Skip to main content

Landscape Photography

Lesson 18 of 27

Long Exposures

Marc Muench

Landscape Photography

Marc Muench

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

18. Long Exposures
Long exposures are a landscape photography favorite. Determine what gear you need, how long to make the exposure, and tricks to shooting with slow shutter speeds.

Lesson Info

Long Exposures

The first one I wanna talk about is something that's a lot of fun and it's long exposures with the ND filter because I've talked about that and why I carry it. And then, I have a trick called dragging it, in-camera, double exposure, polarizer flip. I'll explain that one, time-bracketing and then, time-lapse. So, these are all the things that I enjoy doing sometimes on occasion when I see the moment occur. The first one is the ten stop ND filter. This is something that's a lot of fun during the middle of the day when you have some clouds moving, you want to capture them in a blurred sort of ethereal essence, if you will. The only way to do this in the middle of the day is to use this ten stop filter. I usually use 30 seconds, depending on how fast those clouds are moving and in order to get to that exposure, you do have to stop down still, depending on your ISO and your lens, but essentially, those are the things you're going to have to do. On a Nikon, you do have to cover the camera in...

some situations, especially the viewfinder. So, I call it batten down the hatch, but basically, you have to close the viewfinder, the little flap on the viewfinder on a Nikon, because it does leak light through the viewfinder. The Canons that I use, the last one I used was a 1DS mark three. It was not leaking light when I did this. You just have to check though. It becomes quite apparent when you get the picture back. Sometimes it's obvious, even on the LED on the back of the camera, but it certainly will be obvious when you get back in Lightroom that there's a light leak and that's what it looks like. So, depending on your camera and the length of that exposure and if there's direct sun hitting the camera body, you might even have to cover it with something. I know some folks that actually do that and they take four to ten minute exposures in the middle of the day and, during that time, sun leaks in even through the edges of the sensor and so forth, so to confirm that they're going to get the darkest exposure they can, they literally cover it with a dark bag or tape and everything possible to get it dark. All right, so, to open up the aperture to preview in live view, that's something that some cameras are better at than others, but once you put this ND filter on, you cannot see through to compose it in live view. You can't even see through in the viewfinder. It's just black and so, the trick is, at least on the Nikon D810, you take the aperture and you open it all the way up to F4 or 2-8, depending on your lens and then, you'll be able to see through the ND. You can compose, focus, and everything else. So, you don't have to unscrew it. Compose and then, put it back on. Okay. The other time you can do this, just to kind of reiterate this, is at night. Obviously, you don't need an ND, so it's a good fun time if you don't wanna buy and ND filter, but you get the same effect. But, this is a good example. I used it, I did a long exposure here of the Buachaille in Scotland and so, it's a wonderful place where these clouds were just coming up out of the top of the mountain like tornadoes and so, it made a good effect to give them some motion. Same thing here, but this time the clouds are so far away and it's only about a 20 second exposure, but what happens is the water gets misty, but you also start getting some interesting effect where, during part of that exposure, it's actually capturing light in many different areas and exaggerating the colors of what that reflection would be and so, you often times get things that you wouldn't see with your eyes and that's what's a lot of fun about practicing with long time exposures. Okay, the next one is dragging it. This is nothing other than taking the camera and moving it up and down to get these wonderful abstract compositions in the forest. You can see here, this is the woods with lots of tree trunks and some light through the tree trunks. You have to have some kind of contrast to make this work and when you're doing it, I'm just showing a bunch of little examples here, each one is sort of under a controlled environment. You're picking out a spot where you think you're going to get the shot, but in the end it's all about your skills of honing in your timing of starting the exposure at a certain spot and moving the camera down to finish it or opposite, depending on where the contrast is. You can also do anything you want with your hands. You can move and shake and go sideways. If there's an earthquake, you might get lucky, get a different type of shot all together. So, this is completely unscientific. You might want to do some yoga while you're doing it, whatever it takes, it's something to have fun with and the only requirement is that you find a place with some good contrast and you get your settings right. So, a couple of things on settings. I've found that half a second works really well. Not that other shutter times won't, but, especially if you're starting out, half a second gives you time to move the camera enough to get that nice blur. In this case, it was ISO 72. A 72 millimeter lens is great because what you're trying to do is you're trying to isolate a very specific area in the forest, at least in this situation, and if you have a wide focal length, then you're going to get the sky, maybe some ground, and the rest of the scene like that isn't going to look as good as typically as the trunks and the pattern of those vertical lines. This one took a little skill, I mean, luck. Basically, I was holding the camera, fired too soon, and captured, I guess, a quarter of a second before I started moving. I love it, but I can't say I did it on purpose, so that's the kind of thing that you want to have fun with. Same thing here. It looks a little bit like the