Buying guide for Neutral Density filters or ND filters

A longexposure of a sunset shot from London Tower Bridge, on a late summerday. Photo by: Jacob Surland, www.caughtinpixels.com

“Thames Sunset” shot with a 10 stop ND filter allowing to exposure for 40 seconds with the Sun within the frame.

Using Neutral Density filters can make a dramatic change to your photos. The photo above is a 40-second exposure, which only is possible with something to stop down the light. The Sun is within the frame and had I shot without the filter, the shutter speed would have been 1/25 seconds. I shot this at ISO 100 and f/8. I could have gone to ISO 50 and to F/22, and changed the shutter speed to maybe around a 1/4 or a 1/2 seconds, but not 40 seconds.

ND filters are pretty expensive stuff, and I have ended up spending a fortune on them, not only because I have a fairly complete set, but also because I have made some mistakes. Expensive mistakes, that is. In this buying guide, I will try guide you not to make the same mistakes.

There are two kinds of filters, primarily. There are screw-on filters, and there are filters you put in a filter holder. The filter holder is screwed on as well.

I don’t recommend the screw-on ND filters. Though it may seem like a good simple choice at first, it is less flexible. When you have more than one filter, you may start combining filters. A 2 stop plus a 3 stop makes a 5 stop filter. And you might also start using ND gradient filters and soon you might end up wanting to use 2 or three filters at the same time.

  • The gradient filters do not come in screw-on for obvious reasons because you can’t place the horizon.
  • If you want to combine screw-on filters, you will have to screw them together. I did that with a fairly expensive polarizer filter and a 10-stop filter. And they got stuck together, and I wasn’t able to remove them from each other again. $350 down the drain. I do not screw filter together anymore.

How about flexible filters? There are some brands that make screw-on flexible ND filters. The first ND filter I bought was such one. It went from 1 stop to 8 stops, which sounded just perfect. It was more expensive than one Lee Big Stopper filter, but it was more flexible too. It looked like a good choice.

The only problem with the flexible filter was, that it only worked as supposed for 28+mm and I wanted to use it on wide angle lenses. 28mm isn’t very wide. When used with a shorter focal length the stopping of the light got uneven which made this filter completely unuseful. Another $300 went down the drain.

What do I recommend to buy?

At this point, I had learned my lessons on filters and lost $650, and I went for a no compromise solution. Lessons are sometimes expensive to learn. I bought a Lee filter holder for 100mm / 4″ filters, and an adapter for my 77mm sized lenses, which fits most lenses I have.

B&H: LEE Filters Foundation Kit (Standard 4×4″, 4×6″ Filter Holder) (Requires Adapter Ring)

B&H: LEE Filters Adapter Ring – 77mm – for Wide Angle Lenses

B&H: Formatt Hitech 100 x 100mm ProStop 1.8 IRND Filter (6 stop filter – explanation for the 1.8 further down in the article).

This is a solution just over $300. Still a lot of money, but it’s worth every dime!

And why these? The adapters ring come in a variety of sizes, and you will be able to find one that matches your favourite lens, and reuse your 100mm filters without any problem.

There is also a 150mm system, to use on big lenses like the Nikon 14-24mm. At the time of buying my Lee filters, I was still on Canon and only had 77mm sized lenses. When I moved to Nikon to get the 14-24mm lens, I chose to buy the Nikon 16-35mm lens too, to shoot my filtered shots. That was an expensive solution, but the 14-24mm is so great and so wide, and I didn’t want to be without it. That was THE reason for switching to Nikon.

Anyway – I can live without the 150mm system.

The Lee Big Stopper was in back order, and I was told somewhere between 6-12 months delivery (oh God!). So I had to buy what I could get, which was a 2 stop Lee ND filter (and a set of ND soft gradient filters).

While the 2-stop ND filter is nice to have, it is not the one I would choose, should I choose just one filter. 2 stops is just not enough most of the time. If I were only to pick one filter, it would be a 6 stop filter (or Little Stopper as it is also called).

