Last year, I hit up the local skate park with a co-worker during our lunch hour. Completely out of my element and fearful of being ran over by a kid on wheels, I still pointed my camera and went to town. My shots were meh – framing and composition weren’t bad for my first go round with gravity defiers but the color was way off. Way way off. So much off I just made every shot black and white.
The sun was too bright, the shadows were too harsh – even with ISO at 100 and f/stops dialed up to 16, I just couldn’t figure out what else I could do in the concrete jungle. Especially when I wanted to keep the focus on one person and not have the background sharp as a tack. It was like I needed sunglasses for my camera.
Enter Google. Enter my horrible searching ability.
Thing is, I actually found an answer: a neutral density filter.
A neutral density filter is supposed to reduce and modify the intensity of light before it reaches your camera’s sensor. It totally sounds like RayBans for the Mac. So I got one to experiment with.
Don’t ask me what brand or strength it is – I’m not sure as I left it at home. Boo.
I got my lab coat on and started playing with the filter. One thing to note is your camera must be in manual mode – your camera is too smart on the aperture preferred mode for this doohickey. The AP mode accomodates for it. Which then defeats its purpose. So after I slapped on my 50mm prime, I found the most colorful thing within 20 feet of me and set up a still life.
Yes. It is Sprite. I work with what I got, people.
Like any experiment, I needed a sample, a constant, to compare the NDF test against. In manual mode, I set the camera for the perfect exposure and fired.
Since the neutral density filter is supposed to reduce light and result with a shaded photo, I left my camera settings as they were. I screwed the filter on and set up my second shot – my NDF test shot.
Mac totally has a pair of shades now. With the settings the same as the perfect exposure shot without the filter, I new that it would in fact (or should) shade the image. Which is what I wanted it to do. With this doohickey, I will have more creative control over my camera when shooting in bright light situations. (I’m afraid it won’t help harsh shadows though.)
I knew that the AP mode accommodated for the filter, so I went ahead and manually set for the perfect exposure with the filter on.
It’s just a wee bit lighter than my first shot, the one taken without the neutral density filter. But it can be done. And if I wanted, I could purchase a second filter and fit it atop this one to double the light reduction.
I haven’t played with filters much but I know that they are an inexpensive way to experiment with photography. Neutral density, polarizing, infrared, contrast, color correction, cross screen, diopters – there’s so many out there to play with. The next time I feel like I need something to “push me,” I think I’ll be trying another kind of filter. But this one will keep me busy for a while.