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Build & Shoot: Heavy Stop ND Filters

Lesson 7 from: DIY Photography: Lens Attachments, Filters & Creative Effects

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

7. Build & Shoot: Heavy Stop ND Filters

Lesson Info

Build & Shoot: Heavy Stop ND Filters

- [Mike] When we do landscape photography, we oftentimes use neutral density filters. Neutral density filters allow us to increase the exposure to have a really long exposure. So imagine, for example, you are photographing a waterfall. And in the middle of the day, like on a sunny day, if you take a photo of that waterfall, the water is going to be frozen, right? Well, you guys have all seen these photos where the water is just flowing over the waterfall, it's all blurry, it's soft. Well, the way that they accomplish that is they put a neutral density filter in front of the lens. And I was talking this morning with one of the camera guys and he says, "Wait a second. I bought this neutral density filters and they cost me hundreds of dollars. Are you going to make me feel bad?" Because this, what I'm going to show you, only costs like $8. I'm like, "Don't worry, those are still worth it. This is just an alternative." So what do we have here? What am I showing you? Well, this is literally...

a welding mask filter, a welding mask shield. They call it a welding mask lens. I bought this on Amazon for, I think, $7, something like that, $7. And the way this is going to work is I'm going to mount this in front of a lens just like that and we're going to take these really long exposure photographs, okay? So, these welding masks, these welding shades, they come in different darkness value. And I tried to figure out a good conversion between a regular photo…you know, how many stops of lightness does it reduce? I don't have a good conversion, but these things come in shade level 12, shade 10, shade 8, shade 6. And really, it's depending on what the welder is doing, you know, how bright is the environment that they're welding in. So I bought a couple. I bought a shade 8 and a shade 12. I'm guessing, just total guessing that the shade 12 is close to a 8 stop neutral density filter in the photo world. And then the shade 8 is probably more like a 4 stop, something like that. These are a little bit dicey to use. We're going to do a couple of examples here in the studio. I'm going to do some long exposure experimentation here in the studio, but they're hard to use because you have to basically focus first and compose your camera first and then you've got to put the filter on there, and then you have to stand there for minutes at a time while the camera takes the exposure. And then when you're done, you look at it and you're like, "Oh, I was off by a little bit." So you get everything reconfigured and you go for another five-minute exposure. So again, the goal is long exposures in the field, but just to show how stuff works, we're going to try some stuff in the studio. Let me show you real quick on the presentation some examples. I'm going to pull this off so you all can see. All right, so here's a photo. This was a long exposure that I took with that shade. I think it was a shade 12. And this is a little bit hard to see, but it's long… I'm going to say this was a two-minute exposure and you can see the clouds moving. On a day where you've got puffy white clouds, those clouds will kind of move across the sky and create this really neat-looking streaks across the sky. If we go to… I think the next one. Go to the next one. Is that one green? Yeah. All right, that's what it looks like straight out of camera. Okay? Why is it green? Well, because of the welding mask. The welding mask really impart a very strong color cast to the image. So, one of the things is I would say, if you're trying to do this color landscape photography, it may not be the right choice. Spend your $200 on that really nice neutral density filter for photography. But if we can go back one, go back one to the…yeah, there we go. You can see, it actually converts nice to a black and white. So I think these are really great for black and white photography. Okay. Let's go forward two, one, two. This one here, this was taken in Gig Harbor. And you notice in the photograph, there are a lot of little aberrations, little stars up here. And I was taking the photo in the field, I'm like, "What is going on? Why am I getting all of this scatter, this backscatter all over the place?" Because the sun was behind me, actually, the sun was behind the filter set and behind the camera, you know, not shining on the front lens. And what I figured out was the sun is hitting the edge of the filter and kind of going into the filter. Like, the sun was shining here on the top of the filter, and then because of that, you know, there's no solid black around the edges that was causing this lens flare and this kind of weird look. So, get yourself a black pen and when you buy these things, I want you to actually color in the edges and that will prevent some of this lens flare, this funkiness going on. And because it's only $6, you don't have to worry so much about accidentally getting the surface or the front of it. Okay. So, I'm not going to do the whole thing. I just want to give you the idea. You have to actually color in the edges or you can just use black gaff tape and tape up the edges and that will prevent some of this star patterny lens flare. One other thing I want to point out, I feel bad for the people up in the control tower, but go back two slides for me, back to that first black and white of the house. Yeah. Can you see this? Can you guys see this, like, white hazy line across