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!

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

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!

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29 thoughts on “The Dark Hole in the Universe Filter

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  1. James 11 years ago

    Yep, love this look, I have 9 stops. They make everything seem incredibly calm. Do one at an intersection with lots of people for a weird ghostly effect.

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

      Yeah they're pretty cool, look forward to doing more testing of various effects!

  2. Beau Mitchell 11 years ago

    Get onto those waterfall pics, Flem! You'll learn to love them 😛

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

      Will do Beau, I have a mission, this time I plan to hit every Kimberley waterfall and use my 10 stop filter, ka ching, money in the bank 😀

  3. Tony Middleton 11 years ago

    cool shot and great result Flemming ! I think your PP work here is as good as ever.

    cheers,

  4. Stephen Williams 11 years ago

    very nice!
    i've heard a bit about these filters. would be lots of fun.

    can you hear that voice??

    "c'mon Flem…cross to the dark side….take a waterfall shot…..you know you want too……"

    creepy huh…. 😛

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

      Cheers mate! Stephen, I hear the voice loud and clear. It has made me buy a 10 stop filter and will surely make me shoot every waterfall in Kimberley – and change the company name to Waterfalls 'R Us Photography!

  5. michaelolive 11 years ago

    Hi Flemming, Great shot I really love the effect of this filter. I bought one about a month ago and have had fun with the possibilities it opens up. Thanks for the tip of using liveview, I never thought of it but will no doubt save me the frustration of adding and removing the filter between shots.

    Cheers

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

      Hi Michael and thanks! Yeah liveview is tailor made for filter work it's just brilliant!

  6. kirk hille 11 years ago

    I dont have a 10stop filter yet but going to get the signhray variable 10 stop with poloriser soon .
    Some of the day long exposure shots look amazing with the cloud blur .

    I though you werent a fan of waterfall shots Flemming ?

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

      I'm not a fan of waterfall shots that's why we're all being so ironical and satirical 😀 I reckon I should have a few waterfall shots in my portfolio though, so I'll give it a go now I have the filter.

  7. SebastianP 11 years ago

    The motion blur on the clouds is just amazing. Did you had noise issues with the long exposure?

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

      Hi Sebastian, no noise problems, the 5D Mk II files are super clean and noise free. Iso100 at 30 secs is no problem at all.

  8. Ric 11 years ago

    Thanks Flemming. I also did not think of live view. I just got my B&W 10 stop in the mail today. Keep up the good work pal

  9. matthewinman 11 years ago

    I just want one, I'm missing '50 asa film and a polariser welded to the camera' effect. This should get me my silken waterfall effect. How do you go with it if the clouds are moving fast?

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

      Matthew that should be easy enough, shoot at iso 50 and glue the polarizer to your lens!

      I haven't shot really fast moving clouds with this filter, may blur the clouds too much I reckon. But then I just bump up the iso on the 5D Mk II and use a faster exposure.

  10. Cain Doherty 11 years ago

    cool filter! other than waterfalls (lol!) have you any other scenes you wish to shoot with it? and live view for my mates mamiya press would be great too – it has has a tiltable/shiftable filmback but we're too tight to play with it because of unknown results – damnit! it leaks light so it's not really worth it anyway.

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

      Hi Cain. I'm thinking beachscapes or cityscapes during the day would be quite cool to try with this filter.

  11. mervfrench 11 years ago

    Flemming I've posted a little taste of the outback on my blog , it might just get you in the mood for travel. Have a good trip and I look forward to your post's while your away.

    How did you go with the battery?

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

      Thanks Merv, will have a look at your latest blog for sure. No battery, no shops in Denmark have yet to get them in stock so far so stuck on one battery. Wasn't enough time to order from Perth before takeoff.

  12. Rob Lewis 11 years ago

    Hi Flemming
    I love the look and may buy one myself.

    As a one upmanship, I have a ND 400x ! I bought it for the partial solar eclipse on Australia day.

    It's VERY dark and not useful for anything other than pointing a lens at the sun although I did have visions of using it like you have but it is way over the top.

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

      Hi Rob and thanks very much for your comment ! The ND400x is a 10 stop isn't it? If you bump up the iso to 200 or 400 can you not use it during the day?
      Best regards, Flemming

  13. katie 11 years ago

    I really want to buy the canon 5d mkII, perhaps when I win deal or no deal? Or lotto.. or something. Is it an amazing camera to work with? I assume so because this picture is great.

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 11 years ago

      Hi Katie and thanks for your comment! It's an amazing camera, read back a bit on my blog and you'll find my comments on it.