I would choose a 6 stop ND filter if I was only to have one filter

Why this one? 6 stops is quite a lot. 1/25 becomes 2.6 seconds. Enough to make a change to your photo, but not enough, in a sunset or sunrise situation like the example above shows, but you also have some flexibility from your camera. Let’s look at an example:

The EXIF information for a shot like above without the filter would be: ISO 100, 1/25 sec, f/8.

Simply by adjusting the camera, I can change the exposure too. If I change the f-stop from f/8 to f/22 I will change it by 3 stops (see #1 and #2 in the table below), making the exposure time approx 8 seconds. And then I can change the ISO from 100 to 50, which will double the exposure time again, and that makes it around 16 seconds, and that is a good start to get more smooth water. If you do a -2, 0, +2 bracket, chances are, that the water will not be blown out, and you can use that water. And that +2 exposure (#3 in the table below) will be a 64-second exposure. Now we are really getting somewhere!

If I shoot my shots bracketed with a filter attached, I just do it manually, with a cable release. It doesn’t have to be exact to work.

This table shows how calculate your way around the camera settings. The shutter speed and the f/stop’s are related. Any of these columns represents the same exposure.

f/stop Shutter Speeds in Seconds without the filter
EVS +4 +3 +2 +1 0 -1 -2 -3 -4
f/1.4 1/30 1/60 1/125 1/250 1/500 1/1000 1/2000 1/4000 1/8000
f/2 1/15 1/30 1/60 1/125 1/250 1/500 1/1000 1/2000 1/4000
f/2.8 1/8 1/15 1/30 1/60 1/125 1/250 1/500 1/1000 1/2000
f/4 1/4 1/8 1/15 1/30 1/60 1/125 1/250 1/500 1/1000
f/5.6 1/2 1/4 1/8 1/15 1/30 1/60 1/125 1/250 1/500
f/8 1 1/2 1/4 1/8 1/15 1/30 (#1) 1/60 1/125 1/250
f/11 2 1 1/2 1/4 1/8 1/15 1/30 1/60 1/125
f/16 4 2 1 1/2 1/4 1/8 1/15 1/30 1/60
f/22 8 4 2 1 (#3) 1/2 1/4 (#2) 1/8 1/15 1/30

The highlighted reds are close enough to our example, just without the filter attached.

I would also be able to lower the shutter speed by changing the f-stop in the opposite direction to f/4 and increasing the ISO to, let’s say ISO 400. Then I would have moved the exposure 4 stops faster. I have a span of 8 stops, just by changing settings on the camera.

There are a few compromises. Images tend to be slightly less sharp at f/22 and maybe also at f/4, depending on the lens. Nothing serious, which I can’t get recover in the post-processing.

At ISO 400 there will be a little more noise, but no big problem.

The biggest problem can be the change of Depth of Field by going to f/4.

What brand to choose?

I have Hitech Formatt IRND and I have Lee Filters for my 100mm system. These are among the very best, and the price comes with them. But you do get what you pay for. I have seen cheap Cokin filters in use, and the photos simply couldn’t be used for anything serious. And putting two filters on top of each other, just made it go from bad to worse.

I can only recommend the most expensive and best filters, simply because the others are not good enough.

Why is 1.8 the same as 6 stops?

In my world only calculating in stops makes sense. That’s how you think as a photographer, but for some reason the filters are primarily given in another scale, having 0.3 pr. stop. A 0.6 filter is then a 2 stop filter, and 1.8 becomes a 6 stop filter.

Another number system used is ND64 for the 6 stop filter. This system is easier to understand. That’s the number you have to multiply you exposure time with, and that’s why 1 second (#3 in the table above) becomes 64 seconds in my example above.

Tips on shooting long exposure photos

I have another article on how to use ND filters for shooting long exposures. You can read it here.

How to use ND filters in Long exposure photography

Chateau Queras is placed like the old fortress it is, to guard the entrance to Queras, a beautiful area in the French. Quite a gem really, full of beautiful places and then this beautiful old castle. Photo by: Jacob Surland, www.caughtinpixels.com

Chateau Queyras in the French Alps looks fantastic lit up in the night. This is a long exposure of no less than 370 seconds.

