I frequently link to B&H to point to additional info about the subject of a post, especially if it is gear. B&H is a giant photo, video, computer and you-name-it electronics company out of New York City. I have never visited the store in NYC, but I understand it is quite a sight to see. I use them often and can vouch for their service, but I do not receive any money for linking to them or trying to influence someone’s buying. I link to their site mostly because I trust the pages I link to will be there in the future–NO MORE LINK ROT!–but also because I find their info pages instructive, accurate and helpful.
A good rule when making any photograph is “watch the background.” The warning here is against getting so focused on our subject and its presentation we forget to look at the background and we end up including objects and stray light we only see later. A classic example is a tree appearing to grow out of someone’s head in a portrait.
For my landscape photography, the background decisions to be made are usually how much in or out of focus to make it and to watch for obnoxious highlighted areas. Big landscapes I want sharp front to back, from near to “infinity.” Smaller subjects, like a flower, I might want to effectively remove the background by using a very large aperture. That’s when I really have to watch the background. An unnoticed blop of bright light in the background can ruin the photo.
The attached photo is an example of not paying attention to the background. The subject was supposed to be the plants, their blooms and the tree. When I loaded this onto my hard drive at home, I saw I had a visitor in the photo. I never saw the chipmunk while making the photo. So, I got a harmless reminder to watch my background.
It’s a general rule that the best time for photographs is the “Golden Hour,” the time shortly after sunrise or before sunset, during which the light is softer and warmer than when the sun is higher in the sky. The quality of light at those times can be magical. But, I think the best time of day and the best light is the light you have available to you when you want to make a photograph AND that “bad light” is a problem to be solved. I would offer these photos of examples of successfully breaking the rules.
I say “successful” because the photos on the page are exactly what I wanted to create, which is what I term a “success” in photography–getting the results you wanted. They look exactly like I wanted them to, which was a sort of homage to Edward Weston and Ansel Adams and their stark photos of Saguaros in the 1930s and 1940s. Mine were made about 3:30 PM in Saguaro National Park, just east of Tucson. 3:30 is NOT the “Golden Hour” or the “correct” time to make pictures at all; but, that’s when I was there and had the opportunity to photograph. So, rather than a color photo with warm glows and tones of a sunset or sunrise, I opted for these “straight” photos rendered in black and white.
A neutral density filter is a filter that attaches to your lens and reduces the amount of light hitting the sensor (“film”). You will need to increase exposure, change aperture or boost ISO to allow additional light into the camera in order to produce a normal, acceptable exposure. In this post we’re discussing a 10-Stop Solid Neutral Density Filter. This means you have to give 10x more exposure than what you normally would need to in order for your photo to be correctly exposed. With such a long exposure, moving objects like clouds or water will blur to a mirror-like texture. People will disappear entirely if they are walking around.
Why Use a Neutral Density Filter?
The usual goal is to blur water or the sky or other moving objects. With long exposures, moving objects like clouds or water will blur to a mirror-like texture. People will disappear entirely if they are walking around.
The picture here was made at mid-morning on a sunny day and included a pond which is still except for wind, ducks and geese landing and swimming and an aerator running at the far end of it. The exposure was eventually made for 25 seconds, allowing the pond to be rendered almost like a mirror as there was a slight breeze blowing the water.
Here are the steps:
- Mount the camera on a tripod
- Compose the picture and focus your lens. If you are using autofocus, turn it off after focusing. The 10-Stop Solid Neutral Density Filter is so dark, autofocus won’t work with the filter on your lens (step 5 below). Neither will you be able to see to manually focus once the filter is on, so focus now and be careful not to change the focus during the next steps.
- Take a test shot and note the correct exposure time without the 10-stop filter on the lens
- Multiply the exposure by 10
- Carefully screw on the 10-Stop Solid Neutral Density Filter or place it in its holder
- Make your estimated long exposure
- Review to see if the exposure is usable. If not, try again. It will take a few tries to get it right.
Other examples of photographing using a 10-Stop Solid Neutral Density Filter via a Google search.
Photo taken during a walk at The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens in Palm Desert, California
Mass grave and marker for U. S. soldiers who died at the Little Bighorn Battlefield.
View of “Last Stand Hill,” traditionally identified as the location where George Armstrong Custer died at the Little Bighorn Battlefield, along with his brothers Tom and Boston, their nephew Autie Reed and their brother-in-law James Calhoun.