Sunday, 18 May 2014

Neutral Density Filter Tips for Long Exposures During the Day

Neutral Density Filter Tips for Long Exposures During the Day

Link to PictureCorrect Photography Tips

Neutral Density Filter Tips for Long Exposures During the Day

Posted: 17 May 2014 05:41 PM PDT

In this article, I will discuss an important topic in photography. Although this can be treated as an intermediate to advanced technique, I will try to keep it as simple as possible to make it seem like a piece of cake to all my readers.

ND stands for Neutral Density

ND filters are useful when you are looking for a specific type of effect under adverse lighting conditions. OK, OK. Let me break that down for you. What do you do when you go out on a sunny day and you know you are going to spend a lot of time outdoors? You get a cap and sunglasses. That’s right. You want to counteract the effect of direct sunlight so that you are not “blinded”. A camera works in a similar way. But not exactly the same way, as we are not “blinded” by continuously looking at a moderately lit scene. Let me explain more on camera terms with an example. Say you are taking a photo of a waterfall and you want to have that “creamy” and “silky” effect of the flowing water.

neutral density filters in photography

“River” captured by Josue Enriquez (Click Image to Find Photographer)

The enemy of a slow shutter speed is the ambient light. Just try this experiment: Put the camera on a tripod in P mode. Making sure the flash is off, point your camera toward any object, and press the shutter half-way. Record the shutter speed and aperture setting that are automatically selected by the camera. Now change the mode to M and select the same shutter and aperture. Take the photo with this setting–it should not come out that bad. Now the fun part. Slowly reduce the shutter speed one tenth of a second at a time and see how the photo looks. You will notice the photo is becoming brighter and brighter, and at some point everything is so bright that nothing can be seen clearly. Pros refer to this condition as a blown-out photo.

But say you NEED slow shutter speed to get that motion blur. Of course, you can reduce aperture. But how much? F/16, F/22, F/39? There will be a situation in broad daylight when you have the aperture set to the camera-supported minimum, and still you are not able to lower the shutter speed enough to get that motion-blur without blowing-out the photo. Yeah, yeah, now we are talking photography.

You wish somehow you could reduce the amount of light reaching the camera sensor so that the photo isn’t blow-out, yet you can comfortably reduce the shutter speed to achieve motion-blur AND all this at a decent aperture setting.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome the ND filter.

The filter acts like sunglasses on your eyes, limiting the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor, eating up light so that you can take photos in broad daylight and still set the shutter speed as slow as one second (can you believe it? the flowing water will be as creamy as ever) at a reasonable aperture of F/22.

neutral density filter use

“C Rock Form and Seastacks – 2nd Beach” captured by nathan mcreery (Click Image to Find Photographer)

Standard settings I use for the silky/creamy water flow effect putting the ND filter on:

  • Mode: Shutter Priority (TV)
  • Shutter Speed: start with 1/10 secs and reduce it gradually till you get the desired amount of blurriness effect
  • Aperture: F/13-22
  • ISO: 100 or lower
  • White Balance: AWB or Cloudy
  • Metering Mode: Evaluative (if I have bright area in the scene, I do a partial metering)

Consider another situation, where you want to focus only on the subject, keeping the background out of focus. You widen the aperture to the smallest value your camera/lens supports (say F/2.8) and guess what, the photo becomes blown-out. You try to increase the shutter speed, but alas, even the maximum supported shutter speed is producing a blown-out photo. You guessed it right: the ND filter is again our rescue crew. Put on a ND filter and you can keep the minimum F-stop with a reasonable shutter speed and still get the subject in focus with rest of the scene out of focus (I am deliberately avoiding the concept of depth of dield to keep this article simpler.

Of course, you can try lowering the ISO to 50 or lower, but the effect of reduction of light, by lowering ISO sensitivity is negligible compared to ND filters. What I mean is lowering ISO is no match against the ND filter in reducing the impact of “amount of light” on brightness of the photo.

