Fine Art Long Exposure Photography in One Night

Setting your camera for long exposures can help capture unique pictures that you wouldn’t get otherwise. However, when you are allowing that much light into your camera, you have to compensate for it in other ways. One way to do that, is to take pictures at night. Here are some example of different long exposure shots I got all in one night in Victor, Idaho on a photography retreat.

Astro Photography with green water in the foreground

Nikon D3400, 18 mm focal length, iso 1600, 20″, f/3.5, 9 p.m. Edited with Abobe Photoshop.

This image was actually taken on a night with a full moon. As a result, when it was left open for 20 seconds, you can see the trees along the pond without having to light them up with any ambient light. I did have the help of someone else flashlight that fell into the pond to capture the green glow of the algae in the water.

I used my Nikon D3400 with a 18 mm focal length for this shot. Before we went over the pond, I set my focus from 30 feet away and then set it on manual to get the stars sharp. Because there was so much light from the moon they are faint but you can still clearly see the stars but I couldn’t set my iso any higher than 1600, which really is as high as I ever like to go anyways.

Moving clouds and bright stars

Nikon D3400, 18 mm focal length, iso 1600, 15″, f/4.5, 1 a.m. Edited with Abobe Photoshop.

Later that same night, I took some more pictures over by the lodge we were staying at. At that point some clouds had started to move in so you can see their movement as the shutter was left open. Although it was 1 a.m. I had to darken the foreground a bit in photoshop since it was so bright from the moon.


Nikon D3400, 18 mm focal length, iso 200, 20″, f/3.5, Edited with Abobe Photoshop.

Using a 20 second long exposure for this shot, I was able to capture the movement of a spinning bike tire that was lined in lights as Benjamin Greenwood walked with it to the back of the barn. I later changed the color of the yellow lights to purple-pink using the Selective Color adjustment layer in Adobe Photoshop.

For more like this, go to Alli Brock’s “Cool Long Exposures at Night.”

Cowgirl Relaxing in chair on the porch at night

Nikon D3400, 26 mm focal length, iso 200, 15″, f/16, 8:30 p.m. Edited with Abobe Photoshop.

One unique way to use long exposures at night, is to use a technique called light painting that on of my mentors, Caryn Esplin taught me. The style was originally taught to her by Dave Black, an incredible sports photographer. Light painting requires a tripod since it is always a longer exposure as well as a darker location. Because it is in a dark location, only the things that you then light up using speed lights or flashlights will show up. This means that you can even be walking in front of the camera to light thing up close without seeing you. While working as a team, it is important not to let any of the light hit the other person, unless you want them to show up.


I am actually acting as the model in these images, which can be a little tricky. Luckily, since we were working as a team on this project, I would set my camera up and then had one of my team press the shutter. One of the hardest things for these shots was holding still. If you have a person in your light painting, it is important to paint them with the light first or last and be careful not to get any other light on them because it is almost impossible not to move, trust me.

For more tips on how to take long exposure photography at night, go to Michael Gabriel’s “8 Quick Tips for Long Exposure Photography.”

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