Long Exposure on Film: #1 Intro

I’ve always liked long exposures and when I’ve started with film nearly year ago, it was so much going on, from me learning everything from using spot meter to trying some developers and doing my own black and white development. 

I’ve developed nearly 80 rolls of film this first year in analogue, and got it as a second nature. My main problem is that I have no vision what to shoot, I think I have reasonably good portfolio for only one year in film photography (ksphoto.me). But I want to explore more some edge cases of film, and long exposures are kind of those.

 Long exposures are completely unpredictable, and it can have quite a effect and get you some interesting photos. By mixing in this film with its grain and reciprocity failure (driven by Schwarzschild law) I think film can give some more uniqueness with using long exposures. I think film photographers like Michael Kenna and Hiroshi Sugimoto gave an interesting look to film, even inspired lots of digital photographers. 


This whole idea was to do some experimentation with long exposures. For easiness I’ve used 35mm, just for having 37 shots with it, but this also proven tiresome, taking 2 rolls of film in two days 70+ photos as long exposures, it is lots of time just waiting for shot to finish. This is why I didn’t go in more extremly long exposures, I’ll leave those for next level and medium format. 

 There is also one objective that I wanted to test, and this is different reciprocity failures curves, and there are two for Ilford HP5+ official and G. Gainer version. There will be more details on this in next parts.


  • Nikon D610 (Digital, set to monochrome mode, used to get wanted exposure and good for feedback/comparison with developed photos).
  • Nikon F100 (Analogue, not best choice because of battery, but I could use same lens with D610).
  • Samyang 85mm f1.4 (Manual video lens, used in most of shots).
  • Samyang 24mm f1.4 (Manual video lens, used in few shots).
  • Vanguard Alta Pro 253CT Tripod with Vanguard SB-300H ball head.
  • 2x Ilford HP5+ 400 at 800 ISO.
  • 2x Lee Filters holders 100x100 (one with universal lens hood) with 72mm and 77mm adapters for these two lenses. 
  • Welding protective glass rated as Shade 12 (15.6 stops of light).
  • Formatt-Hitach 3.0 ND (10 stops, only for black and white, not for colour).
  • Lee Filters 0.6 ND (2 stops).
  • Formatt-Hitech #25 Red filter (3 stops).
  • Formatt-Hitech #21 Orange filter (2 stops).
  • Formatt-Hitech #8 Yellow filter (1 stop).
  • Meike Remote Shutter release for Nikon F100.
  • Few iPhone apps deserving new blog post.

Few photos of gear, sorry for dusty and not beautiful photos, this equipment got really torture in this two days, and needs to be cleaned out!

Nikon F100, Samyang 85mm, Meike remote shutter release.

Samyang 24mm and 85mm both f1.4 video lenses.

Lee Filters holder with universal hood, two filters slot with attached 3.0 ND.

Lee Filters holder with one filter slot with attached Shade 12 Welding glass.

Filters used: 3.0 ND, 0.6 ND, #8, #25, #21

Filters and Holders 

This part is more DIY, since Shade 12 welding glass and Format-Hitech ND 3.0 are not sealed with holders there is need to do it yourself. If not there will be gigantic light leaks, mostly in middle of photo. 

I use black electrical tape or it might be called duct tape, but it must not be with holes, so that can block the light, and presumably of black colour. 

Usually ND 3.0 should have this done better Lee Filters Big Stopper and Haida filters have this covered, but this low priced 3.0 ND and Shade 12 welding glass don’t have it, so I need to do DIY protection from light leaks. 

And to clarify this is only needed when using this on daylight, especially bright daylight. There shouldn’t have been any light leaks when shooting at night and dim places, I didn’t try it but I assume.

One slot filter holder protection of light leaks

Filter with hood protected from light leaks.

Welding Glass Filter

I’ve used welding glass before in digital to do long exposures. Bought few of them in local store, where guy selling it, was pretty confused with me buying it for photography, but I did my homework before. 

Initially I’ve bought it for shooting sun eclipse, since it is dangerous for eyes, sensor and probably the film to shoot right at it.

What was good about it, it was cut as 100x100, like all of my filters (squared), the only problem is that this glass is much ticker than usual filters and even 3.0 ND’s like Big Stopper. This is why I’ve modified my first Lee Filters holder, to have one slot, and  I could place welding glass there without any problem.