Types of ND filters

There are different types of ND filters available and they are classified based on the amount of light they block (or the darker/denser the glass is).

The greater the optical density, the more light it will absorb. So a ND filter is sometimes classified in terms of density

0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.6, 0.7, 0.8, 0.9, 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, and so on.

The light blocking capacity of the ND filters is also measured by the reduction of f-stops. The more f-stops an ND filter will reduce, the less light it will allow to pass. Thus a 2-stop ND filter blocks double the amount of light of a 1-stop ND filter.

So this is one way of specifying the “darkness” of the filter. There’s another. Different manufacturers use different conventions. ND4 filter means a 2 stop ND filter. Huh? A little bit of math here…

neutral density filter tips

“Reaching for the Sky” captured by Steven Maguire (Click Image to Find Photographer)

ND2 means 1 stop ND filter (2=2 to the power 1) allowing 50% of light to pass (transmittance). ND4 means 2 stop ND filter (4=2 to the power 2) allowing 25% of light to pass. ND8 means 3 stop ND filter (8=2 to the power 3) allowing 12.5% of light to pass and so on…

If you are a little bit lost, do not worry; all you need to understand is that “darker” ND filters block more light. ND8 is darker, ND2 is less dark. A 0.9 ND Filter is darker and a 0.3 ND filter is less dark. A 3 stop ND filter is darker and a 1 stop ND filter is less dark, and so on and so forth. That should work for now.

Which filter should I use and when?

The ND filter you need depends on how much light you want it to absorb so that you can achieve the desired shutter speed or the desired aperture size at the ambient lighting conditions. (Remember the first statement in this article?) This depends on how much ambient light you are working in. So, overall, this is more or less experimental. The rule of thumb is that if you want a lot of motion blur or absolute silkiness, use the darkest ND filter (ND8) so that you can really slow down the shutter. If it’s dark (overcast, dawn or dusk), you may not need the darkest ND filter, because there is already less light. So you may try a medium dark filter (ND4) to achieve the same effect. For sports, to bring that motion blur, you may need just a slightly dark filter (ND2) if don’t want too much blur.

Do I really need ND filters?

You will most likely need ND filters (of various strengths) if you shoot landscapes a lot (like me, which you can see in my photoblog–75% of my best collections are landscapes). Or if you shoot sports a lot in bright daylight. But, as I said, you will KNOW you need a ND filter when you have reached your camera/lens limit of blocking light and do not have any further options.

river photo using neutral density filter

“A Himalayan stream” captured by peter wolledge (Click Image to Find Photographer)

BONUS TIP: You can always “stack” up one filter on the other to increase the darkness even more. But beware of vignetting on wide angle shots (18-20mm) with stacked up filters, along with other “combination” effects.

How many ND filters do I need to buy?

Well… in my opinion, you should get ahold of a 0.9 ND filter first, and then if you need to, go for a 0.6 ND filter. Then you can stack them up to get an even darker filter. I have rarely used my 0.3 ND filter.

When NOT to use an ND filter

A word (or sentence) of caution: Most ND filters are effective only on the visible spectrum of light and do not proportionally reduce ultra-violet or infrared radiation.

This can be specially dangerous if you are using ND filters to view sources like the sun or white/red hot metal or glass which emit intense non-visible radiation that is not blocked by ND filters. This  can seriously damage your eyes, as the source does look dim when viewed through the filter. Do NOT look directly at sun through the viewfinder even with an ND filter. You eyes are precious, especially if you enjoy photography!

neutral density photography techniques

“rivulet” captured by mio (Click Image to Find Photographer)

Another situation to avoid using an ND filter is when the scene has a mixture of areas with higher and lower brightness (i.e., not uniformly lit). For example, during a sunset the horizon is bright but the ground is dark. Using an ND filter will make the darker spots more dark, thus losing the appropriate detail (this is opposite to being blown-out and is called burn-out).