Long Exposure Photography is fascinating. By changing the exposure time, you achieve dramatic changes in the final result. The two photos featured in this post, are shot within a 25 minutes of each other. The first one is a long exposure og 370 seconds, and the second is a normal exposure of 0,5 seconds. Even if the images are processed different, you can easily tell the difference, if you look at the clouds.

When I went on photo workshop in the French Alps, I also got the chance to shoot the beautiful Chateau Queyras. If you walk up the mountain across the castle, you get a fantastic view of the castle. Photo by: Jacob Surland, www.caughtinpixels.com

This is a normal exposure shot 25 minutes earlier than the first one. It is only 0,5 seconds, and is processed as an HDR image.

The first photo I shot 25 minutes later having attached a 2 stop ND filter on the camera. A neutral density filter, or ND filter, stops the light down, without changing the colors. A 2 stop ND filter will double the exposure time twice. This photo was the last photo I shot from that location, and it was getting pretty dark, and I wanted to be sure that the clouds were completely smooth.

The clouds were moving a lot, and sometimes I could see the top of the mountain just behind Chateau Queyras, and at other times it was hidden in the clouds. The exposure is 370 seconds or 6 minutes and 10 seconds. In long exposures like that, you can not predict what happens. I was lucky that clouds left the top of the mountain clear in most of those 6 minutes, giving me a hat on top of Chateau Queyras.

I shot it, at f/16 and ISO 100, using my 2 stop ND filter. Had I not used the ND filter, I would have had an exposure of 370 seconds diveded by 2 twice or just by 4, that is 370/4 = 107.5 seconds. A 107.5 seconds is still a long time, and might have yielded a similar result.

I find that to smooth everything out 100% and leaving no textures what so ever, does require more time, than a minute. I wanted to be on the safe side in this case and put on a 2 stop ND filter.

You can also use ND filters during more bright times of day. Had I used the 2 stop ND filter on the first image, I would have increased the exposure time from 0,5 seconds to 2 seconds, which wouldn’t have changed a whole lot. But if I had put on a 10 stop filter, I would have had a 512-second exposure, which would have yielded a similar smooth result.

To fine tune the necessary time, you can change ISO and f-stop values. To lower the exposure time from 512 seconds, to about 370 seconds, I could have lowered the f-stop to f/14 or f/13.

To be able to work flexible using ND filters you need a set of ND filters, to be able to match the desired exposure time. I have a 2, 3, 6 and 10 stop filters. Choosing the right filter, combined with the right ISO, Shutter speed and aperture (f-stop) is what makes your exposure, when working with ND-filters and long exposures.

How to calculate the exposure time

But how to calculate the exposure time? It does require some brain activity to calculate your ways around to get the right exposure time.

Depending on, what ND filter you have on, and how long you approximately plan on making you exposure, you can do a few things. If you plan on exposing for 60 seconds, you can increase ISO to the double value (like ISO 100 to 200). Then then you can adjust filters and f-stop to until, the camera measures a 30-second exposure. Adjust the ISO back to the original value.

Another approach is to do test shots without the filter and when you have the right exposure time, attach the filter and recalculate exposure time.

You can also use an App to help you calculate and time your exposure. While this might seem perfectly easy, I always end up finding it too cumbersome and end up doing the math myself and use the timer in my iPhone.

One thing you have to be aware of the light is changing fast, is that your will have to compensate for that. If it grows brighter, you have to take that into account, shortening the exposure time. And the opposite if the light is fading, you will have to increase the exposure time with a stop or two, depending on how fast the light fades.

The shooting

The obvious thing is; you need a tripod. You can’t do long exposures handheld.

You have to be in manual mode, and switch of auto ISO to do long exposures. You need to be in control of all three parameters, ISO, Aperture and shutter time. Most DSLR or DSLR-like cameras (including the mirrorless cameras) has a maximum of a 30-second exposure. Bulb mode is required to make exposures longer than 30 seconds. Usually, this is something, which you dial to, using the same dial as you use for changing the exposure time.

You also need a remote release. You really want to be avoiding to touch the camera, while shooting. I have a simple cable release. I bought an advanced electrical one, but it died on me, in fact right before shooting this image, and I had to borrow another cable release.

