Long Exposure Photography: Neutral Density Filters

Long Exposure Photography: Neutral Density Filters

General How-To

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. 

6 Insightful Photography Tips for Beginners

6 Insightful Photography Tips for Beginners

General How-To

6 Insightful Photography Tips for Beginners

Photography Tips For Beginners

When I was first starting out in photography – I mean the very beginning when I wasn’t even sure which end of the camera to look through – it was difficult to find information about learning photography. It was difficult to get good information, I should say. And now, while there are photographers all over the Internet willing to teach you how to take photos in different places and media, there is very little in the way of just good, solid advice for those who know next to nothing. So after some thoughtful consideration, here are my top 6 photography tips for beginners. 

#1 No Camera, No Problem

If you’re just starting out in photography, it’s obviously useful to own a working camera with which to practice, especially one with manual control over exposure. But given the cost of even an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless camera these days, you can still get started with even the most basic of tools – your phone, for instance – while you save up for sometime with more control and options.

You can effectively use your phone to help in learning composition and image frames (what to include and exclude from the photo) to get a head start with one skill that even many advanced photographers struggle with. Ideally you would have a real camera with more control over the final image but in reality, a smartphone camera is better than no camera at all.

#2 Invest in Good Glass

When you do get to the point where you’re ready to invest some money in photo equipment, please take the following advice. Invest in good glass (hipster photography lingo for “lenses”) and less in the camera itself. You should almost treat digital cameras as disposable. Just as a car has a limited number of miles in it before it gives up the ghost, so does a camera with regard to the number shutter actuations before it dies. Also, the sensor technology in your brand-new digital camera will be obsolete in a couple of years. Lenses, however, can last a lifetime, as long as they are maintained properly and your camera manufacturer doesn’t change the lens mount. Bottom line, if your funds are limited, the better investment is in lenses, not cameras.

#3 Your Photos Will Suck

The French documentary and street photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson mused that your first 10,000 photographs are your worst. This is true of photography and most other things you try to learn as well. Your first 10,000 steps as a toddler were probably your most wobbly and unsteady too. Yes, your photos will suck at first and that’s ok. In fact, they might not be very good for many years. The important thing to remember is that you’re striving for improvement, not perfection. Improvement, not perfection. One day you’ll look back on the photos you took during your first year and find them absolutely revolting. And that will be the best feeling because you will know you made improvements along the way.

#4 Follow Your Passion

Ask yourself this question. What’s the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning or the last thing that crosses your mind as you drift off asleep at night? I guess you can say this is a rhetorical question since what I really want is for you to realize is what makes you tick. What are your passions? If they are flowers, then photograph flowers. Wildlife? Photograph wildlife. Cars, beaches, people, pets? Find out what your passions are and train your lens on those things. I would advise against investing too much time on subjects that you are ambivalent about. What a waste! Share your passions! I talk more about this in my recent Twitter AMA.

#5 Experiment and Have Fun

Learn and absorb all you can about photography from books, classes, blogs, online tutorials, and social media. Learn, learn, and learn some more. But in addition to all that learning, make sure you make time to have fun too. Play with your camera. Choose the wrong lens purposefully just to see what you can make of the photo opportunity. Play with different settings and filters so you develop an intuitive understanding of how your camera works and what photography is all about. Your formal learning will be even more powerful when coupled with and intuitive feel for photography.

#6 Take Care Of Your Health

Take good care of your health. Eat well, sleep well, and take care of your body by exercising it regularly. Meditate if you are into that sort of thing. I sure am. If you’re not healthy, it will be difficult to be productive or to have any fun. If you’re not mobile, you will miss shots and opportunities which is frustrating. If you’re tired and exhausted all the time, it’s nearly impossible to be creative. Take that one to the bank.

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. 

Think Tank Photo Large Emergency Rain Cover

Think Tank Photo Large Emergency Rain Cover

Announcements

Think Tank Photo Large Emergency Rain Cover

The Think Tank Photo Large Emergency Rain Cover provides the ultimate in rain protection for your telephoto lenses.

Think Tank Photo Large Emergency Rain Cover

Protect your expensive super telephoto lenses from foul weather with an Emergency Rain Cover in Large. This seam-sealed rain cover protects your camera and lens even in a heavy downpour, dust or snowstorm. A zippered bottom opens up for a tripod or monopod attachment, or for better access to the focus ring. Photographers can cinch up the cover for a tight fit, loosen like a tarp, or roll it up on the lens hood so it’s at the ready in any kind of weather. The Emergency Rain cover fits neatly in your kit and can deploy quickly when outdoor conditions change.

