As part of any landscape photographers kit, numerous filters are used to create different effects. The most popular of these filters is a circular polariser (used to cut out reflective light), but one filter every landscape photographer should have in their kit is a 10-stop ND Filter. A 10-stop ND helps slow everything down, increasing your exposure by 10 stops. For example, if you have a starting shutter speed of 1 second, adding a 10-stop filter will increase the shutter speed to 16 minutes. This opportunity to slow the world down increases the creative potential for the photographer in-field, adding another dimension to your arsenal.
As a landscape photographer, filters are an integral part of my workflow when out in the field and I would highly recommend investing in at least a circular polariser and 10-stop ND Filter.
Where the circular system beats the 100mm system
With regards to filters, there are two filter system options available:
100mm System which includes adaptor rings, filter holder and various filters.
This system allows the use of ND’s, ND grads and polarisers together. These filters are generally square or rectangular in shape of which slide in and out of a filter holder, however the polariser are generally circular in shape and screw into a round filter holder sitting either in front or behind the square/rectangular filters.
Circular system (screw in filters)
These are smaller, cheaper, lighter and more compact but cannot be used together with each other at extreme wide angles. (I have had success using a 10-stop ND and circular polariser together, but I had to zoom in from 16mm to about 20mm to get rid of the vignetting the stacked filters caused).
I have used the 100mm filter system extensively for my landscape work, and it is the system I would recommend to everyone. Having said that, I do a lot of hiking and using the 100mm filter system is too cumbersome for me because of the increased weight, bulk and risk of filter breakage. For this reason, I have chosen to use screw in filters for the hikes.
I use a 10-stop ND and circular polariser. These are a lot easier to use and pack on a long multi day hike. My Nikon 16-35mm f/4 lens and 24-120mm f/4 lens use the 77mm filter size so I can use both of these filters on each lens. If you own lenses with different size filter threads, you can buy step-down rings which allow you to fit for example an 82mm filter on a lens that has a 77mm filter thread so you won’t have to buy the same filter numerous times for different lenses that have different thread sizes.
In the past, 10-stop screw in ND’s have been questionable in terms of optical quality, they had bad vignetting with bad colour casts.
This has all changed with NiSi’s IR ND1000 10-Stop screw in filter. I am very impressed by this filter, its by far the best screw in 10-stop ND I have ever used. The optical quality is outstanding. There is absolutely no loss in sharpness. A very, very minor magenta cast is present but it is easily fixed in Lightroom by adding about a -10% adjustment on the white balance tint slider, BUT the average photographer would probably not even notice a colour cast. The huge positive for this ND is that there is also absolutely no vignetting created. Saying that, vignetting created by a filter is relatively easy to fix with a few adjustments, but the image quality suffers a lot. Raising the exposure in badly vignetted corners creates a lot of noise and we don’t want that.
Here is an example of an image shot without the 10-stop filter straight out of camera, the second image showing a shot using the 10-stop filter straight out of camera, and then the third with a few quick Lightroom adjustments along the lines of how I edit my landscape work.
Tips for shooting long exposures
- Find your composition and setup your camera without the ND filter, work out a base exposure, achieve focus and then set your lens to manual focus. Screw in the 10-stop filter and then set your desired exposure and fire the shutter.
- Find subjects that are moving. Clouds and water make great long exposure subjects that will create wonderfully blurred effects.
- Use a long exposure on water to simplify your compositions.
- Block the camera viewfinder when creating your long exposures to prevent light from leaking into your camera creating undesired effects.
- Shoot using a tripod, you don’t want any shake when creating a long exposure.
- Use a cable release or self timer on your camera to trigger your exposure to eliminate camera shake.
- If your exposures are longer than 30 seconds (most cameras only allow 30 second exposures if not in bulb mode) use a timer cable release. These allow you to program your exposure time accordingly. Set your camera to bulb mode and then allow the timer remote to create your exposure.
- Don’t shoot into direct light. Reflections will create unwanted effects in your long exposures.
Here are two more examples of what can be achieved using extremely long exposures.