You also want to switch on long exposure noise reduction. If you don’t you get strange hot pixel noise. The sensor heats up while exposing for such a long time, and the long exposure noise reduction, will help reducing the result from that. The downside is that it takes just as long to do, as your exposure took. A 6-minute exposure will also give a 6-minute noise reduction. That is a hard one to swallow.

And that is the basics of long exposure photography.

Are you an artist or photographer?

Armenia is one the Worlds small hidden gems if you ask me. The country is very small but has a grand history. Not only can they credit themselves for being the first nation in the world, to be Christian, and having invented Red Wine, but they also invented the Color television. Not bad for a small Country. This is the Monastery of Haghpat. Photo by: Jacob Surland, www.caughtinpixels.com

The Monastery of Haghpat is a UNESCO World Heritage site in Armenia worth a visit.

Over the past six months, I have thought a lot about, what it is that I do with my photography. What is it I like to do? And what I don’t like to do? My available time for photography is limited, and I want to spend my time on the right things.

I have to admit, that I love the post-processing much more than the actual shooting of the photos. And when I shoot, I am looking forward to the post-processing. This has become more and more clear to me. A logical consequence of that is that I put time into learning new and interesting post-processing techniques, and combining them in new ways.

I once asked a professional traditional landscape photographer, if he considered himself a photographer or an artist. He promptly said ‘Photographer’, and then I asked what the difference was, and the answer to that, was somewhat more unclear. My conclusion was that he ‘felt’ a photographer because he recorded reality, as real and natural as possible.

When I started out, I asked myself a similar question: ‘Am I an artist? Or am I a photographer?’ and then the next question was, ‘What is an artist, anyway?’

I have come to the conclusion that I am an artist without a doubt. Why? First of all, because I feel that way, but also because I try to make something that I like, from the components I have. I try to carry an image, to where my imagination can carry it, and to the extent of the potential of the image. The components I have at hand are my RAW files, Lightroom, Photoshop and various other tools and techniques. Some photos have much more potential, than other photos. The ones with a lot of potential in the creative sense are the photos I like the most.

I create an alternative surreal reality, rather than record reality. I am no documentarian. I do what I do, because I like to do it that way and pay no heed to what reality looked like. And that is the essence of why I feel that I am an artist.

Many photographers, don’t like what I do because I manipulate my photos, but to me that isn’t important. I do what I do, because I love to do it, not because somebody else should like it. Does anyone happen to like it, I am just more happy.

About this particular image

I felt particularly artistic when I made this photo. The vision of this final image evolved as I worked on the image. The initial image, of Monastery of Haghpat, had an almost blown out sky and lacked the warm feeling. I did, however, like the composition a lot.

My first idea was to find a sunrise or sunset photo, having clouds in the shape of a bow, like the arrow, suggests.

Armenia Haghpat before with arrow

 

I found this image, which I flipped to match the curve:

Armenia Haghpat clouds

 

When I had merged the two, an idea began to form itself. The light from the two didn’t fit too well. I then applied textures (read about applying textures in this blogpost) to the image, which brought the warm feeling to the monastery and gave a more homogene warm feeling to all over the image.

I cleaned up the image. Removed the dead pigeon, and the fencing, etc. Cleaning up is an important step, and you will be amazed how much you can change an image, just by removing irrelevant stuff in your image.

I still had the feeling, that I was missing something, and I began looking for birds and found this one from Grand Canyon. I flipped it, to look at the entrance.

Armenia Haghpat bird

 

How to make something out of nothing

Birds flee from the Church of Hallgrim. In Danish Hallgrim means 'half ugly', hopefully, that's not why the bird flees. The Church is named after a poet from the 17th century, and perhaps he should be happy, that he wasn't completely ugly, but only half ugly. Photo by: Jacob Surland, www.caughtinpixels.com

 Birds flee from the Church of Hallgrim. In Danish Hallgrim means ‘half ugly’, hopefully, that’s not why the bird flees. The Church is named after a poet from the 17th century, and perhaps he should be happy, that he wasn’t completely ugly, but only half ugly.

