Long Exposure Photography: Neutral Density Filters

Long Exposure Photography: Neutral Density Filters

Long Exposure Photography: Neutral Density Filters

One problem encountered when experimenting with long exposure photography is having too much light. You can’t get the aesthetic effect of those long shutter speeds without over-exposing the image. If it’s relatively dark – like dawn or dusk – that’s not much of a problem. But what if you want to express the illusion of time when it’s bright and sunny? Neutral density filters are the answer.

Neutral density (ND) filters reduce the amount of light entering the camera, allowing for longer exposure times than would be possible without them. The key is that they reduce light uniformly, so contrast and dynamic range are not affected – unlike a graduated neutral density (GND) filter. The primary purpose of ND filters is blocking light from reaching the image sensor.

ND filters are nothing more than darkened glass placed in front of the lens to absorb a percentage of the incoming light. They are available in different “strengths” usually designated by either the number of stops it slows down the exposure or in terms of optical density strength (see the ND filter strength conversion table below). A 3-stop or 0.9 density ND is ideal for waterfalls in bright sunlight, slowing the exposure to a second or so, depending on the f-stop and ISO used. A strong 10-stop or 3.0 ND filter can blur clouds over several minutes, even on a bright sunny day.

Neutral Density Filters Strength

Neutral Density Filters

The image below, Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina, would not have been possible without the help of a neutral density filter. Here is the exposure data from this image: 4.0 seconds, f/22, ISO 100, 6-stop ND filter. The correct exposure data without the ND filter would have been the same except for the shutter speed, which would have been 1/15 of a second (6 stops faster). As you can see, I am already at the smallest f-stop (f/22) and the lowest ISO (100) possible for my camera and lens.

There’s nothing else I can do in camera to slow things down to achieve the desired effect. Without the ND filter, the correct exposure would have been 1/8 second so a 4-second exposure would have badly overexposed the image. There is simply no way to create the smooth, silky water I desired under those bright, sunny skies without the ND filter absorbing some of the light that was reaching my camera’s sensor. Unless, of course, I wished to wait for less intense light once the sun went down or a cloud passed overhead. But then there’s that pretty little rainbow I would have missed.

So you see, neutral density filters may not exactly be essential, but they will certainly help achieve longer exposures and help you get shots that you wouldn’t have taken otherwise.

Circular or Square Neutral Density Filters?

When it comes to neutral density filters, you have two choices: circular screw-in filters or square/rectangle slide filters. Each have their advantages and disadvantages.

Circular ND filters screw into the front element of your lens. Since you probably have several different lenses, each with a different size front element, you should also own a set of step-up rings for each lens rather than buying a separate filter for each size. Get one ND filter for the lens with the largest front element diameter (77mm for example) and step-up rings for the smaller sizes (52mm or 67mm, just to name a few).

The circular screw-in filters are convenient to carry around and store in your camera bag. They are also more durable and difficult to break. But stacking filters for more ND strength or adding a polarizer can darken or vignette the image corners. Singh-Ray makes a circular screw-in Vari-ND that allows you to adjust the strength of the filter’s density (1 to 8 stops as mentioned earlier) as well as a model with a built-in polarizing filter. But I have found these filters difficult to use and the filters are so thick that they vignette when used with wide-angle lenses.

Neutral Density Filters

Kase 100mm filter holder with Kase 100mm 3-stop ND filter.

Square or Rectangle filters (above) are glass or resin slides that fit onto the front of your lens with an adapter ring and filter holder. These filter systems come in different sizes. They usually do not vignette with wide-angle lenses, even when with filters stacked together. They are much more cumbersome to carry around and store in your camera bag, however, when compared to the circular variety. You should always weigh the options of both and decide which is best for you.

What Do I Use?

Over the course of my professional photography career, I have tried just about every type of neutral density filter on the market and I’ve settled on the filters made by Kase Filters (All links below to Amazon).

Kase Wolverine Shockproof 100mm ND8 3-Stop Neutral Density Filter
Kase Wolverine Shockproof 100mm ND64 6-Stop Neutral Density Filter
Kase Wolverine Shockproof 100mm  ND1000 10-Stop Neutral Density Filter
Kase Wolverine Shockproof 100mm ND64000 16-Stop Neutral Density Filter

Creative Vision Newsletter




Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 

Beyond The Lens Podcast

Beyond The Lens Podcast

Beyond The Lens Podcast

Beyond the Lens Podcast

Beyond The Lens Podcast

The Beyond The Lens Podcast is hosted by renowned photographer and traveler Richard Bernabe where each episode, he speaks with inspiring people about photography, the arts, travel, conservation, entrepreneurship, and creative culture.

