Neutral Density Filters - Digital Photography School

Neutral Density Filters

A Guest Post by Robin Ryan

I’d like to talk today about the potential offered by Neutral Density filters, and how they can make your photos more unique.

Ruined Harbour II by Duncan_Smith (used with permission)

Ruined Harbour II by Duncan_Smith (used with permission)

The smooth watercolour feel in the above photo is due to a Neutral Density 64 Filter. This filter has interested me lately and this photo demonstrates one of its primary uses: to smooth out water and skies without the use of post-processing. I think the results are perfect, and I’d love to have this on my wall.

A Neutral Density Filter is one designed to block out a substantial amount of light. This enables the photographer to slow down his shutter speed and/or shoot at a faster F-stop.

Most photographers will use what is called an N2, N4, or N8 filter to smooth out waterfalls, rivers, oceans. This photographer has used an N64 filter which is far stronger, letting him have an exposure of 60 seconds at f/16 for this image. Without the filter, the photographer would have had to use f/2 to get away with a 60-second image, or less than a second at f/16.

An N64 filter allows for 1.5% of available light to enter the lens. Here is comparison table for the other filters, courtesy of wikipedia:

Filter Name F-Stop Reduction % of Light Transmitted

ND2 has an F-Stop Reduction of 1 which means 50% of the light gets through
ND4 has an F-Stop Reduction of 2 which means 25% of the light gets through
ND8 has an F-Stop Reduction of 3 which means 12.5% of the light gets through
ND64 has an F-Stop Reduction of 6 which means 1.56% of the light gets through
ND1000 has an F-Stop Reduction of 10 which means .1% of the light gets through

Options

It’s important to remember that filters are designed to fit your lens diameter. Look at the front part of your lens and check for a 2-digit number followed by mm. Common diameters are 77mm, 72mm, and 52mm.

Robin Ryan is a Vancouver-based photographer always hunting for beauty through the rain. Or in it. Anyways, he runs “Your 1000 Words” and his portfolio is found at www.robinryan.ca

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  • Andre

    Maybe I’m just having a senior moment, but isn’t his backwards? “the photographer would have had to use f/2 to get away with a 60-second image, or less than a second at f/16″

  • Jason

    Maybe I’m dense because it is so early, but how does f/2 at 60 seconds translate to less than a second at f/16?

  • Chloe

    Thanks for the advice, I’ve been wondering about these filters!
    I was just wondering, when it talks about exposures of 60 seconds, how are they achieved? My camera only seems to allow me to up to 30 seconds – do you have to take two photos and combine, or use BULB mode?
    or is it just not possible on my camera? I have the Sony A200

    Thanks
    Chloe
    x

  • Speed

    “It’s important to remember that filters are designed to fit your lens circumference.”

    That may be true but the numbers give the diameter.

  • Darren

    Andre is right the logic is backwards – is there no proof reading articles here?

  • Gen

    @Andre
    Yeah… That doesn’t seem right.

  • http://niels-henriksen.blogspot.com/ My Camera World

    N64 = 6 f-stops.

    Therefore without filter you would need a shutter speed of 1 not 2 sec at f16 (original was 60s)

    If you also wanted to use f2 then it would 3 more stops and then a shutter of 1/8 sec.

    Niels Henriksen

  • Ken

    Forgive me please as I am learning. Why would I increase my aperture to an f2 at 60 seconds without the N64 filter? I would have thought you would want to use a smaller aperture to let in less available light while slowing the shutter as no to over expose.

  • Ken

    Sorry. I just read the previous posts. Disregard the last.

  • http://karenstuebingsdailyshoot.wordpress.com/ Karen Stuebing

    That is one gorgeous photograph. I need me a couple ND filters for my Pentax. You can stack them. I have some for my Olympus but I mostly take the Pentax.

    I hate lugging a tripod into the wilderness but if it gets a photo like that then I’ll do it. Unless someone has a mule for sale? :)

    And yes, you can stop down to get a slow shutter speed but you don’t get the reduced light effect.

  • Tyler

    Do these work with a step up ring, so I could buy a set for 58mm lenses, and then use a stepup on my 52mm to use the same filters (I know that some filters they don’t work.