screen from the matrix. What makes that is the contrast of colors, so it's something else to think when you think about when you're looking for places to practice this, is not only contrast of the light and the trees, but also color and this is a lot of fun to do in the city. The city lights at night. Might be something to do tonight. And that's the final image with the aspect ratio that I chose. It's not only for forests. You can do this anywhere. Like I said, in the city. In this case, this one's a little different. We were in a jeep, driving, and zebras were walking by us and so, I'm moving, the camera's moving, the zebras are moving, everything is moving, so it is a lot of fun. You can just use enough of your imagination to figure out where the zebra is and the head and so, that's really the key in a lot of this abstract photography is that you really want to have just enough information there so that, at least in my opinion, people know kind of what they're looking at. If you go too long, like two seconds or four seconds and it's a blur, it's a different kind of picture, so this is the way I like to see it and we practiced this out in the field as well. Another creative trick, especially in the woods like this is the long exposure, what I call camera drag. It's nothing other than taking the camera during the exposure and moving it, but the key is to move it in just a nice, smooth manner so you get these nice stripes. There's many variations, of course, to how you can move it. You can shake it and you can move it, so you pick, but it's a lot of fun, takes a lot of time to get just the right one because it's experimental. The settings on the camera are, especially if it's the first time you've done it, I recommend a half a second. You can use your aperture to stop all the way down and your ISO to go up or down because, remember, when you move everything, you don't have to worry about focus. You don't have to worry about refraction ruining your picture, right? It's all out of focus, it's moving. So, one of the things that does help is that you find a subject with contrast because that contrast is gonna give some definition in the shapes of the stripes and so, I've picked this spot because we have this nice back lighting or rim lighting on the tree trunks with the moss glowing. Typically, you don't wanna drag from a bright lit sky down in to the dark woods. So, what I'm going to do is I'm going to concentrate my drag right in the middle of those trunks, so that I don't include the sky and I go down to the base of the trees. I loosen the tripod head just so it's nice and easy to move and you can see I'm just moving it up and down over the course of the exposure. Take a sneak peak at what I did. I'm getting some nice stripes. I'm going to actually go a little wider on the focal length and a little faster on the drag and I might make it crooked. Okay, so, there's a couple variations with the back lighting. I'm also going to try this tree trunk over here 'cuz it's kind of nice. This one offers me a little more height in the amount of area of dark trees behind my main subject, so I can move it quite a bit more than the other one. Take a sneak peak at that. Yeah, I do like that one better. (camera snapping) And, you really don't have to look through the trigger. After a while, you'll just get used to playing it. I'll do a couple different focal lengths. All right. Drag away. Okay. So, have fun with that one. I do want to correct myself on one point in there though. I said you don't have to worry about focus. Well, it does matter. I'm not sure what I was stepping on at the moment. It was probably the wrong words, but whatever it was, you do want to get that tree trunk in focus because that's going to matter to give you some sharp detail, so maybe I was thinking of not getting it critically focused, but in the end, I just wanna make sure you get that correction. You do wanna get a nice focus on that tree trunk before you start dragging it. So, I think, in the end, refraction is not going to matter much because you're moving it and you're getting a lot of blurred information or subject matter anyways. Okay, the next one is in-camera double exposure. This one's a lot of fun because you get to do something that we used to do in the old days with film where we would take a picture and we would expose it twice and you'd always have to guess, especially when you were doing this with the moon, that was a typical scenario and you'd take one picture of the moon with the right aperture and the right exposure and then, you'd go somewhere else, travel the next day, and then, you'd take another picture of something else with the same sheet of film, process it, and hope that you got lucky. But, in this case, it's a little different and we can use a similar situation in the woods where you're going to actually take one shot in focus and then, you're going to rack the focus so that it's out so that you get this effect when combined of this nice, soft, blurry data behind it, combined with the sharp detail. Again, I think it works real well in the woods. That's where we practiced it. In a forest like this, is to use the in-camera double exposure and, in this case, the creative part is changing the focus point between one picture and the next, so it's going to blend one sharp picture with one blurry picture. It's easier if you set this up to do the sharp picture first. So, you get everything in focus, you activate the double exposure in the menu, at least in a Nikon, and you want to set it for two exposures. The first one's in focus and now, I'm going to rack the focus so that it's out. It takes a second. The picture comes out and it gives it this real soft, dreamy look. It's a lot of fun in the woods. Okay. So, that one is probably one of the easier ones. You can also do it without in-camera. You can take those two files and you can combine them later in Photoshop, if you want. So, just another option with that. This one is kinda fun. We always talk about getting the polarizer in the right spot so that you don't lose the reflection or you get the sky too dark. Well, the truth is, once you start