Neutral Density on the Cheap

I’ve always wanted to try using a neutral density filter. A neutral density (ND) filter allows you to be a bit creative with your imagery, including using longer shutter speeds to create long exposure images, even in daylight. I’m a total newbie with this sort of thing, so before shelling out a ton of money on an ND filter, I tried a cheaper version. An introduction to the ND filter if you will. I’ve read on a few photo blogs that welder’s glass can provide the same effect as an ND filter. It’s a fraction of the cost, and frankly, a fraction of the image quality. Everything I shot was done during our week in Southampton in early July.

As you’ll see from the image gallery, using welder’s glass gives the images an extremely strong green cast. Even shooting RAW didn’t allow me to easily fix this, but I’m good with that since this was just an introductory exercise. Along with this issue was holding the glass in place. The cheap way to attach it to my camera was to leave the lens hood on backwards and hold the glass on with some elastics. The problem with this is that the lens I was using, the 24-70, doesn’t have internal zooming (the barrel of the lens physically moves in and out while you zoom) so by strapping a piece of glass to the front of the lens, it was holding the lens to a specific focal point (in this case, 70mm, which is on the opposite end of what I wanted). It was also impossible to focus with the glass attached because it’s so dark which means I had to focus first, then place the glass in place, then make sure the camera was set to manual focus so it wouldn’t start to hunt. The camera also couldn’t really meter properly for whatever reason, so I was just guessing with exposure times (which usually ended up in the 4-6 second range).

It was a long and cumbersome process that didn’t really yield any great results. However, green cast aside, I was able to see how using a proper ND filter could be a lot of fun, so I’m still happy I gave it a go.

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