What are the available varieties?

There are different flavors of ND filters available on the market. To start with, I would always suggest to go for multi-coated filters, as they are better quality than normal glass–and worth the price. The normal glass filters are cheaper and have a lot of side effects (color-casts) associated with them. Of course, there are pro filters that cost a lot, but then they are durable, scratch-resistant, and high quality.

Options include different brands like Hoya, Singh Ray, B+W, Tiffen, and Lee filters. These are GREAT filters with no color casts, but the cost varies with make and model. I own Hoya filter sets, and I am quite happy with the quality of the light reduction at a reasonable price. Singh Ray filters are relatively costly but with high optical precision. For experimental learners, I would recommend getting your hands on Hoya filters.

Why are these sunglasses for cameras called “Neutral”?

Good question. Because these sunglasses (should) “eat up” light of all wavelengths equally. This means during absorbing, no color is given preference over the other. Thus the term “neutral”. But not all ND filters on the market are made perfectly. Especially the cheap ones that create color casts on photos, as they cannot reduce intensity of all wavelengths equally. I recommended getting standard, branded, and quality ND filters (the multi-coated ones). Research on the Internet; read reviews and forums to find out the best ND filter to suit your needs and your wallet.

About the Author:
This article was written by Sudipta Shaw.

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Article from: PictureCorrect Photography Tips

Redefining Success in Wildlife Photography (Video)

Posted: 17 May 2014 03:36 PM PDT

Being halfway in a dream land, as a stranger. That’s how Asgeir Helgestad, a nature photographer and filmmaker based near Oslo, Norway, describes the feeling of photographing wildlife.

Throughout his career, Helgestad’s stunning wildlife documentaries and photographs have captivated world audiences and encouraged countless individuals to appreciate nature’s boundless beauty and immerse themselves in it. In this video, Helgestad explains his views on wildlife photography—particularly his definition of success in the genre and the frame of mind necessary to achieve it:

What is Success?

For Helgestad, rather than a culmination of prestigious awards, print sales, and other photography-related accolades and income, success in wildlife photography is tied to one’s ability to craft photographs that captivate viewers’ emotions and provoke them to care for the environment rather than abuse or neglect it.

“The most important thing I can do as a wildlife photographer is to show them the beauty and importance of taking care of what we have,” said Helgestad. “Success, for me, is actually if I could move people with my work… to see what I see. If I can bring [that] out to others, it’s good.”

Helgestad also considers himself successful simply because photography allows him to immerse himself in nature to behold its wonders and witness animals living out their lives in the wild, free and noble. This vision of excellence is one of humility, tempered with utmost respect for the natural world, and Helgestad is able to maintain it even in some of the harshest conditions imaginable because he has cultivated a unique frame of mind that sets him up for success.

asegir helgestad norway oslo wildlife photographer

Helgestad’s passion drives him to this quality of work.

How to Achieve Success as a Wildlife Photographer

1. Nevermind the weather. You probably shouldn’t try to photograph animals in extremely dangerous conditions, but don’t shrink away from challenges either. The majority of Helgestad’s photos are taken in the Artic, especially in Norway and Antarctica, but he doesn’t mind the bitter cold because of his passion for wildlife photography.

2. Be dedicated. As with adverse weather conditions, Helgestad isn’t bothered in the least by the immense amounts of time and patience that are required to master wildlife photography. Besides the actual practice of sitting behind a blind waiting for wildlife in the field, Helgestad spends long hours studying animal behavior so that he can learn to predict animals’ movements and be better prepared to capture those once-in-a-lifetime moments when they come.

“You’ve got to be at the right place,” said Helgestad. “You’ve got to know the animals, know what they think and how they act. You’ve got to be a little bit of [an] animal psychologist, in a way, to realize what’s [going] to happen.”

