I recently purchased a Heliopan 10 stop ND filter. This particular filter is almost akin to a dark hole in the universe although it does not consume you or open a worm hole if you look into it (I did, nothing happened. Disappointing). It lets in a mere 0,10 % of available light! This allows for very long exposures in full daylight, so you can blur moving elements like clouds, water, traffic. I bought the filter as I felt it is an interesting way to add otherworldly effects to daylight shooting. Also; I hear there’s a huge market for long exposure waterfall images so this filter should be a money maker!
Sunday provided some amazing storm clouds and some sunshine no less so I took the filter out for a test. Looking through the viewfinder is the dark hole; you are blind. So how do you focus and compose? Well, you either do it before attaching the filter – or if you own a camera with LiveView you simply use this incredible feature! The Canon 5D Mk II liveview just rocks, it is truly a spectacular thing and can see in the dark. 1/1000th of available light? No match for liveview! Even though the viewfinder is pitch black, liveview perfectly simulates a 30 second exposure and shows you the result on the 3” lcd complete with live histogram and no worries. Too easy! It is astounding that 0,1 % of light is enough for the liveview sensor. Ansel Adams would have loved liveview, he worked with huge manual view cameras at small apertures, composed using ground glass, and tilted the focus plane to get everything in focus. Takes a lot of experience to get this right. Except for focus plane shifting, by pressing a button we now have this live simulated with live histogram on a 3” lcd screen. I can even zoom in on the liveview image to check focus. Too easy almost!
30 Seconds of Storm Cloudscape
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography
This shot from Copenhagen Harbour was composed and exposed using liveview. With the 10 stop ND filter attached, this is a 30 second exposure at f/16.0 – in the middle of the day. Viewfinder is useless but using liveview the image on the lcd was clear as day. Colours were not interesting in bland midday light, a much more dramatic result to be had from a black and white conversion in Lightroom. Here the bright light actually helps, lending contrast to the image. I added a strong vignette and duotoned the shadows a dark brown. Notice the water and the clouds shows the effect of 30 seconds exposure with the 10 stop ND filter.
PS. Would the persons owning the two boats to the left and right of the above view please move their vessels? I wanted to stitch a panorama wider that this but the bloody boats are in the way!