Saturday, July 31, 2010

No longer one filter at a time, EXTREME stacking

Ya, I said it, EXTREME stacking! Thats what I call it when I take my two largest stoppers and put them together. Thats right, the B+W ND110 AND the B+W ND106. That is a total blockage of 16 stops of light! I have tried it twice now and one time worked out for me. However, I believe I know where I went wrong the second time, so I know what to try next time.

So, why in the world would I want to take away that much light? For starters, so that I can learn even more! Crazy, I know. But I have spent the past 7 months learning and repeating the act of long exposures. I know my filters like the back of my hands. I know how to allow light and take away light. I know how to capture the stars. The entire reason why I even committed to a 365 project was to set a goal for me, so that I can learn something. I wanted to master long exposures, so my topic is LONG exposures! If I do a project in 2011, it will be a topic that I want to master, for example, shooting 100% of the time in manual mode. So any way, back to my point. 7 months later, I realized that I know what I am doing. I get to the beach, I put my filters on and I pretty much know what I want my aperture to be for what filter for what time. I don't want to sound like I know everything, because I don't, but its not really a challenge for me any more! Its just another day shooting. So, a few days ago, while out, I thought about taking the longer exposure to the next level. To have SO much stops of light blocked, that it would require minutes instead of seconds. I was inspired by one of my flickr contacts. So, thats what I did. I put on my two DARK filters and this is what I came up with.

The image here, is a total of 300 seconds long. That is a grand total of 5 minutes long! In the middle of the day at an f/8 aperture. Oh, and of course, because its me, I used ISO 100. When I took the image home and processed it, converting it to black and white, I knew I had to play around with more of these. I love the effect and I have to say, when I took the image, I KNEW it would be the most perfect black and white. And let me tell you, I am not huge on black and white, but I am for this type of work.

I hope you enjoy and I also hope you take the time to view my other images on my 365 day project on Flickr, they are all long exposures and pretty much, in a package, my style of photography.

Friday, July 23, 2010

No longer one filter at a time, stacking the ND!

So, I spent quite a bit of time talking about each filter, one at a time. But that is not all to life! I have two combos that I like to use, because sometimes I am up for a touch more then what one filter has to offer. The two combos I use are:

B+W ND106 + Tiffen ND8 = A total of 9 stops of light

B+W ND110 + Tiffen ND8 = A total of 13 stops of light.

So, why would I want to go through the trouble of stacking two filters to get 9 stops instead of using my 10 stop? Because some times, I do not want to spend time in the post processing phase for the color correction that I often times find my self doing with the B+W ND110. Now, the ND110 does alter the color tones, it makes the image warmer. It really is not a huge deal, but it can make a difference. And believe it or not, 10 stop is a big deal compared to 9 stops. I can push the 10 stops past 30 seconds, easily. If I make the aperture really small, I can get 40 or more seconds and still not be over exposed. But with the 9 stops, 30 seconds really is my max. Clouds out and covering the sun can extend that, a bit.

So, once again, why would I want to make 13 stops by stacking the two filters over just sticking with the 10 stops of the ND110? Because with 13 stops at my fingertips, I can really push it! In the sun, a 2 minute exposure is still VERY easy! And with a 2 minute day time exposure, a regular beach location can look like a place out of this world! For example, the image above is a 60 second exposure taken with the B+W ND110 and the Tiffen ND8. Middle of the day! The great thing about this 1 minute exposure is that the aperture is f/11. With any other filter or combo of filter, that would not be possible with out going to f/22 or smaller! And keeping it at f/11 is important to me, so the filters are perfect in play. I use to shoot these type of images at f/22 just to get the longer exposure, thanks to filters, never again! :) Ok, perhaps on occasion!

