Brooks Pro Tip: How to Approach Long-Duration Exposures (B/W Film Doesn't Have Noise!)

January 22, 2013 Christopher Broughton General, Photography, Brooks Pro Tips 2 Comments

image by Chris Broughton

From the very beginning of photography, long exposures have captured durations of time we cannot see.  One of Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre’s oldest existing still lifes took eight hours to capture.  Because of photography’s unique ability to distill durations within a single frame, it can compartmentalize durations of time, and this has always fascinated me.

With digital capture, longer exposures always result in an increase in noise.  Black and white film doesn’t have noise, and for long exposures, it is a wonderful tool to use, but film isn’t without its own unique characteristics when used for long exposures. Film’s reciprocity effect needs to be calculated for long exposures, but this is easy to remedy with the manufacturer’s long exposure correction chart.

To achieve longer exposures during daylight hours, I utilize neutral density filters to accomplish the desired duration of exposure.  I always carry 3, 6, 9, 10 and 12 stop  ND filters, which can be combined with my red, orange, yellow, yellow green or polarizing filters.

In the above image of the church I photographed in North Dakota, I combined a 10 stop neutral density filter with a polarizer to increase separation of the clouds and the sky during the long exposure.  The image was photographed with a Hasselblad on Kodak T-Max 100 film, and the actual exposure for the image was 2 minutes at f/22.

- Christopher Broughton, Professional Photography faculty

Photo ©Christopher Broughton


Jerry Sutherlin February 16, 2013 at 11:06 AM

As an old school (Brooks 75/91) I have become very confortable with digital in color images. There are nuances in BW silver images which can not be duplicated or simulated in digital, your work is stellar

ken weil January 23, 2013 at 03:08 PM

Oh horrible, just horrible. :) There is actually still something about it that is hard to do with digital. It might be the details, the look, the subtleties, that come from somebody such as yourself, that a person who has never shot film before can understand. Of course nowadays is so hard to tell the difference If the digital image was Not overdone.Subtleties my friend.

What do you think?