  • ChrisC

    @Karen: Stopping way down will affect your DoF and you might not be able to stop down far enough to do a 60s exposure if it’s even kind of bright out, but I’m not sure what you mean by “reduced light effect”.

  • Wayne Rushworth

    nice image & a good job with making the birds remain still for them to be in focus

  • http://marcelloseri.blogspot.com marcello

    @chloe: the Alpha A200 can do only 30s exposure if you use the preconfigured mode but if you by a remote commander (on ebay you can find lots, the simplest and less expensive costs less than 5$) you can do even two hours or more!

  • radohc

    I like the birds on the wall, not moving for 60 seconds

  • http://www.aduro.ca Al Del Degan

    Great article, I think that with the power and creativity that is offered up by programs like Adobe Photoshop, people often miss the amazing creativity and challenge that can be found with using the “old fashioned” filter on your camera lens. People should definitely experiment more with their camera and place less reliance on Post processing.

    Also, with the comment “Without the filter, the photographer would have had to use f/2 to get away with a 60-second image, or less than a second at f/16.” isn’t that backwards?

    Cheers,
    Al

  • http://jasoncollinphotography.com Jason Collin Photography

    Another blog post about neutral density filters I read last week has moved getting a ND filter to near the top of my next to buy photo gear list (just below a SB-800 and radio transmitter)

  • Marija

    Can someone please tell me if is it possible to take a decent waterfall photo without ND filter? I own an Olympus e520 and I’ve been trying to take a photo of waterfalls but I haven’t succeed yet . I achieve silky look of water but along with that I get parts of waterfall blown out :(

  • http://photographyforsoul.com Can Berkol

    i still need to get one…

  • http://karenstuebingsdailyshoot.wordpress.com/ Karen Stuebing

    I was actually thinking of waterfalls and the settings I use. I don’t do 60s exposure and still get the creamy water effect.

    Here is one at f22 with a 1/10 shutter speed. Granted it could be creamier but it was shot hand held and I couldn’t use a slower shutter speed.

    [eimg url=’http://karenstuebingsdailyshoot.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/how-i-wish-id-chosen-darkness-from-cold/’ title=’how-i-wish-id-chosen-darkness-from-cold’]

    Here is one of the waterfall without a ND filter. Again, I could stop down to get the slow shutter speed. But I sacrificed the highlights by not having a graduated ND filter which could have evened the light in the scene.

    I had to desaturate the blown sky and trees which suffered from CA too. With a graduated ND filter, I would have had more even exposure across the scene.

    [eimg url=’http://favoritephotosfrommyposts.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/waterfall-in-winter/’ title=’waterfall-in-winter’]

  • http://karenstuebingsdailyshoot.wordpress.com/ Karen Stuebing

    @ChrisC

    I was actually thinking of waterfalls and the settings I use. I don’t do 60s exposure and still get the creamy water effect. I’d like to try sometime though.

    Here is one at f22 with a 1/10 shutter speed. Granted it could be creamier but it was shot hand held and I couldn’t use a slower shutter speed.

    Creamy Water.

    Here is one of the waterfall without a ND filter. Again, I could stop down to get the slow shutter speed. But I sacrificed the highlights by not having a graduated ND filter which could have evened the light in the scene.

    I had to desaturate the blown sky and trees which suffered from CA too. With a graduated ND filter, I would have had more even exposure across the scene.

    Brushy Falls .

  • kate

    I wish you guys would do a more complete article about filters. Something that includes as many filters as possible and what the photo would look like before and after. I realize that’s an incredible amount of work but it’s really difficult to find all that info on one site. Maybe ask for reader input? Have people sign up for a filter to use and a before and after example to provide?

    This article was very helpful and it’d be great if there was something like this on as many filters as possible including before and after examples. It’s easy to find things on UV, polarizing, neutral density and to some extent infrared but what about the rest of them?

  • http://jclossphoto.wordpress.com Jeff Closs

    This is a good start, but the logic is backwards (an easy mistake to make when you’re trying to explain something) and it doesn’t seem to go far enough. I know it’s just an introduction, but I’d like to see a couple more examples, a couple warnings perhaps, maybe even a couple suggestions.

