VARIABLE ND FILTER- A must for the landscape photographer

VARIABLE ND FILTER- A must for the landscape photographer

An ND (Neutral Density) filter is a filter that you attach to the front of your lens to reduce or modify the intensity of the brightness that can enter your camera through the lens.

Hoya ND filter
Hoya Variable ND Filter

ND filters reduce the amount of light

The purpose of a photographic neutral density filter (ND filter) is to reduce the amount of light entering your lens. With the ND filter on you can choose more combinations of aperture and exposure time than would have been possible without an ND filter, especially if you are shooting during daytime.

If you want to photograph a waterfall on a sunny day with a long shutter speed, ie. you want the water to look a little dreamy (you don't see the water droplets but the water flows together like cotton). Then you must have an ND filter in order not to come home with an overexposed image. In this situation, the application of a suitable neutral density filter is equivalent to stopping one or more additional stops, enabling a slower shutter speed and the desired motion blur effect.

Lång exponering av vattenfall i Norge
Canon 5 D Mark IV, Lens Canon 24-70mm F2.8 Shutter speed 0,8 sec F 16 ISO 320 Hoya Variable ND filter

The image above is photographed with a tripod. I would recommend always using a tripod when shooting landscapes, especially with long shutter speeds otherwise you will easily get motion blur.

Lång exponering av vattenfall i Norge
Shutter speed 1/50 sec F 3.5 ISO 320 Used ND filter

The picture above and below are taken at the same time with the same photo equipment but with different shutter speeds and aperture numbers. When the shutter speed is longer, the water becomes a bit more dreamy in its appearance.

On both pictures I focused on the bridge.

When you take landscape pictures, a tip is to focus 1/3 into your picture because then the sharpness of the picture falls off in a pleasant way, if you have aperture number F 5.6 and up.

The picture below I would not have been able to take unless I had an ND filter. The picture had been completely overexposed with the long shutter speed. Yes, I could have gone down to ISO 100 of course but it hadn't helped, it had still become an overexposed image with a long shutter speed.

However, I could have photographed the waterfall and shown how the water jumped across the rocks. To capture such an image, you need a fast shutter speed so it would have been excellent, but as soon as you choose to have a long shutter speed you will get an overexposed image. Overexposed means that upper image is too bright and with very little detail, which you do not want.

The ND filter I use is a variable ND filter that has as many as 10 steps in strength to choose from. When I use my ND filter I rotate it until I think it looks good and take a test image.

Avoid camera shake

One of the great tips when using long shutter speeds is to use a tripod or rest the camera on something stable so you don't get camera shakes. You should also be very careful when you press the shutter because you do not want to have any aftershocks when you are using a long shutter speed - they will ruin your image.

Either you use a remote trigger for the camera or as I did here, I used the camera's own delay trigger which is set to take a shot after 10 seconds after you pressed the button. Still important to push the button gently so that you do not get a blurry image because the camera is standing and shaking slightly. Some cameras have so you can download an app and use the phone as a shutter.

Lång exponering av vattenfall norge
Shutter speed 0,3 sec F 14 ISO 320 Used ND filter

Trying to show you what an ND filter can do, check out the image below. I actually hold the ND filter so it's not on the lens (where it should actually sit), but what you see is that The Steam Hotel you see through the filter is darker and better exposed than what you see outside the filter that is a bit more overexposed. Just wanted to show it to you to sort of get an understanding of how it works. If you still have questions, just ask and I'll try to answer as best I can.

/Helen Shippey

Photographer in Västerås, Sweden!

Steam Hotell i Västerås genom ND filter
Steam Hotel, Västerås through an ND filter

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Företagsfotograf Helen Shippey

About me

My name is Helen and I love to create and happily share what I create with my cameras / drones.

Join me on my photography assignments.

You can call me Shippey, my friends does!


Has; Apprentice Letter in Photography