I’m currently on vacation on the island of Maui. Each time I come to the Islands I hope to get a chance to shoot the Milky Way from atop Haleakala, weather and moon permitting. Well once again, it hasn’t worked out because I’m here during a full moon phase. I decided to make the best […]
I love the look of those really long exposure images that are captured with multiple stop ND filters, especially 10 stops or more. I’m even more passionate about the black and white photos, there’s something about them that stirs me, maybe the surreal feel. There are many options for 8 to 10 stop filters ranging from the Singh-Ray Vari-ND, the Lee Big Stopper or the filter I chose, the B&W 110 – 10 stop filter. There are also many more less expensive options available. There are 2 versions of the B&W filter, the single coated version and the multi-coated version. I opted for the multi-coated version as I understand it should help with flare and reflections. With the B&W filter there is about a $70 difference between the two. You should be able to buy the B&W multi-coated version for around $180 for a 77mm filter.
I purchased a single coated version about a year ago, but somehow it got damaged in my camera bag. It wasn’t obvious at first, but the metal was slightly dented and wouldn’t screw onto the lens properly. Even though I had it in its protective case, I’m guessing someone got a little too aggressive trying to fit their luggage into the overhead bin on a flight and bent the filter. I now put my camera bag under the seat in front of me. Lesson learned.
10 stops filters are great for blurring cloud movement, making waterfalls are silky, smoothing out rough water and making moving cars and people seem like they have disappeared. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
I’ve read about people experiencing color shifts with some of the filters. I haven’t noticed anything with the B&W, though I’m converting to black and white so I’m not too concerned about the color shifting. I also shoot in RAW so I can easily fix and shift. It also seems to be more prevalent in the cheaper filters.
So now that I replaced the filter with the new multi-coated version, I was excited to give it a try. I received the filter a few days before a business trip to London so I thought I would shoot the London Eye during daylight hours and see if I could slow the shutter down enough with the 10 stop filter to blur the ferris wheel and possibly be lucky enough to also have some fast-moving clouds that would feather out during the long exposure. One afternoon I headed down to the Thames and set up my tripod across from the Eye. Once you put the filter on your lens you can’t see anything through the viewfinder, so you will want frame your image, take note of the exposure settings and once you have the lens focused, set it to manual focus, then you can attach the filter. I wanted as long as an exposure as I could get, so I set the aperture to f22 and since I was in aperture priority mode the camera showed a 2 second exposure without the filter. Now you need to add approximately 10 stops to the shutter speed, which made it 20 seconds, I decided to try a 25 second exposure. Here is the result.
This image is pretty close to what I was looking for. I wish the clouds were a little more feathered, but overall I’m happy with the photo. I did all the processing in Lightroom 4. There were a couple of boats that passed through while the shutter was open, but as you can see, they just seem to disappear. Pretty cool stuff. I have lots of ideas for the filter and can’t wait to try them out. I’ll post the images.
Understanding Your DSLR Histogram
You don’t need to be a camera guru to understand the histogram on your digital camera. It only means that you need to learn more about your camera and its features. To get an optimum exposure and not lose any data, it is important to interpret your digital camera’s histogram to comprehend what it means and make the appropriate exposure adjustments.
What does the graph mean?
Well, what is a digital camera histogram and what do you do with it? This would be a great time to pull the manual out for your digital camera and learn how to display the histogram on the camera’s LCD display. On most digital cameras the histogram can be enabled so it displays every time you take a photo. To explain it briefly, it is a graph that shows the level of brightness of an image from the very darkest levels on the left (value 0) to the very brightest on the right (value 255), on the horizontal axis. The graph’s height, vertical axis, is the measure of the density of image pixels of a particular tonal value. The taller the graph for a particular tonal value the more shades of that tone will display in the photo. As you can see from the histogram on the left, there are a lot of pixels between the mid-tones and highlights. This is a histogram from a photo of Badwater in Death Valley which because of the bright sodium deposits most of the pixels will be somewhere between the mid-tones in the center and the highlights.
Some histograms also display separate graphs for the level of brightness and pixel density for the three primary colors- Red, Green and Blue (RGB). The histogram also displays in many photo editing software programs including Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture, among others.
Now that you have a better understanding of your digital camera’s histogram, we can move on to how you evaluate the exposure of a photograph. After you’ve taken a photo and you are viewing the graph on your LCD display, ideally you want to see most of the graph’s pixel density between the left and right brackets. Continue Reading »