The most helpful advise I ever received about photography was "how long does it take to happen?" How long does it take the stars to move though the sky? how long is it going to take that car to move though your frame? how long is it going to take for that football player making the catch? and what are you trying to capture in your photo? Do you want motion blur? Do you want to stop something in it's tracks? The creative choice is yours to make.
My Long Exposure Set up:
Pictured above are the bare basics of what I use to take a long exposure photograph.
1. Camera Body (mine is a Canon 7D (discontinued model)
2. Tripod (bought second hand at Goodwill and slightly broken)
3. Sigma 10-20mm 1:4-5.6 Lens (wide angle)
4. High Speed Compact Flash Card (High Speed takes less time to render in camera, so you can take more photos)
5. Third Party Shutter Release (do your research before buying)
To take the photo do the following:
1. Find yourself an area that you like: For star trails make sure it's a nice dark area. Some place like a lake or state park. For other Types of photos go wonder around a local town and see what catches your eye, maybe a busy street where you can catch the lights from cars. (be careful because shady people and camera equipment don't always mix well, be aware of your surroundings)
2. Set your tripod up.
3. Attach your camera
4. Make sure you're using the right settings. The Canon 7D has a setting on the top of the camera marked by a B (bulb) I use that setting for anything over 30 seconds of exposure (most cameras will take up to a 30 second exposure under the M or Manual setting.)
5. Attach your shutter release
6. On your lens, Focus to ∞ for star trails, Sometimes you have to focus to the symbol other times you have to focus to a mark the way my lens works (pictured below), for other things just focus on what you want to be the subject of your photo.
7. Do a couple test shots if you have the opportunity to do so with your subject, try to get close to the ball park.
8. When I'm taking longer than a 30 second exposure I like to use my iPhone timer to know exactly how long I'm shooting.
9. Lock your shutter release for the length of the exposure over 30 seconds.
10. Release your shutter when finished, It might take any where from a few seconds to a few minutes for your photo to render in camera (I've had photos take as long as 20 minutes.)
Thoughts On Long Exposure:
Get out there and try something new. There is no right or wrong long exposure. Move the camera during the middle of an exposure, go out on a cloudy night, don't say you can't before you try, don't limit yourself, TRY SOMETHING NEW!!!! I really hope this helps some of you guys in your pursuit of long exposure photography. Note: this is for the Canon 7D for other models of cameras you might want to consult your owners manual about Long exposure in case your controls maybe a little different.