I hope you enjoy the image and I sure do hope you have a chance to check out my flicker account. I have a lot more photos there! :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

One Filter At A Time ~ hard grad, soft grad

Ok, so I spent time talking about my screw in Neutral Density (ND) filters, now it's time to talk about the square filters that are graduate filters. Grad as I call them. The grad filter simply means that the top is shaded, like the ND filters and the bottom is light. That makes it so that when you have a bright scene on top of the horizon like a sunset, the bright can be correctly exposure as the bottom. Basically, you still get details on the bottom and not over expose the sky.

There are two basic type of grad filters. A hard grad filter has a line in the middle, the top is dark and the bottom is light. And the other type is a soft grad where it goes from dark on the top and fades to light on the bottom. The hard grad is perfect for a wonderful ocean sunset! What makes it perfect is the line in the middle. Match that line up with the horizon and take your best shot! The soft grad is really more practical though. I say that because the hard grad is not good for mountain ranges or any horizon with details with highs and lows.

Other then that, there is not much to it! Now they are square, so they don't screw in like the other ND filters. The filters I have are made by Cokin and and they have a holder that screws on to your lens and you simply drop the filters into the holder. With the one I have, I can stack up to 3 filter. Which I use to do back in the day before I discovered B+W! :) I still use it for the sunsets though. Nothing can replace my grads.

One thing about Cokin, which I to this day have a love/hate relationship with, is the color! And sometimes I cannot correct the color cast in post. The Cokin filters adds a bit of a pink color cast and the more I stack the more the colors. And when the color gets on my nerve, I process in black and white! Takes away all of my color issues!

With the image above, the addition of a pink hue really works! I was able to correctly expose the sky and the ground and despite the brightness of the sky, I was able to get a long enough exposure to have movement in the water. Hey, it works! :) And the exposure on this, to be exact, is 10 seconds.

Thank you for stopping by! Enjoy my blog and feel free to leave comments or suggestions, for other blog topics? I sure hope you enjoy!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

My OH NO star trail!

I wanted to take a small break from the topic of filters, to talk about my OH NO! star trail last night! Tomorrow, I should continue with the filter topic, moving on to the Cokin filters.

What in the world do I mean by OH NO? I was SO happy when I went outside at 3 am this morning and saw that the camera was still standing and the glass was not fogged over. And after reviewing the data on my computer, I had gathered a total of 5 hours worth of star trails! HOW AWESOME IS THAT! And then, this afternoon, I went to my star stacking program and saw the OH NO! during the beginning of the process, I saw right away my first OH NO. The first 3 exposures went well, then I realized there were gaps! 4.5 minute gaps! The camera chose 3 exposures, only three out of 62, to do the in camera noise reduction (NR) processing. What is that? If the exposure is 4.5 minutes, 270 seconds, then the camera will take that same amount of time to process. So, the image was 270 seconds and the post processing, in camera, was 270 seconds making one image the time to take and process a total of 9 minutes! For one image! And that happened only in the beginning.

The second OH NO! moment of the night/morning. Right around exposure number 27, the camera shifted some how! Shifted by a large amount! More so then my earthquake picture. So, my flickr image is only the last 36 images and this one here is a total of 62 images, with the shifting and all. The good news is, the one good image I created to share on Flickr is still a whopping 9720 seconds long! THATS a lot of time! Each exposure is 4.5 minutes long for a total of 36 exposures. Now, the one you are looking at here, is the full version. From 10pm to 3am! The whole 5 hours. Exposure time total, 16,740 seconds. This time does not include the three gaps for the in camera NR and the one second gap between each exposure.