blending image files together, you can take two pictures with anything you want and then, in this case, I wanted to get the nice reflection in the water below, but then, also get the nice dark sky above. So, I took one picture with the polarizer so the sky is polarized and then, took another with the bottom reflection showing, combined it as a black and white, and now, I have all that beautiful detail in the reflection as well as the dark, dynamic sky above. So, again, you're going to learn how to do this with manual blending later this afternoon and once you see how simple it is, I think you'll agree it's a lot of fun. Okay, the next one is time-lapse. It's not really still photography, but all our cameras are becoming more adept to not only shooting video, but they now also offer the feature of intervalometers and time-lapses. So, it's a lot of fun and it really is not that hard to assemble these frames and put them together and then, show your friends and family or do whatever you want with them, but there's a couple different ways to deal with time-lapse and I'm just going to show you a couple here. So, here we are, out on location and we're at a place where I would typically go in a scenario like this. I'd go shoot sunsets or sunrise and I always bring along an extra camera, and I've done this for years, not just for this purpose, but just to have a backup. So, you can use any extra camera you have so that you can go take stills while this is happening, but basically, I've set this one up to take a time-lapse with a separate little tripod, then I can go off and take pictures, at sunset come back, pull up the camera, and go, and this is a lot of fun because we tell our stories with still pictures nowadays, in books and on the internet and because of the internet, we can also have motion, and so, if you don't wanna get into video and learn all those tricks, a time-lapse is a lot of fun because it's basically taking and compressing this scene of what looks like very slow moving clouds and not much going on and when it compresses it into a few seconds of video, then it's something interesting to look at. So, what I've done here is, the Sony actually has a little app. The Sony camera's kind of unusual in that sense. You download the app and then, it runs the time-lapse. It sets the interval and the number of exposures and the duration and basically does all that for you. It'll actually compile the video file as well where you can set it to stills and do that later in post. So, take an extra camera. It could be a micro four thirds, even some point and shoots do this, even an iPhone does this. Set it up, walk away, let it run for half an hour, an hour, go shoot, take your pictures, and come back, and you'll have your time-lapse done. Okay. So, just one obvious pointer maybe, but typically I don't walk too far away, especially from the Sony. Depends on who your friends are or where you are, but often times, where I'm photographing stills is really a good place, so I could be ten feet away or 20 feet away and, in some cases, I've even set it up to shoot the exact same thing that I'm photographing with my still camera. So, in addition to kick it up a little bit, we have three different methods of doing time-lapses. This is the simplest one, the camera doesn't move, it sits there and this is what you get, especially if you're shooting the northern lights. You can see the stars moving, the northern lights dancing. Okay, that's just a short little one. And then, if you want to change it a little bit, then you can actually use a device that will rotate the camera or tilt or pan, basically. One or the other. In this case, I've used one of those and I've added just one move to go up. Okay? So, it's a lot of fun. You can see that there's not a whole lot of fancy processing in either of those. You assemble the pictures, you export them, and there are a couple of apps that will do this and I will mention them in a minute. Moving time-lapse is a lot of fun. Once you get into this, you get hooked, then you're gonna want to make your pictures look even better or your time-lapses and so, I got hooked so bad that I ended up making a rail that was lightweight enough that I could take up in to the mountains because some of these rails are probably 30, 40 pounds and they cost a couple thousand dollars and all that stuff and they require all kinds of batteries and everything, so I made one and all it is really, it's one of the rails videographers use for filming nice, smooth camera movements, and then, I just hooked the battery and a little motor up to one side and it pushes it from one side to the other so you can get this. Nice jet streak there. Sorry, I don't have any dramatic music for these, but I just want to get you the idea. And then, of course, you time it so that you get the sunrise coming, if you can. A lot of fun. Like I say, I bring this up just because two things, one is when I first acknowledged time-lapses is was when the production Planet Earth, when I first saw that and it actually even gives me goosebumps today thinking about that show because it was so incredibly dramatic to see from the space shuttle or wherever they took it from, the change of the seasons on the earth as it moved from autumn to winter, all in a time-lapse, taken from space, and they had many more time-lapses that just blew you away. If you get a chance, watch that Planet Earth. There's some incredible footage in there of nature and the other reason that encouraged me to do something different is that, as I was looking at these time lapses, I realized that we're really doing is we're making nature a little more exciting, if you will. It's as if we're bored with it. Not really, but that's what's happening. We're taking this incredible place and we're compressing all this time so that something's happening and moving and it really is appealing, but how do you do that in a still frame is still the question I'm thinking and one of the solutions I have fun with is what I call time-bracketing and so, all you're doing, essentially, is you're taking the best moment of time over the course of ten minutes, it