 

Key Features

• Seam-sealed for extreme protection in downpour or dusty conditions

• Compresses into a compact carrying pouch (included)

• Oversized window to view your LCD and controls

What It Fits

• Gripped or ungripped camera bodies

• 150–600mm f/5.6–6.3

• 200–500mm f/5.6

• 200–400mm f/4

• 400mm f/2.8

• 500mm f/4,/p>• 600mm f/4

Get your Think Tank Photo Large Emergency Rain Cover at Think Tank Photo.

You can also check out the Small and Medium Think Tank Emergency Rain Covers on Amazon.

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 is 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. For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.


MindShift PhotoCross 13 Backpack by Think Tank Photo

MindShift PhotoCross 13 Backpack by Think Tank Photo

Announcements

MindShift PhotoCross 13 Backpack by Think Tank Photo

The MindShift PhotoCross 13 Backpack Delivers both Protection and Comfort in a New Compact Size

Introducing the MindShift PhotoCross 13 Backpack by Think Tank Photo

Adventure photographers need a camera bag that’s as tough as they are. With its rugged materials and faceted design, the MindShift PhotoCross 13 backpack from Think Tank Photo will protect your gear from another punishing trip into the wild. The PhotoCross 13 is built to withstand the elements, yet comfortable enough to wear on long days in the field. The extralarge side access point gives you complete access to your gear when you’re ready to take the shot.

Available in two colorways, Orange Ember and Carbon Grey, the PhotoCross 13 features waterproof zippers and is constructed from durable, abrasion-resistant materials, including a heavy-duty tarpaulin bottom panel. Wide, body-conforming shoulder straps give superior support for long days on the trail, and the wide, removable waist belt and breathable 320G air-mesh back panel will keep you comfortable and cool.

Get your MindShift PhotoCross 13 Backpack here

Key Features:

• Weather proof zippers and materials

• Durable materials provide abrasion resistance

• Extra-large side-access point gives you complete access to all your gear

• Tripod or jacket carry with included straps

• Dedicated 13” laptop pocket is padded

• Waist belt is wide and removable providing flexibility depending on the shoot

• Tarpaulin bottom panel is heavy duty and waterproof

• Wide shoulder straps give superior comfort from body-conforming design

• Water bottle pocket locks in most 1 liter bottles

• Back panel with breathable 320G air-mesh keeps the back cool during long days

• Internal zippered pockets for batteries, memory cards or other small accessories

• Front pockets for filters, snacks, or a light layer are easily accessible

• T-pulls are easily gripped with or without gloves

• Top and side carry-handles

• Fully-customizable interior dividers for photo or personal gear

• Seam-sealed rain cover included for downpour conditions

Get your MindShift PhotoCross 13 Backpack here

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 is 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. For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.

Think Tank Photo Releases Urban Access Backpack

Think Tank Photo Releases Urban Access Backpack

Announcements

Think Tank Photo Releases Urban Access Backpack

Introducing the new Think Tank Photo Urban Access Backpack for photographers on the go!

Introducing the Think Tank Urban Access Backpack

Easy to pack and even easier to access, the Urban Access™ Backpack from Think Tank Photo enables you to get to your gear quickly – whether on the run or in the studio. Access panels on both sides allow you to sling the backpack left or right to access your camera gear without taking off the backpack. The rear-panel provides complete access to your gear when working directly out of the bag, so you can see all your gear at one time.

A center tripod mounting system balances even large tripods securely while still allowing access to your gear. The plush harness is shaped for all day comfort and fit, and includes load lifters, a removable waist belt and sternum strap. Available in two sizes, 13 and 15, the Urban Access™ Backpack is ready for your next adventure.

Get your Think Tank Urban Access Backpack Here

Urban Access Backpack Key Features:

• Two quick side-access panels with full-access rear panel

• Dedicated laptop pocket

• Tripod attachment on front secures a small or large tripod with deployable cup

• Access a 70–200mm f/2.8 attached without taking off your bag (15 ONLY)

• Deep front pocket fits a light jacket

• Robust shoulder harness with load-lifters help to adjust the weight of the pack

• Removable sternum strap and waist belt

• Luggage handle pass-through

• Top compartment fits snacks and personal gear

• Expandable water bottle pockets on both sides

• Customizable divider system

• Top compartment mesh pockets help keep small items organized

• Internal organizer pockets give you quick access to filters, batteries, cards, etc.

• Seam-sealed rain cover included

Get your Think Tank Urban Access Backpack Here

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 is 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. For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.