    What happens when I use a ND filter w/ a circular polarizer? What about the potential offered by ND Graduated filters. Should I take it off when I go inside? (The answer to that last question is almost always “yes”!)

  • Aaron

    Here’s the main problem I have with this site so far: errors that slip through editing dont seem to ever get fixed. And I rarely see Darren or many of the other guest contributers watching the comments (the two problems are obviously related). Sad to see such a huge blight on such a great site (and I say huge, because an article like this can be seriously confusing to new photographers).

  • http://perceptionoflife.com Tim A.

    Putting aside all the technical details for a second… How did he get the birds to be so clear?? Unless he got SUPREMELY lucky, at a 60sec exposure I would expect all the birds to disappear… I’m thinking this is a really nice shot composed of probably at least 2 if not a few more shots of the same scene and blended. It’s a beautiful shot but…more details would have been nice. I looked at his Flickr page but all I see in the comments are the typical “ooohs” and “ahhhs”…and I can’t believe only 1 other person here commented on the birds!!

  • http://www.aduro.ca Al Del Degan

    Maybe the birds were all sleeping ;)

  • http://your1000words.blogspot.com Robin Ryan

    Hi everybody,

    First of all, let me apologize for that big error in my calculation… my bad. I edited this article back and forth and this was a stupid mistake that got by me.

    Darren: please go ahead and fix that.

    Glad that some of you found this helpful.

    Cheers,
    Robin

  • http://flickr.com/photos/richbagley Rich Bagley

    This image is beautious! Thanks for the article; I’m inspired to try this myself.

  • Bill

    There’s definitely a mix-up in some details in this article, poorly proofed if not poorly written – that said, great summary of the effects of ND filters – from someone currently looking at those for his own use.

  • Al

    Ok, i’m a little new to digital photography (although I’ve retained what I learned from my 35 mm print days).

    Why would you use a ND filter, say ND2, instead of exposure compensation (-1) or just bring the lens down 1 stop?

    The picture is beautiful but is it just an issue of letting in less light?

    thanks!

  • http://thunderphotography.smugmug.com/ Kevin

    Strange is it not? for the past week I;ve been investigating the ND filter density and sizes this has added to my knowledge bank, Thanks Team
    To Chloe
    I had the SonyA100 when they were first introduced and it had an open shutter after the 30sec, If you check your manual you should find it or download it from Sony web site. I would highly recommend an external shutter control. The one I used for the A100 now fits my A900 That’s good news that the Mfg. makes the parts interchangeable.

  • corinne linder

    I need help..im very new to photography! I have no clue about apeture, ISO, etc etc and the manual is greek to me…please can anyone help me?? please email me at clinder@cmaaccess.com if you can–thanks

  • Richard

    Thanks. I thought I was going crazy trying to figure out how f/2 at 60 seconds was equal to f/16 at less than a second.

  • http://www.michellearmour.com Michelle

    The only filters I ever use these days are the ND. Circ Pol and a star filter. I used to do heaps with filters in the film days and have quite a collection but now most everything else can probably be done with Photoshop, (I prefer the star filter for light bursts than the computerised alternative). I do have a gradual ND which can be useful as well, being cokin you put the graduation anywhere in the frame.

  • http://www.kirpi.it/ kirpi

    @kate
    The main point is that “the rest of them” happens to amount to a huge heap of materials and devices. About anything on Earth could be used as “a filter” – well, ok, I’m exaggerating, but not too much ;-)
    Just to give a quick and rough idea: take some crumpled cellophane film wrap (right the one around the cigarette outer packages), place it in front of your lens, and you get something like Sarah Moon’s 1972 Pirelli Calendar images (focal length and aperture settings do matter a lot).
    Black stockings make for a good diffuser filter, as well, if you like.

    Even popular, regular filters can be used in odd or less-than-common ways with good results.
    So, back to this very article subject, a single polarizer filter can double as a Neutral Density filter in case of need, and if you stack two polarizers and rotate one of them you get a variable ND filter (mind a slight dominance of the shorter wavelenghts with cheap polarizers when placed at a very light-blocking angle).