I have a bunch of photos in my library, from great locations around the world, but because the light wasn’t right, I have to add something, to make it into something. This image is an example from Hallgrims Church in Reykjavik in Iceland. A fantastic and beautiful modern church. I shot the photo on a gray and rainy day. The sky was gray as it gets as you can see in the original unprocessed image:

Hallgrims church

The process I went through, was first to do some basic cloning and perspective correction. Because I tilted my wide angle lens a bit upwards, the church is leaning a bit too much. This I fixed until it looked fairly natural.

Then I cloned away a couple of lampposts, some rubbish and the sign at the entrance of the church.

The making of the image

Now I was ready to make the image. The first thing I did was to enhance the pattern formed by the tiles in front of the church. I did this, by making a curves adjustment layer. To control the contrast a bit more, I put a copy of the image on the layer mask. You can edit a layer mask if you press ALT (or Command on a Mac) and click on the mask. All I did was to paste in the original image on my mask. This way the curves tool, will target primary the brighter parts.

Hallgrims church processing

When I was happy with the contrast in the tiles, I moved on to the next step, to add some birds. The image lacks supporting characters. The Church is the primary character in my story, but it lacks some interesting story, and birds can add just that.

Unfortunately, the Icelandic birds were asleep or took cover of the rain (as should I have been). Instead, I used some birds I shot in front of Stephansdom in Vienna at a different time. Hundreds of birds took flight, just as I passed by. For this image, I handpicked four that I liked and placed them exactly where I wanted them, to tell a story of fleeing birds.

The next step was to add textures. This is a sort of experimenting process. Some textures work great with one image, but not another. I added a texture and tried the different blend modes, added a mask and painted some of it out. If I didn’t like the texture, I removed it, and found another one.

In general my goal was to add less texture to the church, than to the sky. The sky really needed something, but the church should be recognizable. I kept adding textures until I was happy with the result. For each texture I tried changing the blend mode, added a layer mask and painted some of it out.

Hallgrims church textures

When I was done with the textures, I did some more additional contrast adjustment by adding three different adjustments. Textures can have a quite drastic effect on the contrast, it may need a further adjustment, when done. Two adjustment layers are curves adjustments, and the last is an exposure adjustment layer. The purpose is to keep the church and ground bright and balanced in light.

Finally I made a vignette on the image, by using yet another texture. Some textures with the right blending mode have a dark impact on the image. This time I used one of those textures to add a vignette.

Finally, I had to change the saturation slightly because a red hue had sneaked in, in the lower part of the image.

Hallgrims church hue changes

And that was what I did, to make something out of nothing.

 

How to remove grafitty from a wall

The Old Observatory at Brorfelde in Denmark sitting in the sunset on an early spring evening. Looks like it's going to be a night, worth watching the stars. Photo by: Jacob Surland, www.caughtinpixels.com

I shot this the other day, while waiting for my son while he is at music training. I have 40 minutes, and this time of year, it fits with the Sunset.

Brorfelde is an old observatory, that I have wanted to see for a while. When I got there, all of the trees had just been cut down, and the ground was all tractor wheels and ruble. Not exactly a great ground for photography. But I tried to clone out the worst of the tracks, and then I darkened the ground quite a bit.

My goal with this one, was to make a fairly classic sunset photo, with the two observatory buildings leading to the sun. I captured a couple of people riding the horizon. These I left in the image, though they would be easy to clone out, because they add value to the image.

Interesting trick used

The wall on the nearest observatory building is full of grafitty. To get rid of it, I duplicated the layer, blurred the top one, just enough to make the writings disappear. Then I took a texture of a wall, used overlay blend mode and painted that gently on top of the wall, and then the wall still has it’s color from rust and the light, but also new texture.

This is the grafitty – to particularly pretty. Notice the rust on the wall.

Brorfelde grafitty

First thing I did was to duplicate the layer, and then blur using Gaussian Blur in Photoshop. I blurred just enough to make the grafitty unreadable. I then added a black layer mask to the blurred layer and painted the blurred layer on in, wherever the grafitty was.

 

Brorfelde grafitty gone

I then found a texture of a wall and by using the feature ‘Blend mode’ in Photoshop. I can add back some texture to the wall while I still keep the colors of the original wall. Notice the rust is still there.