Beyond the Lens is published bi-weekly on the Official Beyond The Lens Website and podcast publishing platforms all over the world.

Subscribe to Beyond The Lens on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Castbox, or anywhere you listen to podcasts. Also listen on the official Beyond The Lens Website.

Podcast
Podcast
Podcast

Episodes (Newest to Oldest)

15. Kenya Photography Safari with Richard Bernabe: Insights, Preparation, Gear, and Strategies. In this episode, Richard talks about an upcoming photo safari to Kenya. What gear is he bringing? Why The Masai Mara? Why September? And which strategies will he be using once he’s there? (September 9, 2022)

14. Robin Thurston: CEO of Outside Interactive on the ‘Outerverse’ and why Web3 is a huge deal for creators.  Robin talks about the history of Outside Magazine, NFTs, Web3 technology, and the need for people to step away from their screens and get outside. (August 26, 2022)

13. Dr. Peter Lindsey: Director of the Lion Recovery Fund Peter discusses his organization’s ambitious plans to double the number of wild lions win Africa and how he plans to do it. (August 12, 2022)

12. Levison Wood: Photographer, Author, and ‘Toughest Man on TV’ reveals the Art of Exploration Levison is the author of ten books, including Walking The Nile, The Last Giants: The Rise and Fall of the African Elephant, and The Art of Exploration. (July 29, 2022)

11. Sophy Roberts: Award-Winning Travel Writer on Hidden Africa and ‘The Lost Pianos of Siberia.’ Sophy writes for the Financial Times, Conde Naste, and authored ‘The Lost Pianos of Siberia’ a Times, Sunday Times, and Independent ‘Book of 2020’.(July 15, 2022)

10. Moose Peterson: A Nikon Legend Behind The Lens on Wildlife and Aviation Photography. Moose talks about endangered species, editorial photography, film, aviation, and a lot more. (June 29, 2022)

9. Conrad Anker: Legendary Mountaineer on a Lifetime of Climbing and Remembering Galen RowellConrad talks about his most epic climbs, finding Mallory’s body on Everest, his good friend Galen Rowell, and much more. (June 17, 2022)

8. Ellen Cuylaerts: Underwater Photography and Facing Your Fears. Ellen discusses her journey in becoming one of the top underwater wildlife photographers in the world, swimming with sharks, and overcoming personal fears. (June 2, 2022)

7. David Burkus: Best-Selling Author on Creativity MythsDavid talks about creativity, the many myths surrounding creativity, and how to be more creative in your art, business and everyday lives. He also talks about overcoming writers block and why working from inside coffee shops can perhaps make you a better writer. (May 20, 2022)

6. John Paul Caponigro: Fine Art Photography and the Creative Life. John Paul and Richard discuss fine art photography, personal vision, the emotional weight of the pandemic, and climate change. Also, how creative writing, art, nature, and photography are restorative in times of unrest. (May 6, 2022)

5. Ask Me Anything Bonus Episode – Your Listener Questions Answered. Richard answers questions submitted via Twitter and Facebook with co-producer Mia Hadrill. (April 29, 2022)

4. Marc Saltzman on Demystifying Technology. Marc is a USA Today tech columnist specializing in consumer electronics, online technology, business technology, interactive entertainment, and future trends. (April 22, 2022)

3. Marc Cooke: Saving the Wolves of Yellowstone. A passionate campaigner for the plight of Yellowstone wolves and Montana native, Marc Cooke is the President of Wolves of the Rockies. (April 8, 2022)

2. Jerry Greer: CEO of Mountain Trail Press on Self Publishing. As a photographer with over 20 years of industry experience, Jerry Greer is an expert in book publishing, print brokering, and preparing images for 4-color offset printing. (March 25, 2022)

1. Rick Sammon: Canon Explorer of Light, award-winning photographer, author and musician. Rick Sammon is an award-winning photographer who has traveled to more than 100 destinations around the world in search of new images. (March 11, 2022)

Creative Vision Newsletter




Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 

Lost Is Just a Four Letter Word

Lost Is Just a Four Letter Word

Lost Is Just a Four Letter Word

“Not until we are lost do we begin to find ourselves” – Henry David Thoreau

Havana is an eclectic, neurotic city of more than two million people, pulsing with multi layered rhythms, colors, moods, and energy. It’s been called an exhausting nightmaresublimely tawdry, and the most romantic city in the world while all possibly being true simultaneously. Winston Churchill called Havana “a place where anything can happen” and on that count, it rarely failed to disappoint. This little slice of Caribbean chaos can be just about anything except boring.

