Shooting Surreal Looking Cityscapes with Long Exposure Using 10 Stop ND Filter at Pre-dusk

Shooting Surreal Looking Cityscapes with Long Exposure Using 10 Stop ND Filter at Pre-dusk

Hi there, hope you’re all doing well! Recently I got another guest post published at DPS (Digital Photography School). Please check out Tips for Shooting Out of Focus Cityscape Bokeh Images at Blue Hour if you haven’t yet. Today isn’t about out-of-focus cityscapes, though. It’s about 10 stop ND filter (revisiting again).

You may remember me dismissing the idea of purchasing 10 stop ND filter in these two posts I wrote earlier this year, Shooting Cityscapes at Blue Hour with 10 Stop ND Filter (and Why I Didn’t Buy the Filter) and Another Try Shooting Cityscapes at Blue Hour with 10 Stop ND Filter, concluding that 10 stop ND filter isn’t suitable to be used for cityscape photography at blue hour.

My Previous Attempts That Did Not Go Well

Firstly, I attempted a super long exposure shot (10+ minutes) leading up to the end of dusk, however the attempt turned out to be a disaster, as digital noise caused by long exposure was too unbearable (especially affecting buildings badly) even with in-camera Long exposure NR (noise reduction) turned on.

Next, I tried to halve the exposure time by opening up aperture to f/4 (rather than using my usual choice of f/11 or f/13), shooting with a little under 6 minutes exposure starting 10 minutes before the end of dusk. Then the image looked nothing different from those shot with 6 stop ND filter attached (using f/11-13), somewhat defeating the purpose of shooting with 10 stop ND filter.

Shooting Around Sunset Time Using 10 Stop ND Filter

After those failed attempts, I forgot about 10 stop ND filter for sometime, but have recently started trying something a little different by shooting earlier than sunset time. In order to keep long exposure noise at bay, I’m using a base shutter speed of 1/4 or 1/3 second which is extended to 256 and 341 seconds respectively with 10 stop ND filter attached. These are what I got.

Singapore Skyline from Esplanade
Singapore Skyline with Merlion

First photo: 18mm, f/8, 258 seconds (based shutter speed of 1/4 second, with 10 stop ND filter attached), ISO 100, shot 3 minutes before sunset.
Second photo: 18mm, f/7.1, 259 seconds (based shutter speed of 1/4 second, with 10 stop ND filter attached), ISO 100, shot 5 minutes before sunset.

Having 3 Stop, 6 Stop and 10 Stop ND Filters Equips Me for Different Scenarios Throughout Blue Hour

I’ve kind of enjoyed shooting these surreal looking photos that bring something different to my Gallery Page. How surreal a photo will look depends on weather, especially the amount of clouds, I guess. For my typical blue hour photos, I’d always prefer cloudless clear sky for the best light, but for these pre-dusk long exposure photos, having clouds rushing across the sky helps enhance the surreal atmosphere.

Last but not least, I must report that I’ve finally purchased B+W 77mm ND 3.0-1,000X with Single Coating (110) (10 stop ND filter)! Having 3 stop, 6 stop and this 10 stop ND filters, I feel I’m fully equipped for different scenarios throughout sunset and dusk (a.k.a. blue hour) now.

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