Brorfelde grafitty new texture

 

I did it by changing the blend mode on the layer with the texture. I added a layer mask to that layer too and painted in the texture where ever I had painted in the blurred layer. The blurred wall, now receives texture but keeping its colors. There are a number of different Blend modes, i just tried all of them, and picked the one, I found best for the purpose. In this case, it was Pin Light.

Brorfelde grafitty new texture how

Thoughts on finding your own style

The Japanese Tower in the Tivoli Gardens is the home of a Sushi restaurant. As a lover of Sushi, I frequent this place, whenever budget and time allows it. It has a very special place in my heart, as it has been used for several celebrations. Photo by: Jacob Surland, www.caughtinpixels.com

As an Apprentice of The Arcanum we get presented all sorts of tasks and exercises, on our journey to become better artists. At my current level, I have to focus more on what is “me” and “my” art in what I do.

Even before I got the assignment from my Master Robin Griggs Woods, I had started down the road of ‘who am I’? It’s not as easy as you might think, realizing who you are, and what you do, which is uniquely you.

Truth is, that I find myself most creative, when I am sitting in front of Lightroom and Photoshop, not when I am out shooting photos. I get ideas on processing techniques, combining techniques in new ways, trying out all sorts of things. Some photos are fairly straightforward, while others are much more time-consuming, and require that I used my creativity.

Some of my photos, I spend weeks, months, even years before I get the final idea. The images may pop in my head, and then I think of ways to process them for a while. Forget about them, and then come to think about them again. Try some stuff, it might not work, and I shelve the photo again for a while. And then suddenly one day, I have the idea. This photo stars above London is a great example of this process. It took me months and many failed attempts before I finally made something I was happy with.

London City Hall with the London Tower Bridge just after midnight. Only a few people hovers around the area. The stars are peaking out from the skies. Photo by: Jacob Surland, www.caughtinpixels.com

What I have come to realize is, that I see a difference in ‘just’ processing a photo, into something nice. The other day I processed two nice photos from London, but I didn’t get the kick out of, that I wanted. I thought about it. Why was it, that two perfectly great photos, full of city lights didn’t turn me on? It should be my favorite sort of photos. After thinking about it for a while, I came to the conclusion, that making the photos, only required Craft and Skills, not creativity.

The way I had shot the photos, and the light I had shot them in, didn’t leave much room for processing creatively. And because it was a standard processing technique, I could do in my sleep, it didn’t turn me on.

This fact has changed the way I see myself as a Fine Art photographer. I need room for creativity, in what I do. I get bored by doing the same routine stuff every day.

I have known for quite some time, that I do like to play with the viewers mind. I add elements, enhance elements beyond what is realistic. I may over enhance shadows, add light sources or change colors. This way I can play tricks on the viewers mind. His sub consciousness will detect, that something is not right and some even see what it is. What happens, when I do that, is the image will get an artificial look to it, maybe like a painting or at least border lining to surrealism.

In the photo in the top, of the Japanese Twoer in Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark, I have enhanced the shadows cast by the group of people. The shadows are far stronger than the original photo showed. Another thing I have done is to remove almost all color, in the lower part of the image. There is quite a lot of colored light, and it shows on the ground.

I find these elements very much me, other people may do it too or do similar things, but it is something that I like to do, and that I have found out on my own and integrates into many of my images.

On the London image, I added light beams on top of the London Tower Bridge, even though there are no light beams.

While these small techniques do not dictate a style, they are a part of me and my art. I use them in many different kinds of photos, but they are a part of my images, in general. I have some other techniques, which I also use, to make my own style of photos. It does not necessarily mean that my photos, end up looking the same, because they don’t, but you will find elements in each, that come from the same core.

What I am beginning to realize, is the elements in what I do, that make my photos into ‘my art’, as an expression of me. I like to tease and be surreal, I always loved surreal artists and texts, and, therefore it is a part of the photos that I make.

