The Neutral Density filter is a very handy filter to have in your camera bag. Although it doesn’t get used that often in our Travel Photography it certainly should be near the top of your list of “must have” creative filters.

So, what is an ND 2.7 & ND 3.0 Neutral Density Filter?

The Hoya NDX400 has a 9-stop light reduction equal to a ND optical density of 2.7.

 

The Hoya PROND1000 has a 10-stop light reduction equal to a ND optical density of 3.0.

 

Both of these filters have the same purpose except the ND 2.7 reduces about 9 stops of light from reaching your sensor/film and the ND 3.0 reduces about 10 stops of light. To calculate the reduction of light of any Neutral Density Filter simply divide the number by 3 e.g. ND 2.7 / 3 is 9 stops. We essentially use these filters to create a smooth water effect in an image to give it mood and emotion although it also has other benefits.

In the middle of the day, you will sometimes find that the light levels when shooting are too bright to allow you to shoot at slow shutter speeds even when stopped down to the smallest aperture (usually F22) and the ISO is set to its lowest (usually 50 or 100). Although the shutter speed will be reduced dramatically it usually will not be enough to get the effect you want especially when shooting the following –

  • Waterfalls – where you want that dreamy blur look of the water cascading over the waterfall.
  • Seascapes – to create the misty look and soft flat look in seascape shots.
  • Clouds – for images that you want blurred/streaky clouds.
  • Reduce the visibility of moving objects  For example, removing people from shots in busy thoroughfares.

There are quite a few brands on the market but beware as you can get some weird effects with some brands and therefore we recommend that you stick with the well-known brands such as Hoya, B+W, Tiffen, Formatt-HiTech, Singh Ray, NiSi and Lee. If you live in Australia you can buy NiSi filters here. We have not noticed any colour cast on images taken with the ND400 filter, however, the B+W ND110 does have a slight red colour cast but this is easily corrected in post-processing.

The filters are also generally quite expensive so make sure that you keep it clean and scratch free. Make sure you keep it in it’s original plastic container or in a soft filter holder. Also note that with the increased exposure time, every spec of dust on your sensor is amplified so you may need to do a bit of cleaning of the image in your post-processing.

Bay of Fires, Tasmania

This was taken in the Bay of Fires Conservation Area. As soon as we saw this image we knew it would be great using the ND400 filter (9 stop). We took several images as the water wasn’t always extending as far into the foreground as we wanted. In Photoshop we simply opened the images we wanted to use as layers and using masks we painted through the water in the foreground to give it more blur and making it a better image.

We have released an E-book which includes a step-by-step guide to using these filters for long exposures and a handy printable pocket guide to using the filters.

If you have any questions or comments we would love to hear from you.

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