Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Using a Variable Neutral Density Filter

Hi All,

In recent months I've really wanted to try some photography using a variable neutral density filter. I've read a lot about them in magazines but never actually purchased one even though I like the effect they give especially when photographing water. 

Finally I decided to purchase the Dorr 77mm ND4 - 400 from Harrison Cameras in Sheffield. 

The filter is nicely made and comes complete with a lens cap to fit over the filter and a carry case. The price was pretty reasonable too.

The Dorr 77mm Variable Neutral Density Filter

The next thing I needed was some form of running water. I'd heard of Lumsdale Falls near Matlock in Derbyshire but I'd never visited even though it's on my doorstep. 

On Friday  18th of April (Good Friday) I woke up to a beautiful day and this was too good an opportunity to miss. I packed the gear in the car and headed for Matlock. 

The Falls are about 1/4 of a mile from the school car park on Lumsdale Road so it wasn't too far to trek carrying my bag and tripod. 

Having never used a variable filter I realised there would be some degree of experimentation to do to find the right settings that would give me the type of shot I wanted. The filter gives up to 8 stops of variation which can result in a dramatic reduction in the amount of light entering the lens and consequently a dramatic lengthening of shutter speed. 

I took an initial shot of the falls without using the filter for reference. 

1/80th @ f4.0
I now set up the camera on a tripod and attached my cable release as I knew I was going to be trying some very long shutter speeds. I wanted a fairly low angle shot so that I could capture some foreground details. 

D300s, Nikon 24mm-120mm f4.0 with filter attached
I experimented with a few different speeds, apertures and filter settings. At one point I had the camera set at 30 seconds on f22 with the filter fully adjusted and although the image was correctly exposed it made the water almost too silky. 

In the end I settled for 5 seconds @ f16 with the filter set at 4 stops. This give me the images below.

5 seconds @ f16 with 4 stops of filter

5 seconds @ f16 with 4 stops of filter
For me this was the correct setting as it gave me the shots I was looking for. The water is smooth without being too silky. As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and these may not appeal to everyone but for me they were spot on.

Give a variable neutral density filter a try. it's money well spent in my opinion .

If you'd like to see the other images taken at Lumsdale Falls then check them out on my website. 

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