233 seconds

The Story
December, 2009. The year was coming to an end and our life was about to get a U-turn very soon with the birth of our daughter. The photo trips were very few in that time and this one was to be the last one, for some time. I've already had been to Cais do Ginjal in Cacilhas and had taken some good photos there (like: The Pier and Cais do Ginjal II). This time I was about to try to capture a long exposure of the Tagus River during day time.
I picked the gear plus the tripod and we headed to Cacilhas. I miscalculated the hour and the remaining daylight available. This kind of photos take some time to capture: with preparing time and Long Exposure NR after, a 4 minutes exposure (like this one) takes about 10 minutes.
My wife stayed in the car while I went to the piers to get a good perspective. I knew that the Sun was setting too fast and I would only have a couple tries, at most. This photo was my first one. I picked a pier that would give me a good view over Lisboa, prepared the tripod and took a test run shot. This test run shot is useful to check the perspective and the exposure variables, and to later on compare with the long exposure shot. A couple test shots later I got a good perspective and calculated the exposure time, considering the 10 stops (as I mentioned previously in Rossio photo story, I multiply the exposure time by 1000 and round it upper).
With almost everything in place, I placed carefully the filter holder with the ND filter on it. Now it was time to a very important step: cover the filter holder so no light would come into the lens from anywhere else than the filter itself. For this I used the upper side of a black sock. I cut the elastic area of it, what gave me a dark tissue ring that fits perfectly in the filter holder.
With all set, I used the IR remote to start the exposure in bulb mode and counted 3 minutes. As the night was coming fast and my last tries at this hour of the day went not that good, I decided to increase one more minute to the calculated time. So, almost 4 minutes exposure would be enough, but I would have to wait another 4 to check the result (tip: in long exposure shots, almost every camera have a setting turned on by default - and should remain that way 99% of the times - to reduce the noise produced by the overheating of some pixels in the camera sensor. What the camera does is, after taking the photo, it closes the shutter and takes another shot with the same duration. The point is that the pixels that overheated the first time, will overheat in this second time. Then, the camera processor can compare both shots and remove this "hot" pixels.).
After this shot, I tried another one, 10 minutes long, that didn't came out very good because it was already dark. So, it was a small photo trip that took about 45 minutes and only gave me time to take two photos :)

Equipment / Technical Info
Nikon D80
Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC
Hitech 85 ND 3.0 filter
Slik Pro 340DX tripod

233/1 second
13 mm

Original Photo

Post Processing
Back home, I went to inspect the two photos taken that late afternoon. The second one was too dark and I tried to get some of it in post processing because it was my favorite in terms of perspective. I failed to "fix" it so I would had to return there another day.
In this one, I first tried to fix the colors to see if it would surprise me but ended up with the black and white. What I've done was the following.
I imported the NEF into Lightroom and started by aligning the horizon and cropping it to my like. Then applied some Highlight Recovery and added a Graduated Filter to darken the sky. Increased the Exposure by one stop, reduced the Vignetting that resulted from the filter holder and converted to Grayscale. Then I adjusted the Gray levels on the Blues (up), Purples (down), Aquas (up) and Yellows (down); boosted the Clarity to 100%, re-increased the Exposure by half a stop and increased the Blacks to 35%. Finally, I updated the Graduated Filter exposure to darken the sky even more and increased the Fill Light.
In CS4, I've simply reduced the noise and applied an Auto Levels.
I kinda liked the result but knew that there were a long road ahead in this kind of photography.

Final Photo

Link to image

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