Not much more to say really. Except I plan on trying this again! And soon. This for me is all about trial and error, next shot I will use a lower ISO and that should take away the issue of the NR processing. And for less gaps in the exposure in all, I might try at 7 minute exposures. Now that I have a timer cable, I can program it to do what I want it to do! YA! :)

For the record, for those who might want to give this a "GO" the cable I use, Opteka, OP.C3 Timer remote cord. I got it on for about $50. Which is a great prices considering the Canon Exposure lock is $60 and the only thing it does is open the shutter and lock the exposure! :)

I encourage you to visit my Flickr site to view the smaller version, it looks more perfect, but this one, it has charter! :)

Thank you for stoping by and taking time time to view and read my blog.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

One Filter At A Time ~ B+W ND110

Ah, the B+W ND110! My powerful 10 stop filter. The filter that started it all! Now, it was not my first filter. I did get for Christmas last year a set of Cokin filters, and I did have fun playing around with them learning about blocking light and all, but that was a gift that was chosen for me where as the ND110 was the first filter where I went online myself, did the research, learned all about ND and found out about ALL the wonderful choices out there! Not a lot of companies, that I know of, make a 10 stop filter like this! Hoya makes a 9 stop and Lee makes the big stopper, which is 10 stops. But Lee is drop in square filters and B+W is the screw on type. Any way, the passion started here! I spent hours of time doing research and I KNEW that I was not going to settle for 6 stops, at this point any way! (I came across a 6 stop at a local photo store and I chose to hold out!)

So, what is so special about this filter? It looks almost as dark as the lens cap! I can shoot a 30 second exposure INTO THE SUN with this baby! YA, its that dark! When I started photography in October of 09, I knew I wanted to do a 365 project starting Jan 1, 2001. About a month before day light savings, I started to really stress, because the theme of my 365 is LONG exposures. The goal being 30 seconds or longer! How in the world was I going to do that during day light savings when it did not get DARK till almost 9pm? I have a family you know! Its just not reasonable to leave the house ever night to find something new to shoot! And sunsets? Forget it! There was no way I was going to make a lot of sunsets at the beach any more. SO, I made it a point to find a way! While surfing flickr one day, I saw a 30 second day time exposure and I just about freaked out! I sent out a flickr mail to the person right away to find out who, what, where, when and why! Because thats EXACTLY what I wanted to do!

With in 2 weeks of finding what I wanted, and ordering on Amazon, BEST price, I had the 10 stops in hand and I was OFF! Of course, I had tech issues with my wide lens, so for the first month and a half, I had to use the B+W ND110 on my zoom lens, I was just forever grateful I also got a step up ring when I ordered the filter! When I finally had my wide lens AND my B+W ND110, I was IN HEAVEN! Such a magic combo and I have been shooting with them ever sense. Now, after about a month of shooting with the 10 stop, I knew I wanted to expand and get some less dark filters to get more details in the water. When all is said and done, between these 3 filters I have now shared with you, I am able to get any where from an quarter of a second to 2 minutes, or more I guess, at just about any f stop I want to! And any time of day or night. Now that's power! One of the things I like most about this filter, is how many things you CAN do with it. For example, if you really push up the ISO, you can get a quarter of a second shot! But if you really play with the aperture and close it way up, a minute exposure is reasonable! Thats a pretty far reach! It just so happens that I prefer ISO 100 and f/11 (ish) so the other filters all have there place! So why 10 stops and 30 seconds? Because the water gets to be OH SO smooth! I mean, LOOK AT IT! :) Others like to call it "misty." Ya! And, another thing you get with this extreme of ND, the clouds move during that time! The moving clouds also adds an awesome detail to the image too.

Now, the picture above is from one of my favorite spots in La Jolla, California. Called Windansea. This was from the other day, and the day was very overcast. Translation, not as colorful as usual! Life goes on! But you get the point. Tomorrow, I will post a more colorful version of the same spot. But its a longer exposure with stacked filters, so that will be another topic! I keep thinking of new topics, YA! :)

Friday, July 9, 2010

One filter at a time ~ B+W ND106

Oh, the B+W ND106, 6 stops, my new most favorite filter! The reason why I jumped forward to get this filter was because the 10 stop was giving me TOO long of exposures and the 3 stop was not giving me enough length of exposures. I NEEDED something in the middle! Something that gave me a couple or a few seconds, not half a minute! I have learned in photography, that if you photograph the waves at the ocean for 4 to 6 seconds, they look like they are moving! But if you slap on the 10 stop, the water goes from waves to misty. Which is a great effect, but MAN, so is the moving waves! I love them both, but I NEED to be able to do both. Thus, the B+W ND106 holds a special place in my heart.