    One thing is certainly true, above many others: it would be worth/fun to “rediscover” in-camera image creation, and rely a bit less on digital post-processing, at times.

  • http://sarangu.redbubble.com Jeremy

    I didn’t know there were such strong filters available! I just bought myself an ND1000! I used to stack up an ND0.3, ND0.6 and an ND0.9 (or ND2, 4, and 8) and have to sacrifice composition because at wider focal lengths the vignetting was atrocious, it was like looking through a periscope! Then I had a taste of wide angle long exposures in daylight using an infrared filter and I wanted more!!! And with this I can shoot in colour! When I get this I’m off straight to the beach!!!

  • http://www.lizjoephoto.com Joe S

    What manufacturer make a ND 64 or ND 1000. I cannot seam to find any?

  • Mike Brown

    Why would you use a ND filter, say ND2, instead of exposure compensation (-1) or just bring the lens down 1 stop?

    The idea of ND filters is to allow you to use a slower shutter speed or wider aperture and still get a correctly exposed image. Usually, you’re looking for two or three stops (ND4 or ND8) if you want to really blur a waterfall or reduce the depth of field quite a bit. Yes, you can stop down the lens to get a slower shutter speed, or open the lens to get less depth of field, but at some point you run into limits – if your lens only stops down to f/16, and your image sensor has an ISO of 200, the slowest shutter speed you can get in daylight is 1/200, which is still pretty fast. With an ND8 filter, that slows down three stops to 1/25, and with an ND64 another three stops to 1/2 sec.

    Setting exposure compensation plus one or two stops may get you a slower shutter speed or wider aperture (depending on the camera settings) but it will also give you an improperly exposed image (one or two stops too light). (Note that you had the compensation in the wrong direction – a minus-one-stop compensation would increase the shutter speed or narrow the aperture by one stop)

  • Al

    Thank you for the explanation Mike…very helpful! I imagine I will have to pick up a couple of filters and experiment, but this makes things a bit clearer (and thanks for the clarification on the exp. compensation) :)

  • http://jimworrall.wordpress.com/ Jim Worrall

    For those who might be interested there is much more information in the following filter tutorial –

    http://www.redbubble.com/people/peterh111/journal/4421304-the-ultimate-easy-guide-to-neutral-density-filters

  • http://elainevellacatalano.com Elaine

    Great article! I’ve been looking for so long for an article like this one – straight to the point and easy to understand. Thanks so much!

  • Diana Mikaels

    Has anyone tried using one of those 3D glasses you get at cinema, put it in front of the lens and hold it there while the picture is being taken?

  • http://www.kirpi.it kirpi

    @diana
    I guess you do not expect that so many different technologies (and 3D glasses) are used today worldwide. Just cast a glance to http://www.3dglasses.net/ in order to get a rough idea. That said, it is highly probable that you here mean “circular polarizers” type of glasses. In which case it is worth to try and use them, provided that you place the outer side of the glasses against the front lens of your camera: in other words, do not let your camera wear the glasses, but let it look into the glasses from the front.
    Have fun :-)

  • http://www.kirpi.it kirpi

    @diana
    As a follow-up to your question and to my own previous comment, I have quickly shot a couple of images, just to give an idea of what you can get out of such 3D glasses. It seems to me that it is an interesting way to discover about light and photography at no cost.

    [eimg url=’http://www.kirpi.it/listing/uploads/Photo/kirpi_3d_glasses_polarizer_quick_test.jpg’ title=’kirpi_3d_glasses_polarizer_quick_test.jpg’]

    Also, in order not to pollute this article with unrelated comments (we are now dealing with polarizers, while this page is devoted to ND filters) I have put together an ad hoc page about using 3D polarized glasses as photographic filters: feel free to add your comments there and contribute as you see fit.

  • Diana Mikaels

    @kirpi
    Thanks a lot for caring to reply :)
    I would have done it the other way round.
    I’m gonna try (and then I’ll probably want the real thing…)

  • Francis E. M.

    Thank you, very nice article. I was looking to see what these filters would do, and this was very helpful. I’m totally ordering one

  • http://kirpi.it kirpi

    @francis
    Which kind of filter are you going to order (if I may ask, of course)?

