Alex Hare Photography
Filters for landscape photography have been simplified since the advent of digital cameras in the sense that there is less need for lots of the colour correction filters we used with film.
That said, I still find a polariser and ND grads indispensible as they can’t be replicated in post production. And since Lee Filters brought out their super dark filters (The Stopper Range) for long exposure photography these too have been added to my list of ‘must haves.’
I’ve used the big stopper for years now and found it invaluable for creating artistic and creative responses to the landscape.
This shot of Southwold Pier is a good example of a bright day requiring a 10 stopper (mine is actually more like 11) to achieve a 30 second exposure which smooths out the water and captures the soft, ethereal quality of the light.
However, I find that in low light (usually at dusk when light levels are falling ever darker) exposure times are potentially far longer than I need or can afford as time is often short and long exposures use it up disconcertingly quickly!
For a 30 second exposure I found I was often having to pump up the ISO and open the aperture risking depth of field compromises to get enough light in for a reasonable exposure time. Remember, a ¼ second exposure at ISO 100 turns into a whopping 4 minutes with a Big Stopper unless you up the ISO to 800 to get it back to 30 seconds.
So the Little Stopper bridges the gap; instead of 4 minutes in the example above it would be 15 Seconds and much better for shooting a few shots before the light goes rather than just one super long one, unless of course that’s what was needed for the shot in question!
In the misty shot, left, I only needed a few seconds to smooth out the wateer as the light was low and I just didn't need a super long exposure; 6 seconds was enough and the Lee Little Stopper was perfect for the job.
Why Do Long Exposure Photographs Work?
Long exposure filters like the Lee Big Stopper allow for in camera effects that transcend what the eye can actually ‘see’ and into what the imagination might be feeling or experiencing.
Planet Earth is a moving, dynamic place and freezing moments with a ‘normal’ shutter speed doesn’t always convey the sense of movement that occurs over time. Clouds passing across the sky are a good example. Capturing this movement is only possible with a long shutter speed, which means anything from a 15 seconds to a matter of minutes, it depends how fast the clouds are going!
This technique isn’t new though; the impressionist painters used techniques to convey the ‘feel’ for the experience of what they were showing through soft brush strokes. JMW Turner too mastered the art of juxtaposing the moving, ethereal quality of water and sky with a sharp, distinctive shape in his work.
So for photographers the long exposure filters give us the tools to control our exposures to capture extended periods of time and movement with often beautiful outcomes. I also think that drawing upon how the painting masters did it in their work is the key to using the technique well in our landcape photography.