Landscapes,  Photo Gear

Long Exposure Photography Using the Olympus OM-D E-M1

On a recent trip to Maine, I spent quite a bit of time experimenting with long exposure photography using the Olympus OM-D E-M1.  The main subjects for my long exposures photographs were waterfalls and the waves on the Maine coast.

I this blog, I'll discuss long exposure photography techniques in general, specifics for the Olympus OM-D, and example long exposure photographs and the settings and techniques used to create them.

Screw Auger Falls, Grafton Notch State Park, Maine

ISO 200, f/18, .4 Second Exposure, Circular Polarizer, Cloudy Morning around 10am

Equipment

I used the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and one lens to create the photographs in this blog.  I also used a variety of filters used both individually and stacked to get the long shutter speeds for different lighting conditions.  Below is the equipment I used for my long exposure photography in Maine.

Cape Elizabeth Twin Lights - Eastern Light

ISO 100 (Low), f/22, 3.2 Second Exposure, Stacked .3, .6, .9 ND Filters, Sunny Morning around 10:30am

I decide to purchase the 3 strengths of ND filters and stack them as necessary instead of a variable ND filter after reading numerous reviews of variable ND filters.  Many reviews complain of severe vignetting and discoloration at the darkest settings of the filter. The 4 filter Tiffin Case made it extremely easy to find and change filters.

It is best to photograph long exposures near sunrise or sunset, or on cloudy days.  However, long exposure photographs can be taken during sunny conditions, it just requires stacking filters, low ISOs, and smaller apertures

The one drawback that I found when stacking multiple filters was the photos were a bit soft and required extra processing and sharpening.

Camden Falls, Maine

ISO 100 (Low), f/20, 2 Second Exposure, Stacked .6, .9 ND Filters , Sunny Morning around 11am

Olympus O-MD Long Exposure Tips

  • Shoot in manual mode to better control the shutter speed and aperture that you want for the look you are trying to achieve.
  • With a DSLR the viewfinder composes through the lens, you need to compose and focus, prior to attaching a dark filter.  With the Olympus OM-D and an electronic viewfinder, I was able to composing even when stacking filters. 
  • With the DSLR, I also lost autofocus with a dark filter.  The Olympus OM-D E-M1 has focus peaking that is viewable on both the viewfinder and LCD, that helps with manual focus.

Written by Martin Belan

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6 Comments

  • Phil Winter

    Hi Martin, Just ran across your site.  I, too, have the E-M1, the 12-40 f2.8 and am interested in doing some long exposure day light photography.  Thanks for the tips, especially the one regarding the variable ND filter.  I was about to buy one, but may reconsider.  I do have a question.  I notice you are shooting at very small apertures.  Have you had any problems with diffraction reducing the sharpness/resolution of the image?  When I've shot at f16, I've notice the image was not nearly as sharp as the same image shot at, say, f8.

    • Martin Belan

      Phil,

      I was using small apertures because many of these shots were taken in bright sunlight.  I have not noticed significant loss of sharpness at the smaller apertures.  I shoot in RAW and sharpen all my photos in post.  I have noticed a loss of sharpness from stacking multiple filters.  Hope this helps.

      Martin

  • Bruce Tolley

    Great short article. I have just started some long exposure shooting my self for sunsets and sunrises.

    Noise reduction. What do you do for the greater than one sec exposures? Do you have in camera Noise Reduction on or off?

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