As a casual visitor, you might be led to places like Revolution Square and other obsequious homages to Castro, Guevara, and Marti. Finca La Vigía, an estate set high along the city’s perimeter, is where Ernest Hemingway called home from 1939 to 1960. Then of course there’s La Habana Vieja – The Old City – with its colorfully-painted paladares, festive open-air cantinas, and gaggles of sunburnt Canadian tourists wearily shuffling through the cobbled alleys.

I’m not one to complain about tourists while pretending I’m not actually one of them myself, so for two days I dutifully imbibed the scene’s contrived nostalgia with the same combination of enthusiasm and irony that I applied to its famously overrated mojitos. Yet I was gaining a thirst for something more than just the same tired tourist circuit. Authentic and gritty is what I sought, a furtive peek behind the superficial facade. I wanted to experience, if only for a day, “the poorer quarters where the ragged people go,” borrowing a phrase from Simon and Garfunkel’s imperishable The Boxer; the crumbling buildings, the working markets, the suffocating poverty, the real lives of real people. I wished to go native.

On the morning of day three, I flagged down a taxi in front of the hotel, a flaking blue ‘53 Chevy, and set out solo into the heart of the steamy inner city. After forty exhilarating minutes of walking and exploration, I had not the faintest idea where I was or how I had gotten there. I was lost.

Lost

“No Left Turn Unstoned” Lost in the heart of Havana or just contrived nostalgia? Canon EOS R Mirrorless camera with Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L is USM Lens @ 42mm. 1/500 second @ f/8, ISO 1000.

Being lost is often cited as one the four most crippling human fears. And while technological progress has made little headway with death, heights, and public speaking, it has nearly succeeded in reducing the art of getting lost into a lost art. GPS devices, smart phones, and navigation apps with talking virtual assistants can get us from Point A to Point B with ruthless efficiency while offering little about where we are in the world, figuratively speaking.

According to cognitive scientists, getting lost is an essential part of how we grow and develop as humans. Whether it’s in a big, sprawling city like Havana, a forest, or a good book or movie, losing oneself, even for the briefest of moments, is good for the mind and the soul. Aside from the state of being lost, there’s the added benefit of getting unlost at some point, a practice that draws on exercising one’s intuition, reasoning skills, and memory recall. Making mental maps and establishing spatial awareness using landmarks and physical cues – instead of relying solely on technology’s cold, clinical instructions – are important cognitive functions that are quickly becoming lost, for lack of a better word, in today’s digital age.

Having spent much of my childhood in the foothills of rural North Carolina, I was given an extraordinary amount of freedom as a young boy to get lost at will, which I often happily did. A typical journey began on a bicycle, continued on foot through unfamiliar tracts of woods, fields, and dusty dirt roads until I became lost, or at least unsure of my location. I would then instinctively seek out the most familiar feature of the local landscape, the eastern escarpment of the Blue Ridge Mountains at Roaring Gap. I knew this piece of splendid scenery like the back of my hand and it was my navigational and emotional North Star. With this guidepost in sight, I could calibrate my bearings with respect to east, west, north and south and the direction that would take me from the Land of the Lost back home to Possum Trot.

The fear probably has very little to do with the condition of actually being lost, which is pretty harmless itself, but rather the psychologically unsettling disconnection from the familiar and the consequences that can arise from it. In a wilderness situation, it would certainly be irresponsible not to carry a GPS device, if only for an emergency, but just as irresponsible if it became a preoccupation and distraction from what was most important – the experience. In an urban environment, the fear is focused on being harmed in some way by another person; a stranger. But if you’re ever the unfortunate victim of assault or physical violence, the statistics point to overwhelming odds that you will know your attacker personally, probably intimately. Strangers are regularly disparaged in the abstract, but the kindness and generosity offered as individuals have saved me from more than just a few moronic decisions while traveling. By averting our gazes to the flickering screens of our phones and tablets while avoiding interaction with others, we only miss out on much of life’s rich banquet. And do we really want these devices raising an entire generation of young men who grow up never knowing what it’s like to refuse to ask for directions?