could be a minute or an hour of that one scene and you're combining it together to create one still picture. So, are you cheating? Well, yes. You're cheating. It's no longer a simple, still picture tat was taken at one moment in time, but, on the other hand, that's what all this is about. This is about having fun, getting creative, doing something different. So, in this case, I've taken the same scene, I haven't moved anything at all, but I've captured the wave cresting or breaking over the rock and then, at another time, I captured the wave falling down the other side of the rock and put those two together to create the image here. So, it's really nothing other then, again, almost like a double exposure, but a little bit carefully calculated and blended. So, these time-brackets can happen in the middle of the day, at night, from dusk to dawn, you can blend sunlight to astronomical twilight, anything you want, just think of the things you can blend. Again, this is the picture I showed you earlier and these are the three frames that I used to create it. This is the one for the cloud, which shows you that big, dynamic cloud coming out of the upper sky and I exposed that one as well, just for those highlights. So, in addition to taking the pictures at different times, I might be fluctuating, usually, shutter speed or, in some cases, ISO. This one is taken because I love the shadows of the mountains in there and it's a normal exposure so that I have one shot with everything correct and then, that one is for the shadows. Again, I can take those shadows and blend them in manually to create the final result. So, another fun way to experiment with your camera in the woods. A tip is I try to get that movement. You can get a product that I really have enjoyed using so far. It's not the most professional, I guess you could say, or robust product, but it does work very well. I think it's a couple hundred bucks. It's the rotation puck. It's called Astro Rotation Puck and it was a start-up company and they offer those on the website as well. If you look for that, I'm sure you'll find it and it gives you that little bit of movement. The exercise I recommend is create one image of each trick in one day. So, good luck. All right, so a couple questions about time-lapses. First of all, how do you figure out the intervals that you're going to set for each shot? I think the formula I use is if things are moving really fast, you want a shorter interval. So, if you have people walking around in the city, I'd do a second. If you have really fast moving clouds, one second. But, typically, in nature I do three or five seconds because clouds aren't moving that fast, the motion time-lapse you saw there was every five seconds. Sometimes if you want the smoothest time-lapse you can get, again, it's going to be around a second. So, the more pictures, the smoother it is. And then, another big one from KimX77 and a few other people, how do you handle exposure fluctuation during a time-lapse? You mentioned going from sun to astrophotography. How do you set up the camera to do that? Well, capturing a time-lapse from middle of the day light to middle of the night is kinda the Holy Grail of time-lapsing and so, I'm not going to go there right now, other than saying it's difficult. There is some machinery nowadays, equipment that will make it easier because it will actually adjust things automatically and you just set the parameters, but outside of saying that what I showed you today I want to keep simple so that you guys know it's one shutter speed, one aperture, one setting during the day and that's all you have to think about and it makes it real simple. At night, you can do the same thing, like the stars I showed you. That's simply the same thing. It was ten second exposure, the same ISO, and the same aperture all for the same time-lapse. Perfect. And, I would add, if you guys are really interested in time-lapse photography, go to There's a form there that you can fill out 'cuz we always want to know what you guys want to learn. So, if you wanna learn something, have a more in-depth course on time-lapse photography, go let us know. That's how we know what to bring on. I will continue on with some more questions. Going back to the double exposures. SLW and two people. When you're doing double exposure, do you need to underexpose, since you're combining two pictures? Say the first part of that again? When you're doing a double exposure, do you need to underexpose each one because you're combining them together? Do they add the exposure together or is it different? There's ways you can change it in the camera, but no, I do not change it. I kept the same exact exposure for the examples that I gave you, so that's what you saw today. Again, that's probably a creative trick that you can experiment with. Perfect. So, I have one final question on this from SR Photos and three other people were wondering. They say, I teach photography. Many of my students can't afford the gear you're showing, nor do their cameras offer some of the options you're sharing. Are there any alternative methods to achieve what you're doing for those people or is this something where some of these creative tricks do require that specific gear and there's just no way to do it? Yeah, unfortunately, some of them are that way. The time-lapse though, there are apps you can get for your phone now, so if you have a smart phone, get one of those apps and you can create these time-lapses. In fact, it blends it for you and creates the motion right inside the phone and as far as the double exposures, well, I believe with an iPhone-- And I'm just going to use iPhone or another phone as an example. If you set up your camera so you can adjust the exposure, you can actually take one exposure over and if you hold it really steady, you can take another one over or at a different time and then, take those two files, load them into Photoshop. You are going to need some kind of software to blend these, but you can do a lot of these things with just any old camera, but you do need the software, unfortunately, at least as far as I know to blend them together.