I’ve found some chart on converting Shade’s to light stops, and for Shade 12 I’ve used between 15.5 and 16 stops:

I have collection of Welding glasses from Shade 9 to 13. Shade 12 is not in photo since I’ve used it, and it is still attached to modified Lee Filters holder.

And each Welding glass have a colour cast to it, this one is yellow/greenish, easily can be seen by shooting straight to the sun.

It is quite fine for B&W, but for colour photography there will be nasty lemon meets polaroid like cast.

Welding glasses from Shade 9 to 13

Cast of Welding glass can be see by shooting straight to the sun


Habit of mine is to fine interesting scenes and subjects, this experimental testing was no exeception, I was mostly paying attention to composition and subject to shoot.

And even though I’ve been shooting this two rolls experimentally, there might be some interesting photos out of it. Some with bad horizons since my ball head is hard to handle after last year swim in sea for a minute.

There were also interesting weather going on in this two days, first day was pretty bright sunny day, and I did one in night with minimal light, rated as -6.5 EV, didn’t have digital to prove it, so it was out of my head, one more test and interesting skill to achieve.

Second day was misty and cloudy and all in between, it might yield some interesting shots. I’ve also did few night shots, but this time, first using digital to check exposure, then shoot with film. And few final exposures are done as described in Workflow 2.

Workflow 1

Most of photos are shot in this workflow.

  • Get photo and metering with digital camera.
  • Get same photo with analog, as a base exposure.
  • Add filter either -15.5/-16 with Shade 12 or -10 to -13 with ND 3.0 with mix of #25, #21, #8 and 0.6 ND.
  • Calculate exposure for given filter(s).
  • Calculate official and G. Gainer reciprocity failure (RF).
  • Shoot both photos official and G. Gainer RF.

Workflow 2

This workflow is done indoors for even better comparing official Ilford HP5+ RF vs G. Gainer RF

  • Get photo and metering with digital camera.
  • Get same photo with analog, as a base exposure.
  • Use 3.0 ND as filter (-10 stops)
  • Do two double photos for offical and G. Gainer RF, one was extreme for offical 45:00 mins.


It is very tedious/boring to shoot this amount of long exposures in two days and I was pretty tired after. I should have done it in more than two days: 

  • 1st day: 24 exposures (few misfired and battery dead). 
  • 2nd day: 48 exposures (even more misfired, 5 done at home).

Even more so, I don’t have two pairs of lenses, so there was a quite switching lenses between digital and film camera.

And I was carrying only one tripod, with only one plate. It was really annoying switching plates, but this was only done for night shots, in most cases I did digital hand-held.

For the long exposure feel I was aiming, 35mm was to panoramic, for my taste. I think square 6x6 or 6x7 on my Mamiya RZ67 should be better for long exposures. 

Nikon F100 is not really suitable for this, because of battery and me forgetting switching it off.
Mamiya RZ67 with its Bulb up to 1 min and T on the lens for long exposures (and no battery involved) is much better design. 

But since this all is experimental and Nikon F100 is used just because of ease with Nikon D610 and using same lens, it really adds more value to testing. 


Film development 

Now there is need to develop those two Ilford HP5+ films. Since I don’t have enlarger it will be digitally scanned. 

After some thoughts and consideration, to develop this two rolls of film I’ll use Ilford ID-11 in Ilford recommended time for ISO 800, other developer I was considering is Ilford Microphen, but I’ll leave it for some serious work and medium format. Fixer and Stop bath will be both by Ilford, where fixer is Rapid Fixer, dilluted in noraml Ilford recommended dilution.

Film scanning

Since Canon CanoScan 9000F is not that much of a scanner (especially for 35mm pushed film), I’ll do both my own and pay for local photo lab scan, not sure what they have for settings, but just to see difference.

In next part after development and scanning, I’ll go throgh some images with observations and most interested in RF between official and G. Gainer

I have in mind having all photos for comparing, probably not in this order, but something alike:

  • B&W Digital photo (normal exposure) 
  • Colour Digital photo (normal exposure) 
  • Film photo (normal exposure, my scan) 
  • Film photo (normal exposure, lab scan) 
  • Film photo (official RF long exposure, my scan) 
  • Film photo (official RF long exposure, lab scan) 
  • Film photo (G.Gainer RF long exposure, my scan)
  • Film photo (G.Gainer RF long exposure, lab scan) 

I’ll do no editing of photos, except scanned and lab scanned, not sure how they work, at least VueScan, it is doing some kind of exposure, but if None is used, then it is completely muted.

If there is any comments or questions please do ask…

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