And what exactly is lost anyway? Well for starters, it’s both relative and subjective. Everyone and everything are always somewhere since nowhere doesn’t exist as a real place. If you’ve ever lost your car keys or the TV remote, they are only lost to you. If the remote could talk and was asked to comment on your little crisis, it would have to admit that being lost wasn’t all that bad, thankyouverymuch. Being lost can be a place of cosmic bliss and a buzz of creative inspiration for us humans too, if we’d only give it a chance. For others, however, lost is an unhappy place of doubt and uncertainty and might very well be Dante’s forgotten tenth circle of hell. The mild epithet, “Get Lost” is a G-rated simulacrum of the vulgar, three-word directive with the aforementioned four-letter destination. Maybe hell, after all, is an eternity spent wandering the vast, empty corners of the universe, helplessly and hopelessly lost. And maybe some of us actually find comfort in that notion and a glimmer of bliss too. After all, it’s possible that hell can be one person’s bliss just as bliss can exist as another soul’s personal hell. And lost? It’s just a four-letter word. It’s all about how you look at it.

HAVANA, CUBA – SEPTEMBER 2018

Creative Vision Newsletter




Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 

Wildlife Photography Book

Wildlife Photography Book

Wildlife Photography Book

There is nothing quite so satisfying as capturing a stunning wildlife photograph; a good one will reflect practice, patience, careful equipment choice and dedication. Those challenges are perhaps why so many enthusiast photographers aspire to perfect their images in this area; to get their work recognised by the photographic community as well as record their experiences.

This captivating wildlife photography instruction book, written and illustrated by renowned travel and wildlife photographer, Richard Bernabe reveals more world-class images with every turn of the page with a practical approach to the photography techniques for capturing such images including chapters on recommended equipment, exposure, composition, light, autofocus, getting the shot, strategies, and travel. There are also wildlife photography travel guides to many of the world’s wildlife photography hotspots. For every lesson, concept, or tip that’s taught, there is at least one photo (with captions) included as an example.

Wildlife Photography Book
Wildlife Photography Book
Wildlife Photography Book

Creative Vision Newsletter




Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 

Richard Bernabe Online Photography Classes

Richard Bernabe Online Photography Classes

Richard Bernabe Online Photography Classes

Photography Class

Join me as I unravel the mysteries of visual aesthetics with my latest KelbyOne class, Photography and the Principles of Art and Design. In the late 19th century, artists sought to formalize what was then known about art and design to better understand why some art was pleasing to the eye and some was not. As photographers, understanding these core principles of art can help us to see differently, improve our craft, and create order from chaos. In this class, I break down each of the principles with photographic examples, diagrams, and careful explanations to help you create art that is even more pleasing to the eye. You can get more information on the class here.

For the past several years, I’ve been working to create premium online photography classes with KelbyOne, a worldwide leader in photography education and Photoshop/Lightroom instruction. In 2016, we released Master Compositional Class for Landscape Photographers which was filmed along the picturesque Blue Ridge Parkway of North Carolina. That was followed by Landscape Photography Preplanning Post-Processing in 2017, which helped photographers connect the decisions they make in the field with the techniques they will use later in the digital darkroom.

These photography classes are masterfully filmed, produced, and edited by the video team at KelbyOne. In addition to being informative and educational, these classes are ecstatically beautiful as well (if you don’t consider that I am in the frame most of the time). Become a member of KelbyOne and learn from top photography pros. My classes are listed below.

Master Compositional Class for Landscape Photographers

This class takes you on a photographic road tour through the spectacular Blue Ridge Parkway of North Carolina while you learn how to master an array of compositional tools for creating more dynamic landscape photographs. I will share my thought processes on various composition principles and concepts while showing you how to create more compelling landscape images – from sunrise, sunset, waterfalls, and grand landscapes. View this class here: Master Composition Class for Landscape Photographers.

Landscape Photography Preplanning and Post-Processing

This class demonstrates how the photographic decisions you make in the field will impact the tools and techniques you can use in the digital darkroom later. I will show how you can bring your field work together with your post processing, so that you are capturing photographs that allow you to get the most out of your workflow. Each lesson on a specific capture technique is paired with a lesson on how to process those photographs using Lightroom and Photoshop. View this class here: Landscape Photography Preplanning and Post-Processing.

Creative Vision Newsletter




Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe.