Long Exposure Photography – A One Shot Wonder In Brighton

Brighton Pier long exposure
Brighton Pier – Tim Mannakee

I was based in Brighton over the Christmas period and managed to grab a few minutes in between festivities to photograph the old West Pier. I’d seen images of the pier but am not familiar with Brighton so didn’t really know what to expect. Armed with my Canon 5DSr and 16-35mm lens, my sturdy Gitzo tripod and a selection of ND Lee filters, I walked along the beach until I found a composition that I liked.

I’d checked the tides and knew that it would be high tide at 3pm. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great over the Christmas period, as some of you may have noticed, and the combination of drizzle and wind meant I could only shoot the pier and posts facing East.

With my back to the wind, it was possible to avoid getting any rain on the lens. As the exposure needed to be at least 2 minutes to smooth out the water and create an ethereal, misty look, I took a test exposure and chose a 10 stop big stopper.

I set up making sure the horizon was level and the gaps between the posts was equal and spacing between them and the pier was uniform. The 2 minute exposure created a pleasing softness around the base of the posts almost like cotton wool. There were some waves but the lengthy exposure smoothed them out.

I set the focus ring to manual and focussed on the middle posts with the aperture set at F11. The ISO was at 100. I had just enough time to take one single exposure before the wind picked up. Fortunately one was enough.

In post production I removed the blue cast that is produced by the big stopper and then processed a few different versions both in colour and black and white. I chose 2 different formats, one the original 3×2 format and the second 16×9 format. I prefer the black and white 16×9 version but the other images are also strong.

This is officially the shortest shoot I’ve ever had, lasting 3 minutes in all. However, careful planning, research and good choice of weather conditions meant that 3 minutes was all I needed to produce a wonderful, long exposure image of this somewhat dilapidated icon of the Brighton seafront.

If you’d like to practise this technique, then join me this spring in Brittany or on the Atlantic Coast in France. I promise you’ll get a lot more than 3 minutes to take a photo!!

Tim Mannakee 

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