Class Description


  • Capture great shots of landscapes and nature
  • Confidently shoot in manual mode
  • Fine-tune your eye for composition
  • Master light for landscape photography
  • Work with HDR and panoramas
  • Perfect your images with post-processing in Lightroom


Turn a spark of passion for the outdoors into beautiful landscape photography in this start-to-finish course. From gear and exposure to light and post-processing, master the landscape photography workflow with veteran artist Marc Muench. End the frustration of being unable to capture the raw beauty of nature and capture inspiring awe-inducing views on camera.

With both live instruction and on-site photography tutorials, you'll master both the technical and creative necessities for capturing better landscape images. After the adventure, learn to perfect the scene using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to crop, color and fine-tune those images. In addition, you'll tackle advanced techniques including HDR and panoramas.


  • Beginners ready to get off auto mode
  • Intermediate photographers looking to improve
  • Photographers ready to tackle landscape photography as a new genre

SOFTWARE USED: Adobe Lightroom CC 2015, Adobe Photoshop CC 2015


As a third-generation photographer, Marc Muench has spent nearly 30 years working as a landscape and sports photographer. His work has appeared on the cover of publications like Time, National Geographic, Traveler, Outside, Sierra Magazine and more. In addition to shooting, he leads photography workshops around the world. He teaches with a mix of technical and creative details and personal insight.