here? Same type of thing. The sun was behind me, but the sun was hitting the edge. And because the sun hit the edge, it caused this hazy line to go across there. And on the color photo, I don't think… Yeah, actually, go to the green one. You may be able to see it on the green one. Yeah, you can see it's magenta. There's a strong magenta cast. And so, just, again, the solution for that is to color it with your sharpie pen or your black ink pen. Cool? All right. Let me show you some real shots. Let me show you how this all works together. This is definitely not for the live view because it'll black everything out. You won't be able to see anything. So I'm just going to go straight to the camera and let me think here. Yeah, I'll just use this one. I'm going to unscrew. I've got a UV filter on there. I'm going to take off my UV filter, because that's metal, and if it goes on this, it might scratch it. So, I'm going to take that off. And what you're going to want to use, is you're going to want to use your lens hood, but you're not going to put your lens hood forward, rather, you're going to mount your lens hood backwards because that's what's going to allow you to put the rubber bands in there and mount the filter to the rubber bands. So, I will mount the lens hood backwards. Cool. Let me turn this towards the folks. There we go. And I'm just going to put the rubber band behind the lens hood just like that. Careful not to drop it on the concrete. That would be bad. Okay. I'll rotate this around so you all can see. See how that mounts? Right on. So, now we're going to take a photo, and this photo is going to be a little bit difficult to execute because I have to get it all framed up, then I have to put the filter on, and then I have to do the metering, and then I have to get the model to move in the right way. So there's a lot of moving parts in this. We'll see if we can do it. My first thought here was, let's take this picture where we get the nice texture of this door behind, okay? Get the texture. So that's like part of the exposure. And then you'll come in to the scene and then she'll stand real steady, okay? Just like that. And then some of the texture of the wall will actually come through her. It'll look like she's like, kind of melding in with the backdrop. Some of you I saw, you're like, "What?" All right. So we'll try this. All right. So let's take... I'll take your stool over here. And eventually what I'm going to have you do is... Oh, I think we'll probably do a full body shot, I don't know, we'll see. You know, stand here, I'll start the exposure, and then let's pick a spot on the floor. Let's pick this one. - [Renatta] The square? - Yeah, that square. And you're just going to end up standing like this and you have to stand really still. - No blinking? Yeah, no blinking. Yeah, you have to stand still. And like, even stuff like this, if you do, it'll just be this really ethereal kind of like ghost-like look. So, we'll just see how it works. But to get it all started, I'm going to have you stand there. I got my focus, my framing, all that good stuff. - How fast should I walk? - Really fast. - Really fast? - Yeah, like, just move in and then stand. Yap. Actually, now, I look at it, I'm going to have you stand on that line. Yeah, left. I'm sorry, your right. Yep, cool. Yeah. Right on. And let me just double check that we are still connected to Lightroom. Yes, we are connected. Oh, yeah, I can't see anything. I'm like, "Why is it all dark in there?" Okay. Cool. I have to make one change. I've got a little DX lens for a smaller sensor on a full frame camera just because our cabling stuff is set up. So I'm actually going to change this camera real quickly to DX. If I can find it. It's been a long time since I've made that change. You know what? I'm just going to forget about it. I'll have to ignore the vignetting. All right. So, I'm going to zoom in a little. Yeah, right there. Wear big pockets. There we go. Yeah, in fact, I thought about wearing, like, my overalls and suspenders for this class, you know, DIY MacGyvery. Okay. I think we're good. So I've got the focus set. I've got the filter on there. I'm using the eight, so the Version 8 of this. Can't use stops. But I'm guessing this is like a four-stop, maybe a five-stop decrease in the amount of light coming on to the scene. And I notice, this is something to pay attention to. I notice as I'm setting this up, I'm, like, touching, like, stuff on my lens. Like, I'm changing the zoom ever so slightly. I actually might even bump my autofocus. And the truth is, is once this is on there, you can't autofocus. It's completely black. I literally cannot see a thing. So now what we're going to do is we're going to get the camera to meter the scene, but what you have to do, this is really important, is you need to cover the eyepiece. If you don't cover the eyepiece, the camera will actually register light from behind the camera inside the eyepiece. So my camera has this little eyepiece lock or this eyepiece cover that you just flip it and now it blocks out the eyepiece. If yours doesn't have it, just cover it with your hand before you take the shot. Okay. So now, I'm going to look at this. It says I'm at f/5, at, like, 1.3 seconds. I just have to take a test shot and just see what registers. I have no idea what's going to register. Okay. So here, I'll just do f/5 at one second. Let's see what we get. Okay. Let's see what our Lightroom shows. Okay. You see the green cast? And we're close to the exposure, but we're not quite there yet. So I'm going to go from one second. I'm going to increase it up to like 10 seconds. So we'll go up to 10 seconds. All right. Here we go again as an