Time and Place

Naturally, when we think of landscape photography, we think of place. Places are our subjects, captured in fleeting moments for future viewing. The shutter clicks and a particular place at a particular time is frozen on the film or sensor. This is the essence of still photography. 

It is possible though, to record more than just place in a photo. With a tripod and shutter release, anywhere from a few seconds up to multiple hours of time can be captured within a single still image. 

Storm Over Seasonal Wetland (shown at right) is an example of a photograph that captures multiple minutes of time in a single frame. Here is the metadata associated with the photo:

  • Camera: Canon EOS 5D MK II
  • Lens: Canon EF17-40 mm f/4L
  • Focal Length: 17 mm
  • ISO: 50
  • Exposure: 179 seconds @ f/14

The camera was mounted on a sturdy tripod and the shutter was controlled manually using an intervalometer*. To lengthen the exposure time, the ISO was set at 50 and the lens was stopped down to f/14. To extend the exposure even further, a 10-stop neutral density filter** was placed on the lens, which took the exposure from 1/8 of a second out to nearly 180 seconds.

The result is a photograph in which the primary subject is time, not place. The movement in the clouds tells the story of the storm rolling in over time, an aspect of the landscape that would have been completely invisible using a conventional exposure. 

*An intervalometer is an electronic remote shutter release with a built-in self-timer, interval timer, and long-exposure timer. I use a Canon TC-80N3 that can be set anywhere from 1 second up to 100 hours.

**A neutral density filter (ND filter) is a middle gray filter placed on the front of a lens to reduce the amount of light that enters the lens. They are available in various degrees of density from light gray to almost black. The 10-stop filter I used on this image is designed to block 10 full stops of light. It is one of the darkest ND filters available.