Jeff McPheeters

This was my first class with Creative Live and also my first exposure to landscape photographer Marc Meunch. I've been a photographer for many years, an educator in science and technical fields for more than two decades, and a lifelong learner of the craft of making photographs. I am pretty picky when it comes to educational resources and when it involves recommending something that I want to reflect my own standards of excellence. That said, I came with an open mind, with some expectation that I would learn a few tricks, but also with the understanding that after spending thousands of hours in books and online courses as well as direct workshop and tutorials from a range of photographer workshops, Adobe training, KelbyOne and other professional organizations, that some of what I'd hear would be stuff I'd already known. My first impression was positive, as I think Creative Live did a good job explaining the purpose, intent, and scope of the workshop, as well as giving me a good idea of the speaker's credentials. As the session begin on Day 1, I was immediately impressed with the quality of the technical aspects of the live feed. It was like I was there. The sound quality was outstanding. The video streamed effortlessly and I only have wireless access to the Internet. I'm not on high speed wired cable. The bandwidth can fluctuate, yet it worked extremely well. The speaker, Marc Meunch, was relaxed, engaging, professional, and possessed such a comprehensive and deep understanding of the topic that I felt extremely lucky to have been told about this workshop. I don't think I've ever been able to watch someone who was so masterful in their presentation, so thorough in their organization and outline, so enthusiastic about their work, so passionate about the craft of landscape portraiture, or so articulate and engaging with the audience; at least in the realm of Photography. I'd jump at any chance to listen to Marc Meunch again; and especially to attend one of his outdoor workshops. One of the unique aspects of this workshop was that Marc uses some video clips from his outdoor workshops to illustrate what he's talking about in the classroom. Very effective. And the slides he chooses to share are effective and easy to understand. It's very inspiring to watch Marc present ideas and illustrate them through his own work, showing before and after and alternate compositions to demonstrate the point he's making. Day 1 was so good that before it was over I'd already purchased the two day workshop. I was that certain it was worth the cost. Frankly, I'm not sure I'd find a class like this for under $100/day. This is a pretty good deal. Day 2 was equal in usefulness and inspiration as Day 1. The discussion of gear selection and scouting techniques along with the introduction to his Lightroom and Photoshop workflow was very helpful and would be especially apropos to someone getting more serious about their landscape work but not very experienced with Lightroom or Photoshop, even perhaps a little intimidated by the prospect of needing to learn those two software giants, because Marc shows the power and easy of learning them. I was pleased I was able to attend and even more pleased I can watch these over and over and study points I didn't quite grasp the first time through. I highly recommend this course. The viewer will be inspired and encouraged as a result. Marc doesn't make it look easy; rather he makes landscape photography look fun and exciting and worthy of the effort and time to find ones own style and vision, clearly imparting the practical how-to's to aid each person in their own journey to make it more enjoyable and satisfying.

a Creativelive Student

I don't like writing reviews. Seems like everyone just wants to hear that everything was... awesome. So, let me try to be specific about what I liked: I thought that the concept of the creative trinity was brilliant. I thought that Marc's presentation on composition was the best I've ever seen. His ideas on having a theme for shooting was inspiring because it was simple. He also had some great tips on light. The other thing I appreciated about Marc's presentation was the wide variety of locations shown and his knowledge of them. I also am always interested to learn more about the people that have inspired presenters. Sometimes, it feel like CL classes are aimed at the lowest experience levels. But, as someone else said in review... there is always a nugget or two and review is beneficial. I wish Marc was more animated. He's obviously very self contained and reflective -- gotta be who you are, right? I have purchased Marc's class, the Shive class, and Art Wolf's class. All have had different benefits. I wish they would do others and take complexity up a notch -- specifically, helping others understand the planning necessary... how they find reliable contacts to guide them and what those things cost. How they are transporting all the gear they carry. More specific information on permits, camping gear, dealing with adverse conditions, etc. And, more information on how they get different images of frequently photographed locations.


I happend to stumble upon the course by an email. I clicked on it and realized that Mark had come to my town (Sitka,Alaska) to do a trip with my good friend. So I thought I'd watch a bit. After awhile I realized this is good, way good. So I shot a lot of that day just eating it up. The director would come on every bit and say there was a show price. I thought well I'll just watch. Then on the second day he did some things that the announcer said he had never seen. I thought the same thing. So I bought. I have been shooting for 40 years and I still LOVE to learn. A noted psychologist said "We are happiest when we are learning" and I couldn't agree more. Thank you Creative Live for offering these courses. I live on an Island in Southeast Alaska with 14 miles of road. BUT I can be a front row student with some of the best teachers in the world. Thank You! Also a Huge thank you to Mark. It takes a ton of time to do this, and Im sure you get tired of the same questions again and again, but it truly changes the lives of us who love this type of life.