Mont Saint Michel lonely street at night

During the day Mont Saint Michel is crowded with people. All most too much. But as the begins to set, people disappear, and when darkness comes to Mont Saint Michel, and the small street lamps are turned on, you can wander around in empty alleys. Photo by: Jacob Surland, www.caughtinpixels.com

During the day, Mont Saint Michel is crowded with people. All most too much. But as the begins to set, people disappear, and when darkness comes to Mont Saint Michel, and the small street lamps are turned on, you can wander around in empty alleys. This street wasn’t quite empty. I triggered the five exposures manually, I can control, when to shoot, and make sure I didn’t shoot with people in the same location, and that way remove them in the post processing. The longest exposure was 8 seconds, which also allows moving people to disappear in the long exposure.

Thoughts on Inspiration

Zurich Central Station has a huge pretty empty hallway. The trains leave from out side the building and nothing takes up the wast amount of space. Except for a man with a tablet. Photo by: Jacob Surland, www.caughtinpixels.com

This photo is from Zürich train station. For some reason I do not know, this enormous hall is empty, except for a couple of cafes and supermarket along the edges. Inspiration came during the post-processing, the roof I enhanced to have a kind of a steampunk feel.

My current assignment in The Arcanum is to think about inspiration and to be ‘inspired’ by others. I have put a lot of thought into this topic over the last couple of weeks. What inspires me? What influences what I do? I have made a number of sub conclusions, but I have also realized, that I may use inspiration, in a different way than many others do.

I have a strong antipathy of copying other people’s work. This antipathy goes all the way back to my school days and early days as a programmer. I didn’t want to copy my friend’s school assignments, even if I had trouble making my own. I didn’t want to copy other coder’s code; I wanted to understand what’s going on, and make my version of a feature.

This antipathy is still strong and goes into photography as well. What I have come to terms with, is that there exists “my version of a classic view”. But, I will try do make it “my version”, and not just a copy.

Anyway inspiration is a good thing. It works as fuel for your brain and your creativity. The question is how to get inspired, and how to use that and what you want to obtain.

Continue reading

Clean up the ground – it does make a difference!

I never thought that I should see Piccadilly Circus abandoned for people, but at 5:43 in the morning it is possible. A single early bus passed while I shot the photo. Photo by: Jacob Surland, www.caughtinpixels.com
I have a few shots from Piccadilly Circus, and for some reason, all of the chewing gum in the world is spat out here. Have a look at the before photo, and see how much chewing gum there is on the ground. I have spent hours and hours cleaning up the ground using healing and cloning tools in Photoshop.

It’s a drag to clean up that much chewing gum, but it is worth the hard work. The result looks so much better, and it does make the difference.

This is the before photo, or rather one of the 9 photos – actually 18, because I shot two series of 9. The first series were completely empty and the second included the bus.

Chewing gum on Piccadilly Circus

How to detect sensor spots in Photoshop and Lightroom

This photo was the last photo after about an hour of photography in Milford Sound in New Zealand. This boat is the first boat, one of many that will sail tourist around in the magnificent Milford Sound. Photo by: Jacob Surland, www.caughtinpixels.com

This photo was the last photo after about an hour of photography in Milford Sound in New Zealand. This boat is the first boat early in the morning, one of many that will sail tourists around in the magnificent Milford Sound.

Unfortunately, one of the major drawbacks of cameras with interchangeable lenses, is that they collect dust, when you change from one lens to another. You can take a lot of precautions, like holding the camera downwards, when unscrewing the lens and make a quick switch. No doubt precaution works, but there is still no way around it, you end up with dust inside your camera, and some of that dust places itself on the sensor.

I have my Rocket Air Blaster in my camera bag, and uses it frequently. By far the best “get the dust out of my camera” blower I have used so far. But still I get dust spots on my photos.

Spots also get more visible the smaller the aperture (larger number!) is. If you are on f/2.8, only large spots will be visible, while if on f/22 you will see every little dust spot.

On top of that, I own the Nikon D600, which is known for it’s sensor spots. The problem is more or less gone now. And my D800 was pretty bad too. Both seems to do better now. Nikon have had both in for cleaning more than once, and apparently they have done something to improve the problem.

Anyway, I get dust spots on my images, and how do I remove them?

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