Slow down time with ND filters
Posted on 2017-02-16 (1926 VIEWS)
Shooting by Moonlight... sometimes it’s just not dark enough!
I have to admit, the smartphone cameras are quite a challenge.
But they don’t really allow us much control - there are lots of opportunities that open up when we really start to play with time and light. That’s one of the great joys of creative photography...and it tends to happen when we go to the technical limits.
A good example is really long exposures - aka Time Exposure.
Ever seen those landscape pictures where a waterfall turns to a ghostly mist, or the sea turns to glassy smoke? That effect can be achieved with exposures of over 30 seconds...more like a minute or three. During that time, the water moves across the sensor while the rocks, buildings, or anything else inanimate, stay still and sharp. The “mist” effect is simply blur from subject movement.
To get the camera to achieve this effect takes a little technique.
Firstly, we need to have the camera still. That eliminates camera movement, which will blur the inanimate objects. No one can hold a camera rock still for 30 seconds...we all have to breath and most of us have heartbeats (if this isn’t you, please don’t write in - just get back in your coffin).
So the camera goes on a sturdy tripod. Camera movement eliminated.
Next, we need to persuade the camera to keep the shutter open for minutes at a time. Most DSLRs will allow us to set shutter speeds of up to 30 seconds. Beyond that, we need to set the shutter to “Bulb” (B) and use a manual or electronic cable release*. Make sure these have a lock facility that means you don’t have to keep your thumb on them. Now this is where the problem starts...in anything but the darkest conditions. Even with the lens at it’s tiniest aperture, there’s too much light!
Yup, every shot is just a sea of nondescript white...terribly over-exposed. Or the exposure is too short to see any real effect. Time to bring out the ND Filters - sunglasses for your camera. An ND filter in front of your lens cuts out light, according to its rating. They come in three types - screw-in round filters, that thread into the filter ring on the front of your lens; square plastic ND’s that slide into a holder; and don’t forget graduated ND’s that are also usually the slide-in square type.
The stronger the ND filter, the longer the exposure you’ll need. Typically, you’ll see a good effect with an ND rated 4-6 stops or more. Here are some examples of the same image with different NDs, shot at the Brighton West Pier - a great walkshop location to practice this technique.
1. Shot at 1/50th second, aperture f6.3 - a pretty standard, hand held shot...well, its ok...just an unremarkable snapshot
2. ….so the camera goes on a tripod and the smallest aperture set - f22. The camera light-metering robot sets a corresponding shutter speed of 1.3 seconds….getting more interesting...the sea blurring to suggest motion...the architecture and the stones stay still and sharp
3. Add some ND filters and exposure/shutter speed is now 23 seconds at f22! Now we’re into time exposure and the sea has turned to mist. Notice the effect is strongest where there is more movement, and where the movement is closer to the camera?
These examples are as shot, with no photoshop...we can do a lot in camera.
A true master of long exposure, some of it at this very same location, is Brighton Landscape photographer Finn Hopson (it does help that his gallery is right opposite the delightfully decaying West Pier).
Take a look at his amazing work, here: http://www.finnhopson.com/brighton
So it’s time to open up that world of time and light...by slowing your photography right down.
* Electronic cable releases need not be expensive! Drop me a line via email here, or in comments and I’ll happily point you toward a good inexpensive one.
We have a limited number of ND starter kits for sale that will fit any lens types: CLICK HERE for details
INDEX TO ARTICLES
Video review: Starter ND filter kit >
2018-03-12 By Peter Levenspiel
Getting started: DIY product photography >
2018-02-04 By Peter Levenspiel
Photographers heaven? >
2018-02-03 By Leonardo Stone
The Zkin Kampe, a bag for life? >
2018-02-02 By Liz Taylor
Into the Woods: Trees in photography at the V&A >
2018-01-30 By Peter Levenspiel
Running, gunning and shooting from the hip! >
2017-10-31 By James Macdonald
Getting the most out of your Interfit reflector >
2017-10-17 By Paul Stillman
Video review: Lens Rims form easyCover >
2017-09-27 By Peter Levenspiel
Destination: Lens Lab visits Lewes >
2017-08-23 By Peter Levenspiel
Peak Design slide strap - This one’s from the hip! >
2017-07-18 By James Macdonald
What to shoot in Madrid >
2017-06-06 By Peter Levenspiel
The basics of manual camera controls explained >
2017-03-30 By Peter Levenspiel
Wobble free Wimberley Head Mark II >
2017-03-22 By Paul Stillman
The joy of wildlife photography >
2017-03-21 By Paul Stillman
Grow your garden photography skills >
2017-02-22 By Peter Levenspiel
Portsmouth: A photo friendly getaway destination >
2017-02-19 By Peter Levenspiel
Slow down time with ND filters >
2017-02-16 By James McDonald
The 600mm Sigma with pulling power >
2017-02-05 By Paul Stillman
The beast that does it all - well almost! >
2017-02-01 By James McDonald
Photographing birds of prey >
2017-01-14 By Peter Levenspiel
What the F? >
2017-01-04 By Peter Levenspiel
The best light in Europe! >
2016-11-01 By Peter Levenspiel
PART 1: Smartphone's V DSLR's >
2016-11-01 By Peter Levenspiel
Review: Nikon Nikkor Micro AF 105mm f2.8 lens >
2016-10-09 By Paul Stillman
2016 Woodland Trust tree of the year shortlist >
2016-09-24 By Liz Taylor
Surprisingly, kids can be pretty good at photography... with a little guidance! >
2016-09-09 By Peter Levenspiel
Want to improve your garden photography? >
2016-09-07 By Paul Stillman
Plane boring... What's your thing? >
2016-08-10 By Peter Levenspiel
Learn from the masters! >
2016-08-08 By Peter Levenspiel
Plan for success... Wedding photography >
2016-07-15 By Peter Levenspiel
What does Brexit mean if you're a photographer? >
2016-06-25 By Peter Levenspiel
Woodland bird photography at its very best! >
2016-06-18 By Paul Stillman
Top 3 equine photography tips from a pro… >
2016-06-17 By Peter Levenspiel
Wide angle lenses: The estate agents magic trick >
2016-06-10 By Peter Levenspiel
Head for the woods... macro season is here! >
2016-06-03 By Peter Levenspiel
The eeirie work of Christian Richter >
2016-05-20 By Peter Levenspiel
Doggy doggy on the wall... >
2016-04-04 By Peter Levenspiel
6 merits of renting photographic gear over buying >
2016-04-01 By Matt Golowczynski
Photographic exhibition at the V&A: Paul Strand >
2016-03-25 By Liz Taylor
Create a family best-seller >
2016-03-23 By Peter Levenspiel
Droning on about it... >
2016-02-09 By Peter Levenspiel