Neutral Density Filters

December 29, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

I have heard many digital photographers say that they do not use filter because they do everything in post processing. Even though I am simply not good enough to do in Photoshop what these photographers claim they can do I am open to the idea that much can be accomplished in post processing. To me it comes down to who I am. Am I a photographer that also know Photoshop reasonably well or am I a Photoshop expert that can also take reasonable images? If you struggle to answer that question for yourself perhaps ask whether you enjoy taking images more or working on the computer more? For me, there is no contest; I am a photographer. That means I do as much as I can when I shoot to minimize my work back home. So yes, I certainly use filters. I use polarizing filters and neutral density filters. If the scene is right I may even use a graduated neutral density filter, although I use these less and less these days.

This is a scene where I just felt that I wanted to create a peaceful landscape. I did not want crashing waves. I wanted to smooth out the water. I wanted to create a dreamy scene. To do that I needed to use a long shutter speed. However the sun is still up, in fact, I am shooting right into the bright sun. So how am I to get a long shutter speed?

          Here is where the neutral density filter comes in. They are basically sunglasses for your lens. They do not alter the color of your scene, they simply allow less light through allowing you to use long shutter speeds even when the light is bright. You can also stack them to make it even darker should you need to. I have a three stop and a six stop filter. Together they give me nine stops of shade. The filter is placed in a holder in front of your lens. Your camera should notice the lower light levels and adjust automatically. However, your camera's light meter does not go beyond 30 seconds. I use an app on my smartphone (LEE ProGlass, it is free) that calculates the exposure easily and quickly.

          If you are using a really long shutter speed you do not want to be holding the filter in front of your lens, rather use a GOOD filter holder because light will leak in and ruin your image.

          So what do you think? It takes me all of a few seconds to screw the filter holder onto the lens and one second to drop the filter in. Had this image been taken with a short shutter speed and crashing waves were visible how long would it have taken to get that image to look like this one using Photoshop? Call me old fashioned if you please but I still use neutral density filters and I love them.


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