3. Go after what you want. At the beginning of Helgestad’s wildlife photography career, he would trek out into the woods in search of “something interesting” to photograph, but after many years, his process has matured. Now, Helgestad envisions the images that he wants beforehand and then heads out into the wild with the intent and know-how to create them.

wolf artic snow frozen cold norway antarctica

Helgestad photographed this arctic fox in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.

4. Connect with the animals. It’s not enough to simply photograph a wolf in a technically-sound manner—you need to tell a story or transmit emotion in your images. Figuring out why you were drawn to photographing the wolf in the first place as Helgestad does will help you to make better pictures and grow your photography skills.

“It is not about getting as close as possible, but to capture the feeling of being there. I think that it is important for me to be out there and capture the soul of the animal. I don’t just want to look into their world. I would like to be part of it.”

5. Be thankful. Instead of wasting energy complaining about weather conditions or boredom while you’re laying in wait for that perfect shot, remember the privilege it is to do what you do and to see what you see. Most people will never get to experience nature’s majesty in its fullness as you do; they will only get a small picture of it through your photographs.

6. It’s not just a job. Perhaps the most important facet of Helgestad’s mentality is that photography is not only something that he does to make money. If that’s all photography is to you, then you will likely run short on motivation and give up when challenges begin mounting up against you instead of sticking it out to get the shot you were hoping for.

polar bears alaska white glacier ice cute baby animal

Helgestad encountered this polar bear family in Svalbard.

Most of Helgestad’s work is captured in 5K Ultra High Definition (UHD) with his large format RED Epic camera, which is capable of delivering RAW files sized at 5120 x 2700 pixels with 96 frames per second and up to 240 fps at smaller dimensions. Reportedly, the RED camera’s high dynamic range and low noise levels provide Helgestad with uncompromised detail and amazing colors.

Helgestad also commonly uses the following Canon lenses in his work:

“You cannot run from one thing to another thing all the time. You should get [into] the depth of [something] and do it well. I think it is passion for the wildlife that drives me out there every day. This isn’t just a job. It is actually for my heart.”

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Article from: PictureCorrect Photography Tips

Interesting Photo of the Day: Blue Hour Snow

Posted: 17 May 2014 11:44 AM PDT

Anyone who lives where it snows knows what’s going on in this photo. When snow is expected, the sky can take on a strange colored glow—sometimes bluish, sometimes pink or orange, depending on weather conditions and time of day:

snow photography

Blue snowy morning (Via Imgur. Click for larger size.)

A Pennsylvania photographer captured the phenomenon one early morning from their front deck. Besides the effect of the snowy sky, this photo may also be depicting what’s known as the “Blue Hour,” the twilight time in the early morning or late evening that—due to being neither fully light nor fully dark—creates a unique quality of light that has a distinct blue hue.

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Simple Fix for Distracting Background Elements in Photos (Video)

Posted: 17 May 2014 10:23 AM PDT

Whether you're a professional or just starting out, distracting background elements are something every photographer encounters and must think about before snapping that perfect image. Using a cluttered alley as his example, Toby Gelston demonstrates the ultra-simple measures needed to cover up unwanted background distractions so you can keep your viewers' attention on what matters:

An alley way can serve as a great outdoor studio, offering interesting lighting and partial shade especially during midday sun. However, it can also be full of unwanted or unsightly distractions.

By shooting at a higher angle, and bringing the subject closer we are able to eliminate a lot of clutter existing at many different heights.


Toby at eye level with 70mm, 1/160, at f/5.0


The camera is tilted upwards and Toby brought forward, resulting in a clean background.

Toby is able to save the great leading lines of the alley, but the trick applies elsewhere. He explains:

"This honestly is the answer 90 percent of the time when you're shooting a person: fill the frame with the subject."

But like all things in photography, the key is in practice and experimentation. So get out there, shoot around, and try out different backgrounds, angles, and lenses to remove unwanted background elements.

The camera used in the video demonstration is a Canon EOS 70D.

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Article from: PictureCorrect Photography Tips

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