to long expose. I never found them convincing. Because weather conditions like Wind etc. decide how fast clouds move or how uneven water is, makes it hard to give exact numbers. Some pictures might need a couple of minutes of exposure to get the desired look, some can be taken with maybe only 30sec. 30 seconds might also be the magical number for me, speaking of flat water. A couple of times ago, I decided to not expose less than 30 seconds anymore. Just as sharpness, the softness/ flatness of water can be checked with zooming in. When I started doing long exposures I often just exposed for 10-15 seconds, which sometimes was not even enough to make quiet water completely flat.


Early in my time with long exposures I lacked a strong filter making it possible to exposed longer. Only exposing this picture for 10 seconds lead to quiet rough looking water. Thankfully  that was quiet fitting for the picture.

4: Check the lens before and during exposure

A lot of my pictures are taken while it is raining and snowing, so I know how frustrating it can be having a lot of water drops on the lens. Especially during long exposures, the camera is exposed to any particles in the air. A lot of photographers are kind of afraid to wipe down the lens during the camera takes a long exposure, but it is a necessity during rain or snow. Just as it will not be visible in the finished picture when a bird flies through the frame, quickly wiping down the lens every couple of minutes or seconds will not be visible either. For example, exposing for 3 minutes and quickly wiping down the lens every 15–30 seconds will not cause an issue. But make sure you do not move the camera. Therefore, check sharpness or possible motion blur after the long exposure is finished. Keeping the water drops on the lens the complete time of the long exposure while cause irreparable damage to the picture.


Not wiping down the lens during a long exposure can lead to pictures, that can not be saved in post-processing.

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