WHat else do I do with it? On my last post, I shared that the Tiffen ND8, 3 stop, is very stackable to add just a bit of extra ND. One of my favorite combos is the Tiffen ND8 with the B+W ND106 to make a total of 9 stops. Believe it or not, there is a difference between 9 and 10 stops. It really is amazing the gaps at this point of the scale. However, the hidden reason why I often prefer the 9 stops with stacking vs. the 10 stops of the ND110. The post processing! I can, under non bright conditions, get a 30 second exposure with the two lighter filters stacked, but they are great together and do not give off a warm hue like the B+W ND110! So, if I want an easer time working with the post processing, I would rather stack the two lighter filters then to use one dark one. Lazy? Not really, just know my limits by the end of the day! :)

The image above is a 4 second exposure, thanks to the B+W ND106. A perfect length of time to gather in the movement of the water over the rocks. The evening at this point was very overcast and I could have pushed the exposure even longer if I wanted to, but I knew that I wanted to keep the 4 to 5 second range for this and I was right! Turned out exactly the way I wanted it to! :)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

One filter at a time ~ Tiffen ND8

So, now that I have started the conversation about filters, I realized that I missed SO much information! Because each filter has there own task and talents. And each one has much different results because of it. So, why not! Lets create a blog for each filter, one at a time! I wanted to start off from lightest to darkest. Mainly because the darker the better, for me any way! So, lets save the best for last. :)

Ok, on my last blog, I said that the 3 stop filter had no use! And even though I said NO use, truth is, I always knew it had some use. I just never gave it enough credit in the past. The day after posting that last blog, I found a new use for the poor little 3 stop filter.

For starters, it has a use, in the field, and thats to simply take away the bright from a very bright day. And with that in mind, depending on how bright the day really is, the Tiffen ND8, 3 stop filter, can still be hand held. No tripod required, unless you close up the aperture. For me, I still always use a tripod, my goal with the Tiffen ND8 is not to take away bright! I use it for what I always do with my filters, to slow down water! Or to freeze a nice "splash" at my favorite beach locations. The entire idea around the Tiffen ND8 is to simply slow down the shutter speed, just a bit, to get a more desired of an effect. And, can add a deeper depth of field. The great thing about adding it to my collection, is that I can use it in more ways than any of my other filters. I can use it solo and create a quarter of a second exposure, of course on a very bright day, that quarter of a second turns out to be an eighth of a second real quick! But for the most part, I can really push it to a quarter. I can stack it on top of my 6 stop filter to make 9 stops. I can stack it on top of my 10 stop to make 13 stops! This one is great for creating day time two minute exposures at an f/11! Thats fun! :)

But the newest use, fireworks! I was reading someones post on Flickr, about shooting fireworks. This guy did a little fireworks 101 post at which I was grateful to come across before the 4th because this past 4th of July was my first try at shooting fireworks! The guy suggested using an ND filter, and the moment I read that, I thought TIFFEN! I shot the first 5 or so minutes without the filter, and they turned out OK, but once I put the filter on, I had so much more control! The brighter fireworks, the whites, were not over bright! YA! :) So, I kept the filter on for the rest of the evening. And another thing I loved about the fireworks, is when I went to do the processing on the images, they were all so sharp! So sharp, that I could do just about any crop. Any zoom, anything! I like that!

So, the above image, is of this years fireworks from our little town in California. With the Tiffen ND8 filter, I was able to get a full 22 seconds on this exposure with out over exposing any one area. I was really able to PUSH the night time exposure just a little bit more so that the light trail of the fireworks would be longer and better. Which, in my book, MONEY! :)

I hope you enjoy, and feel free to add any comments or suggestions. Most of all, I hope that my blog is of use to you and any one who reads this. I just might become an instructor instead of a photographer! And feel free to visit me on Flickr any time!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The filters in my gear bag!