  • Robert Orpin

    I’m interested in photographing a hillside from where I live at night. There are lots of small twinkling lights on this hillside but I can’t decide on an exposure time or aperature. What is this best way to do this? Once I am guided through how to take this kind of shot, it will provide a lot of answers/information for me. Once I see how something is accomplished then it opens a lot of doors. To read a book just doesn’t work for me, I need exact instructions, then I can take it from there. Hands On is best for me, but I don’t know how to experiment, I get too frustrated. Thank you in advance for any help with this! Bob Orpin, West Covina, CA

Some older comments

  • Robert Orpin

    January 18, 2013 07:21 am

    I'm interested in photographing a hillside from where I live at night. There are lots of small twinkling lights on this hillside but I can't decide on an exposure time or aperature. What is this best way to do this? Once I am guided through how to take this kind of shot, it will provide a lot of answers/information for me. Once I see how something is accomplished then it opens a lot of doors. To read a book just doesn't work for me, I need exact instructions, then I can take it from there. Hands On is best for me, but I don't know how to experiment, I get too frustrated. Thank you in advance for any help with this! Bob Orpin, West Covina, CA

  • kirpi

    October 18, 2010 06:36 am

    @francis
    Which kind of filter are you going to order (if I may ask, of course)?

  • Francis E. M.

    October 18, 2010 01:52 am

    Thank you, very nice article. I was looking to see what these filters would do, and this was very helpful. I'm totally ordering one

  • Diana Mikaels

    March 19, 2010 10:38 am

    @kirpi
    Thanks a lot for caring to reply :)
    I would have done it the other way round.
    I'm gonna try (and then I'll probably want the real thing...)

  • kirpi

    March 19, 2010 09:28 am

    @diana
    As a follow-up to your question and to my own previous comment, I have quickly shot a couple of images, just to give an idea of what you can get out of such 3D glasses. It seems to me that it is an interesting way to discover about light and photography at no cost.

    [eimg url='http://www.kirpi.it/listing/uploads/Photo/kirpi_3d_glasses_polarizer_quick_test.jpg' title='kirpi_3d_glasses_polarizer_quick_test.jpg']

    Also, in order not to pollute this article with unrelated comments (we are now dealing with polarizers, while this page is devoted to ND filters) I have put together an ad hoc page about using 3D polarized glasses as photographic filters: feel free to add your comments there and contribute as you see fit.

  • kirpi

    March 19, 2010 07:35 am

    @diana
    I guess you do not expect that so many different technologies (and 3D glasses) are used today worldwide. Just cast a glance to http://www.3dglasses.net/ in order to get a rough idea. That said, it is highly probable that you here mean "circular polarizers" type of glasses. In which case it is worth to try and use them, provided that you place the outer side of the glasses against the front lens of your camera: in other words, do not let your camera wear the glasses, but let it look into the glasses from the front.
    Have fun :-)

  • Diana Mikaels

    March 19, 2010 02:15 am

    Has anyone tried using one of those 3D glasses you get at cinema, put it in front of the lens and hold it there while the picture is being taken?

  • Elaine

    February 16, 2010 12:04 am

    Great article! I've been looking for so long for an article like this one - straight to the point and easy to understand. Thanks so much!

  • Jim Worrall

    February 15, 2010 10:44 am

    For those who might be interested there is much more information in the following filter tutorial -

    http://www.redbubble.com/people/peterh111/journal/4421304-the-ultimate-easy-guide-to-neutral-density-filters

  • Al

    February 13, 2010 05:17 am

    Thank you for the explanation Mike...very helpful! I imagine I will have to pick up a couple of filters and experiment, but this makes things a bit clearer (and thanks for the clarification on the exp. compensation) :)

  • Mike Brown

    February 13, 2010 03:19 am

    Why would you use a ND filter, say ND2, instead of exposure compensation (-1) or just bring the lens down 1 stop?

