What are Neutral Density filters for?
Filters are used in photography to achieve a desired effect. Effects are what I call drama and a photo without drama is just a snapshot and snapshots are photos taken without any effort.
Now what makes drama in nature and landscape photography? You are gonna learn today…are you ready for the answer? It’s LONG EXPOSURE! Say you are in Zion National Park, a big hill to your left, a huge mountain to your right, pretty clouds above and a waterfall below. A typical photographer will just compose, meter and take a snapshot, done! How about I will slow my shutter to capture the water motion below and at the same time capture the moving clouds above?
To slow your shutter you are gonna have to use a small aperture when you meter the scene. For example, in the photo above I metered at 1/40th of a second using F/22. Since there are no clouds I would want to create drama below and 1/40th of a second cannot cut it, but what if I put a 10-stop ND filter that would make my shutter speed 25 seconds enough to have a smooth effect in the water. 9 vertical shots panorama at 25 seconds each frame!
PS. I used the app NDTimer to calculate final shutter speed when using an ND filter. There is a table for this you can find in Google search but who wants that when you can get it as an app.
Please don’t call yourself a landscape photographer if you don’t have a tripod because you need it in long shutters. 🙂