Here’s a shot I took a few weeks ago at the Guadalupe River State Park near New Braunfels, Texas on a beautiful Sunday morning. I can’t walk past one these wonderful old Bald Cypress trees without taking a few shots.
On a calm morning with the water flowing past these trees, it’s an ideal time to play around with some long exposure techniques using Singh-Ray’s Vari-ND neutral density and LB Warming Polarizer filters.
The Vari-ND filter is an incredibly useful design that makes long exposure photography much easier to setup and provides more consistent results. By mounting the Vari-ND on your lens, and adjusting it to the minimum setting (brightest image), you have already added 2 stops more density. After framing and focusing your subject, you simply turn the outer filter ring to continuously reduce the light transmission and increase the density as much as six more stops.
Unlike conventional solid ND filters, you’ll have no problem framing and focusing your DSLR camera with the Vari-ND mounted on your lens. In this image the long exposure time (3.2 seconds) made possible by this filter provides the water’s smooth, flowing look.
Adding a Singh-Ray LB (Lighter/Brighter) Warming Polarizer to this stack helps cut through the glare of the water and warms up the image slightly. Most circular polarizers add a blue cast to your images but the LB warming polarizer actually adds a little warmth.
Here’s a quick disclaimer and a bit of advice on buying filters. First off, I don’t work for Singh-Ray and don’t generally offer product endorsements, but in the case of filters I’m going to make an exception. Over the years I’ve bought hundreds of different size and brand filters from the $15 el-cheapo UV filter back in the 70’s to the top of the line graduated neutral density filters bought just a few months ago.
There are five basic things to understand about filters.
- Not all filters are created equally. Quality glass costs money and an el-cheapo filter is worse than no filter at all. My advice is to buy the best quality filter you can possibly afford and buy it only once! Singh-Ray filters will last you for a lifetime.
- Not all circular polarizers are created equally and even the most expensive may add a blue color cast to your images. That’s why I strongly recommend a Singh-Ray LB (Lighter/Brighter) Warming Polarizer. Nothing else I’ve ever bought including Heliopan and B&W comes close.
- Using a solid neutral density filter to create that wonderful flowing water effect is damn hard work and nine times out of ten, you’ll end up slightly mis-focused. The Singh-Ray Vari-ND is what I call a blinding flash of the obvious. Why did I spend countless hours of pure frustration before I finally bought one of these? Don’t make the same mistake!
- Hand hold your rectangular graduated neutral density filters and forget about the Cokin “P” Series holder. Move the filter slightly during your long exposures to create different effects. The Singh-Ray Galen Rowell ND grads are the best on the market and like all Singh-Ray products, they’re used by landscape professionals all over the world.
- Filters are a landscape photographer’s “tools of the trade” and are essential for creating good exposures. Don’t become dependent upon Lightroom’s adjustment brush or Photoshop’s adjustment layers to fix the exposure in post. BE A PHOTOGRAPHER and do as much as possible IN CAMERA. Yes, I said it. BE A PHOTOGRAPHER AND CONTROL THE LIGHT! (Sorry for yelling)