Long exposures for weather photography


Mar 27, 2015
Hi everyone,

I've never done long exposures with weather photography and I was wondering if anyone out there can lend some expertise. I'm familiar with ND filters from using them with off camera flash, but I recently traded in a soft 17-40L for a Tokina 16-28 2.8 that I'm VERY impressed with (thanks to previous members who advised me to look into it).

The Tokina, though, has a massive circular front element and does not accept screw in filters. There are a few adapters on amazon that I'm looking into, but I'm not sure if it's worth it to drop the 200-300 for the adapter and ND filter.

So my question is: when shooting structure shots or tornados, do you recommend a filter for longer exposures? What does a shot with a high vs. low shutter speed with respect to weather look like? Do longer exposures produce more vibrant colors in the storm, or is that something you can do with a faster shutter speed in post processing? Does the slower shutter speed wash out detail in the storm that makes it worse?

Thanks in advance,



Feb 11, 2012
Athens, TX
I personally do not like to use any sort of ND filter while working with Wx related subject matter. I guess a lot depends on your camera body technology but I find most all of the newer digital cameras, especially on the higher end do a great job of capturing color and detail in a short[er] shutter time. Your bigger problem may be wind-blown water issues into the lens without any sort of a protective glass in front of the primary lens.

There is so much software out there to deal with problems and create effects now, that your post-processing options are almost limitless, even with limited capture options. Best bet is to find the ISO level where your camera begins to introduce noise that is no longer acceptable to you in the given context of the subject, and work to stay below this this or ideally not to exceed half of this ISO speed.

Trying to capture daytime lighting an ND filter can help your chances but the lighting bolt is probably going to be underexposed to the point it's not impressive except perhaps with a lot of time in PP'g
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May 28, 2011
Omaha, NE
For storm or weather related photography, I would highly recommend NOT using any sort of ND filter. It will just blur the storm structure details and make it look like crap. Not to mention most ND filters have some sort of color cast to them which makes the post-processing extra difficult to remove it.

ND filters are nice for uni-directional cloud movement usually towards or away from you with some sort of foreground interest. Otherwise they're not much use for cloud photography.
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ND filters for good structure shots will only produce a blur. They are cool to use on shots with interesting foreground subjects, then getting cloud motion as a backdrop. They are fun to experiment with. I say grab one and play around. And as for the color cast issue, there not really an issue at all. Correction is easy as pie in post. Ive used welding lenses and was able to correct it all in post.
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