So, when I started this blog, I was thinking that I would use it to sell work! Ya, lofty goals! I really would like to eventually sell work, but I guess being out there a little longer will be a good thing for that goal. So, lately I have noticed that I have been leaning towards "teaching" some of my techniques. For example, my last post was about star trails and stacking them. And with that one single post, I got more followers then any other time! And I have to admit something, I think I am a better teacher then a photographer, but do not tell any one that! Often times, when I teach something, that someone goes out and shoots better then I! UGH! :)

So, today, I wanted to share with you a topic that I get asked about a lot. And that way, I can send others here instead of typing out the information over and over and over again!

Today I want to share with you my most favorite gear in my camera bag, my filters. I will share with you what filters I have and what the function is for each one of them. Now, one thing I have noticed about ND (neutral density) filters while going out and shopping for them, they are hard to find exactly what you want and when you find it, it might not be exactly what you want. For example, I purchased the Tiffen ND8 thinking it was an 8 stop filter. I was very disappointed when I received it and it was quite light. Ended up being a 3 stop filter.

Tiffen ND8 (3 stop filter). A useless filter for the most part for what I enjoy shooting. It really is meant to take the edge off of a bright day. I have found that with this filter, I can still, depending on light, hand hold the camera. What I use it for the most, is I stack it with other filters to add to the strength of already strong filters. The ability to stack gives me more stops when I need them the most.

B+W ND106 (6 stops). I love this filter. I started off with a very strong filter, and I got this one because the 10 stop is too dark to do a lot of things to maintain details. This filter is going to get you any where from a quarter of a second to 6 seconds. Depending on light and on your aperture. With this filter, you can freeze a wave in motion, giving it a great splash effect. With this filter you can make the water look like its actually moving! Even though you have pushed the length of time, to about 5 seconds. The versatility of this filter is amazing! And when stacked with the Tiffen ND8, creating 9 stops, you can push the exposure to 20 to 30 seconds, making the waves look more misty. (I say waves because 90% of the time, I am shooting the ocean)

B+W ND110 (10 stops). Probably my most prized ND filter in my bag. Why? Because its almost as dark as the lens cap! Its tough to work with. Its so dark, that unless you are shooting in the sun, you have to focus your camera, with out the filter on. Then lock the exposure by putting the focus on manual. Then put the filter on and shoot! This filter is great for 30 to 60 seconds depending on where the sun is and what aperture you use. On an over cast day, you really can push that so much longer. And, to really push a day time exposure to 120 seconds, I stack the Tiffen ND8 on there to make a total blockage of 13 stops of light! Some day, if I really need big time blocking, I will be brave enough to stack the 10 stop with the 6 stop, but that really is far more extreme then I chose to go! :)

And last but not least, my set of Cokin grad filters. Grad just means dark on top and light on bottom. The usefulness of these is to make it a more correct exposure when you have a bright sky and a less then bright foreground. I have two of them. A hard grad, which has a line in the middle, where the darkness stars in the middle. The soft grad, it starts off dark and slowly graduates to light on the bottom. No point of starting or stoping with the strength of the ND.

So, that in a nut shell is what I own and what the use of each one is. I love to push my exposure. Wether I want a quarter of a second exposure or a couple of minutes worth of exposures, I have it all covered here. The reason I went with the ND filters is because I LOVE long exposures and when day light savings hit, I knew it was the only way I was going to get TIME out of my shots during the day. At which is now the only time I am able to get to the beach for shooting! There is no way I can hang out till 9PM just for a beach long exposure! I have a family! :)

I hope this is helpful to you and I sure will let you all know when I get a new filter. As of right now, I am totally happy with the filters I have in my bag! :)

For this image, I used the B+W ND106 and YES, I got VERY wet from this one!