    The idea of ND filters is to allow you to use a slower shutter speed or wider aperture and still get a correctly exposed image. Usually, you're looking for two or three stops (ND4 or ND8) if you want to really blur a waterfall or reduce the depth of field quite a bit. Yes, you can stop down the lens to get a slower shutter speed, or open the lens to get less depth of field, but at some point you run into limits - if your lens only stops down to f/16, and your image sensor has an ISO of 200, the slowest shutter speed you can get in daylight is 1/200, which is still pretty fast. With an ND8 filter, that slows down three stops to 1/25, and with an ND64 another three stops to 1/2 sec.

    Setting exposure compensation plus one or two stops may get you a slower shutter speed or wider aperture (depending on the camera settings) but it will also give you an improperly exposed image (one or two stops too light). (Note that you had the compensation in the wrong direction - a minus-one-stop compensation would increase the shutter speed or narrow the aperture by one stop)

  • Joe S

    February 13, 2010 03:17 am

    What manufacturer make a ND 64 or ND 1000. I cannot seam to find any?

  • Jeremy

    February 12, 2010 09:38 pm

    I didn't know there were such strong filters available! I just bought myself an ND1000! I used to stack up an ND0.3, ND0.6 and an ND0.9 (or ND2, 4, and 8) and have to sacrifice composition because at wider focal lengths the vignetting was atrocious, it was like looking through a periscope! Then I had a taste of wide angle long exposures in daylight using an infrared filter and I wanted more!!! And with this I can shoot in colour! When I get this I'm off straight to the beach!!!

  • kirpi

    February 12, 2010 09:14 pm

    @kate
    The main point is that "the rest of them" happens to amount to a huge heap of materials and devices. About anything on Earth could be used as "a filter" - well, ok, I'm exaggerating, but not too much ;-)
    Just to give a quick and rough idea: take some crumpled cellophane film wrap (right the one around the cigarette outer packages), place it in front of your lens, and you get something like Sarah Moon's 1972 Pirelli Calendar images (focal length and aperture settings do matter a lot).
    Black stockings make for a good diffuser filter, as well, if you like.

    Even popular, regular filters can be used in odd or less-than-common ways with good results.
    So, back to this very article subject, a single polarizer filter can double as a Neutral Density filter in case of need, and if you stack two polarizers and rotate one of them you get a variable ND filter (mind a slight dominance of the shorter wavelenghts with cheap polarizers when placed at a very light-blocking angle).

    One thing is certainly true, above many others: it would be worth/fun to "rediscover" in-camera image creation, and rely a bit less on digital post-processing, at times.

  • Michelle

    February 12, 2010 09:00 am

    The only filters I ever use these days are the ND. Circ Pol and a star filter. I used to do heaps with filters in the film days and have quite a collection but now most everything else can probably be done with Photoshop, (I prefer the star filter for light bursts than the computerised alternative). I do have a gradual ND which can be useful as well, being cokin you put the graduation anywhere in the frame.

  • Richard

    February 12, 2010 08:30 am

    Thanks. I thought I was going crazy trying to figure out how f/2 at 60 seconds was equal to f/16 at less than a second.

  • corinne linder

    February 12, 2010 07:06 am

    I need help..im very new to photography! I have no clue about apeture, ISO, etc etc and the manual is greek to me...please can anyone help me?? please email me at clinder@cmaaccess.com if you can--thanks

  • Kevin

    February 12, 2010 07:02 am

    Strange is it not? for the past week I;ve been investigating the ND filter density and sizes this has added to my knowledge bank, Thanks Team
    To Chloe
    I had the SonyA100 when they were first introduced and it had an open shutter after the 30sec, If you check your manual you should find it or download it from Sony web site. I would highly recommend an external shutter control. The one I used for the A100 now fits my A900 That's good news that the Mfg. makes the parts interchangeable.

  • Al

    February 12, 2010 06:56 am

    Ok, i'm a little new to digital photography (although I've retained what I learned from my 35 mm print days).

    Why would you use a ND filter, say ND2, instead of exposure compensation (-1) or just bring the lens down 1 stop?

    The picture is beautiful but is it just an issue of letting in less light?

    thanks!

  • Bill

    February 12, 2010 03:54 am

    There's definitely a mix-up in some details in this article, poorly proofed if not poorly written - that said, great summary of the effects of ND filters - from someone currently looking at those for his own use.

