Checklist for when using ND photographic filters on site

Probably the worst thing that can happen – through your own fault at least – is to arrive on site and find that you’ve forgotten to bring something. For example – you remembered your tripod bit forgot to mount an L-bar or arca swiss tripod plate on your camera. The checklists below might help to prompt you when preparing.

AT HOME

  1. Clean Lens & filters
  2. Charge batteries – camera and phone
  3. Check space on SD card/s.
  4. Replace with new cards if necessary
  5. Check tripod legs firm/adjust as needed

  BEFORE YOU GO

Pack as below:

  1. Camera plus charged battery/ies
  2. Clean Lens/es
  3. L- Bar or swiss arca plate or equivalent
  4. SD card/s
  5. Phone with charged battery
  6. Filter holder
  7. Step-up adapter/s
  8. Clean Filter/s
  9. Blower / Lenspens
  10. Microfibre cloth/ lens wipes
  11. Remote cable shutter release if available
  12. Torch/ head torch if planning night shots
  13. Food Change for meters?
  14. Clothing/ footwear for conditions
  15. Bag for litter

ON ARRIVAL

  1. Check viewpoint OK?
  2. Foreground/Midground OK?
  3. Check scene for composition?
  4. Remove portable distractions
  5. If necessary move elsewhere
  6. Set up tripod securely/firmly
  7. Attach camera firmly to tripod
  8. Remove lens cap and store safely
  9. Check camera set level to horizon
  10. Attach remote cable shutter/ self-timer
  11. Focus
  12. Take a base shot
  13. Check Preview for focus, exposure, and white balance
  14. If necessary change settings, take another shot and check
  15. Note shutter speed, aperture, ISO
  16. Tape lens barrel to lock focus
  17. Switch to Manual Mode
  18. Enter the aperture and ISO

SET UP FILTER SHOOTING

  1. Set High ISO Noise Reduction OFF
  2. Set Shake Reduction OFF
  3. Set Mirror Lock UP
  4. Enter base shutter speed from test shot into app to calculate settings for ND filter being used
  5. Enter shutter speed for that ND filter onto camera if less than 30 seconds
  6. Attach Adapters and Filter/s
  7. Use gaffer tape on viewfinder (and lens exposure window) to seal against stray light entering camera during exposure
  8. Do not re-focus: Change mode to Bulb if recommended shutter speed more than 30 seconds
  9. If using more than 30 seconds set Long Exposure Noise Reduction ON
  10. Check filter still clean
  11. Use calculated time to start timer and TAKE SHOT

AFTER THE SHOT

  1. Allow time for Long Exposure Noise Reduction activity
  2. REVIEW image – ADJUST AND RETAKE IF NECESSARY
  3. When finished remove filter/s and adapters & pack securely
  4. Replace lens cap and lens hood.
  5. Fold tripod
  6. Check that you are leaving nothing behind
  7. Check that your backpack zips etc are closed properly
  8. Pack and leave

I think that with this post I’ve now covered most of the trickiest things that anyone new to photography needs to know. If anyone reading this blog wishes me to cover a different aspect, please let me know. Otherwise, my next post will revert to my writing hobby.

Are you stopping? ND filter strengths in photography.

In a post a few days ago, I mentioned the idea of Stops in the context of the Aperture triangle. When you use neutral density (ND) filters, the idea of Stops becomes a central issue. You use filters to reduce light entering the sensor in situations when using the shutter speed setting alone doesn’t fit the bill. ND filters are available in a range of strengths – these can be called by different names, but the easiest one to remember is the number of Stops of light which the filter offers. You have to choose, by looking at the situation, how strong a filter you want to use. If you are photographing a waterfall in bright light, perhaps 3 stops will do. If you are photographing waves then probably 10 stops would be your minimum – and you may want to stack a 10 stop plus a 5 stop. You are the judge. What you then have to do is to take the shutter speed that your camera recommends without a filter, and look it up in a table – such as that below, or by using a phone app – to find out what shutter speed you will need when you have a filter installed.

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So, if you’ve taken a test shot without a filter and the preview tells you that your exposure is OK, have a look at the shutter speed that you used, say 1/125 seconds. Now, let’s say you want to use a 6 stop filter, the table tells you that, with the filter installed, your shutter speed will need to be 1/2 seconds. At this point, you need to lock your focus, remember your settings and switch to Manual mode. Enter those settings – ISO, Aperture – and your new shutter speed (the 1/2 seconds one in this case), pop in your filter and you’re almost ready to go (I’ll say more about that tomorrow.

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I said above that filters are known by different names by different manufacturers – for example as a 6 stop filter, a 1.8 optical depth filter or as an ND 64 filter. The table above provides the equivalent types of naming for each strength. The table also shows the equivalent fraction of light that is admitted. So, a 6 stop filter admits only 1/64 of the light that would have been admitted without a filter. Think back to the first table. Without a filter you would have opened the shutter for 1/125 of a second. With the 6 stop, ND64 filter you will open the shutter for 1/2 second – ie 60/125 or roughly 64 times longer.

The table examples above are just to illustrate the principle. There are excellent phone apps, such as ND expert, where you just enter the base shutter time and the filter type and which also provide a timer.

Today’s featured image is of the lighthouse at Penmon Point, Anglesey, North Wales with Puffin Island to the right of the image.

This photograph was taken only slightly later with a 10 stop filter plus a 2 stop polariser. The light had also changed. The base shutter speed was 1/200 seconds, the filtered time was 10 seconds ie 2000/200 equalling a factor of 1000 (roughly 1024)

Tomorrow, I’ll provide a detailed checklist of everything you need to do to prepare for your long exposure outing.