example. Okay, don't move. So, when I'm shooting this in the field, like, I was shooting this the other day and I'm on a dock and I'm standing there for like…I was standing there for like five minutes, and I'm just standing at the camera, and this guy walks by me and goes, "What are you doing?" I'm like, "I'm waiting." All right, cool. Never mind the vignette. Just assume that vignette's not there. I was shooting on a smaller camera earlier today. But look at what we've got. We've got a long exposure. And even though she was standing still, she wasn't perfectly still. She was moving. And that's okay. It's part of the fun. So for this next one now, we're going to go ahead and walk off the set a little bit there. So we're going to go like this. It's going to be a 10 second exposure. I want to register a little bit of light. So let's go, 1001, 1002, stand, like that. And let's just see what happens. Okay? All right. Ready, set. 1001, 1002, 1003, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and a half. Okay, see what happens? - I feel like feel myself like… - Yeah, you're like, you're moving. - Like trying so hard not to move. - Oh, cool. So, little ghost effects. See how the texture is coming through her body? There's these things in post processing software, it's called flight paper textures and it's like an overlay in software that you use to make your photos a little bit more interesting. We've just accomplished that right here with this neutral-density filter, kind of a similar type of effect for $6 versus, maybe $100 bucks for the software. Let's try again and let's try a little more sass in the pose. - Okay. - So let's think… - Try and hold some stills. - Yeah. So I want still sass. - Okay, still sass. - Still sass. So let's do like this. Okay, hip, all right? Okay. All right, here we go. And ready, set, go. Yeah, sass, sure. She's all excited about the sass. We may have to do this again to get a little bit more of the backdrop. Okay, let's see what we got. Oh, cool. Real quick, because I think we…yeah, I'm going to do this. I'm going to go into the develop mode real quick and just show you what a color balance might look like here in Lightroom. Get a little bit more on the screen here. Okay. So, I need to fix the white balance. Unfortunately, this backdrop, it's close to neutral. Her fingernails are neutral. So I'm going to find something to click on to neutralize the color. Oops, don't click that, Mike. I'm in the Develop pane. You can see that right here. I'm in the Develop pane. And then I'm just going to go down to the White Balance tool, right here. I'm going to click on the White Balance dropper, and find something in the photograph that's a little bit more neutral color like this part of the wall. Click on that, neutralizes the color, cool, and let's do this. Let's move this off to the side, just make this all slightly bigger. Now I'm going to increase the brightness or the exposure a little bit. And I'm going to add some clarity, so it has some kind of presence. I'm going to crop it just ever so slightly, get rid of that vignetting on the side. Although, I don't really mind the vignetting. It actually looks okay. Here, you can see, in a portrait session, you would never crop off the hands a the wrist and all that good stuff but, yeah, we're in experimentation mode. So the colors aren't exactly right. The colors aren't perfect, but you get a feel for the kind of fun that you can have with this, long exposure. And again, when you're in the outdoors, when you're traveling, you might use this to have a long exposure on the clouds or even with a waterfall. - [Woman] Quick question about your white balancing, is there something you can do in camera like adjust your white balance in camera or even use a flash with a gel to balance what you're taking before you get to post processing? - Oh, yeah. You know, these filters, they're not designed to be color neutral. They impart this green cast. So what you could do is you could do a preset or a custom white balance using a white balance target. Yeah. Have you ever done that before? Have you seen that before? Okay. So the concept is you maybe have, Renatta hold that thing in front of her and just hold still for that 10 second period of time, while I'm doing the custom white balance. And then that will probably get you pretty close. Or, the other alternative is take a preshot of just a gray card in the same light, and then once you get back to Lightroom, you can just tag with the White Balance tool and you're done, basically the same effect.

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Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

It's a fun course, with a lot of interesting ideas presented in a way to help spark the creative juices in anyone wanting to branch out and experiment with different ideas. Mike's presentation style is fun and easygoing - perfect for this type of discussion. If you're not afraid to color outside the lines and see where the road takes you, this is a very enjoyable bit of inspiration.


Love it!! Very creative and full of inspiration. Mike Hagen explains the different effects in a great way, he is precise yet easy-going so he makes learning fun. I recommend this class to all who wants to take their creative photography to the next level without spending money on expensive accessories.


Mike has an easy-going, pleasant & fun personality. He explains things clearly. Rolls with whatever happens. And, he's very good about answering audience questions in an understandable, positively reinforcing and non-judgemental way (which can be rare for some established pro photographers...).

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