  • Rich Bagley

    February 12, 2010 03:07 am

    This image is beautious! Thanks for the article; I'm inspired to try this myself.

  • Robin Ryan

    February 9, 2010 01:49 pm

    Hi everybody,

    First of all, let me apologize for that big error in my calculation... my bad. I edited this article back and forth and this was a stupid mistake that got by me.

    Darren: please go ahead and fix that.

    Glad that some of you found this helpful.

    Cheers,
    Robin

  • Al Del Degan

    February 9, 2010 07:31 am

    Maybe the birds were all sleeping ;)

  • Tim A.

    February 9, 2010 07:24 am

    Putting aside all the technical details for a second... How did he get the birds to be so clear?? Unless he got SUPREMELY lucky, at a 60sec exposure I would expect all the birds to disappear... I'm thinking this is a really nice shot composed of probably at least 2 if not a few more shots of the same scene and blended. It's a beautiful shot but...more details would have been nice. I looked at his Flickr page but all I see in the comments are the typical "ooohs" and "ahhhs"...and I can't believe only 1 other person here commented on the birds!!

  • Aaron

    February 9, 2010 07:15 am

    Here's the main problem I have with this site so far: errors that slip through editing dont seem to ever get fixed. And I rarely see Darren or many of the other guest contributers watching the comments (the two problems are obviously related). Sad to see such a huge blight on such a great site (and I say huge, because an article like this can be seriously confusing to new photographers).

  • Jeff Closs

    February 9, 2010 01:44 am

    This is a good start, but the logic is backwards (an easy mistake to make when you're trying to explain something) and it doesn't seem to go far enough. I know it's just an introduction, but I'd like to see a couple more examples, a couple warnings perhaps, maybe even a couple suggestions.

    What happens when I use a ND filter w/ a circular polarizer? What about the potential offered by ND Graduated filters. Should I take it off when I go inside? (The answer to that last question is almost always "yes"!)

  • kate

    February 8, 2010 11:29 pm

    I wish you guys would do a more complete article about filters. Something that includes as many filters as possible and what the photo would look like before and after. I realize that's an incredible amount of work but it's really difficult to find all that info on one site. Maybe ask for reader input? Have people sign up for a filter to use and a before and after example to provide?

    This article was very helpful and it'd be great if there was something like this on as many filters as possible including before and after examples. It's easy to find things on UV, polarizing, neutral density and to some extent infrared but what about the rest of them?

  • Karen Stuebing

    February 8, 2010 09:49 pm

    @ChrisC

    I was actually thinking of waterfalls and the settings I use. I don't do 60s exposure and still get the creamy water effect. I'd like to try sometime though.

    Here is one at f22 with a 1/10 shutter speed. Granted it could be creamier but it was shot hand held and I couldn't use a slower shutter speed.

    Creamy Water.

    Here is one of the waterfall without a ND filter. Again, I could stop down to get the slow shutter speed. But I sacrificed the highlights by not having a graduated ND filter which could have evened the light in the scene.

    I had to desaturate the blown sky and trees which suffered from CA too. With a graduated ND filter, I would have had more even exposure across the scene.

    Brushy Falls .

  • Karen Stuebing

    February 8, 2010 09:44 pm

    I was actually thinking of waterfalls and the settings I use. I don't do 60s exposure and still get the creamy water effect.

    Here is one at f22 with a 1/10 shutter speed. Granted it could be creamier but it was shot hand held and I couldn't use a slower shutter speed.

    [eimg url='http://karenstuebingsdailyshoot.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/how-i-wish-id-chosen-darkness-from-cold/' title='how-i-wish-id-chosen-darkness-from-cold']

    Here is one of the waterfall without a ND filter. Again, I could stop down to get the slow shutter speed. But I sacrificed the highlights by not having a graduated ND filter which could have evened the light in the scene.

    I had to desaturate the blown sky and trees which suffered from CA too. With a graduated ND filter, I would have had more even exposure across the scene.

    [eimg url='http://favoritephotosfrommyposts.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/waterfall-in-winter/' title='waterfall-in-winter']

  • Can Berkol

    February 8, 2010 06:22 pm

    i still need to get one...

  • Marija

    February 8, 2010 04:55 pm

    Can someone please tell me if is it possible to take a decent waterfall photo without ND filter? I own an Olympus e520 and I've been trying to take a photo of waterfalls but I haven't succeed yet . I achieve silky look of water but along with that I get parts of waterfall blown out :(

  • Jason Collin Photography

    February 8, 2010 03:01 pm

    Another blog post about neutral density filters I read last week has moved getting a ND filter to near the top of my next to buy photo gear list (just below a SB-800 and radio transmitter)

  • Al Del Degan

    February 8, 2010 07:55 am

    Great article, I think that with the power and creativity that is offered up by programs like Adobe Photoshop, people often miss the amazing creativity and challenge that can be found with using the "old fashioned" filter on your camera lens. People should definitely experiment more with their camera and place less reliance on Post processing.

    Also, with the comment "Without the filter, the photographer would have had to use f/2 to get away with a 60-second image, or less than a second at f/16." isn't that backwards?

    Cheers,
    Al

  • radohc

    February 8, 2010 06:31 am

    I like the birds on the wall, not moving for 60 seconds

  • marcello

    February 8, 2010 06:04 am

    @chloe: the Alpha A200 can do only 30s exposure if you use the preconfigured mode but if you by a remote commander (on ebay you can find lots, the simplest and less expensive costs less than 5$) you can do even two hours or more!

  • Wayne Rushworth

    February 8, 2010 05:23 am

    nice image & a good job with making the birds remain still for them to be in focus

  • ChrisC

    February 8, 2010 05:18 am

    @Karen: Stopping way down will affect your DoF and you might not be able to stop down far enough to do a 60s exposure if it's even kind of bright out, but I'm not sure what you mean by "reduced light effect".

  • Tyler

    February 8, 2010 04:58 am

    Do these work with a step up ring, so I could buy a set for 58mm lenses, and then use a stepup on my 52mm to use the same filters (I know that some filters they don't work.

  • Karen Stuebing

    February 8, 2010 04:16 am

    That is one gorgeous photograph. I need me a couple ND filters for my Pentax. You can stack them. I have some for my Olympus but I mostly take the Pentax.

    I hate lugging a tripod into the wilderness but if it gets a photo like that then I'll do it. Unless someone has a mule for sale? :)

    And yes, you can stop down to get a slow shutter speed but you don't get the reduced light effect.

  • Ken

    February 8, 2010 04:02 am

    Sorry. I just read the previous posts. Disregard the last.

  • Ken

    February 8, 2010 04:00 am

    Forgive me please as I am learning. Why would I increase my aperture to an f2 at 60 seconds without the N64 filter? I would have thought you would want to use a smaller aperture to let in less available light while slowing the shutter as no to over expose.

  • My Camera World

    February 8, 2010 03:51 am

    N64 = 6 f-stops.

    Therefore without filter you would need a shutter speed of 1 not 2 sec at f16 (original was 60s)

    If you also wanted to use f2 then it would 3 more stops and then a shutter of 1/8 sec.

    Niels Henriksen

  • Gen

    February 8, 2010 02:48 am

    @Andre
    Yeah... That doesn't seem right.

  • Darren

    February 8, 2010 02:27 am

    Andre is right the logic is backwards - is there no proof reading articles here?

  • Speed

    February 8, 2010 01:24 am

    "It’s important to remember that filters are designed to fit your lens circumference."

    That may be true but the numbers give the diameter.

  • Chloe

    February 8, 2010 01:14 am

    Thanks for the advice, I've been wondering about these filters!
    I was just wondering, when it talks about exposures of 60 seconds, how are they achieved? My camera only seems to allow me to up to 30 seconds - do you have to take two photos and combine, or use BULB mode?
    or is it just not possible on my camera? I have the Sony A200

    Thanks
    Chloe
    x

  • Jason

    February 8, 2010 12:49 am

    Maybe I'm dense because it is so early, but how does f/2 at 60 seconds translate to less than a second at f/16?

  • Andre

    February 8, 2010 12:44 am

    Maybe I'm just having a senior moment, but isn't his backwards? "the photographer would have had to use f/2 to get away with a 60-second image, or less than a second at f/16"

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