Learning to see the world around you… differently
I received my replacement 16 stop neutral density filter from Formatt Hitech yesterday and had a chance to give it a try earlier today.
For those that are unsure of what that is, it is a filter that to the eye is almost black. Using it on your camera reduces the amount of light the camera sees by 65536 times (thank you for the correction Zbigniew). Now why would a person want to do that you might ask? For me it is a different way of seeing the world around me. Instead of using a short or quick shutter speed that freezes almost everything to where it looks frozen a very dark neutral density allows me to photograph landscapes during the middle of the day with exposures as short as three minutes and as long as nine.
The next time you have a moment to lie back on the ground and take a few minutes to watch the clouds go by imagine how they might look if they became more fluid and ethereal. Hard edges become soft and indistinct. I haven’t done enough of this to be able to predict the end result. There are so many variables. The focal length of the lens. The speed and direction of the clouds.
This is experimentation. There are hits and then there are the misses. The clouds that you liked when you first opened the shutter may have moved out of frame or changed shape before your exposure is finished and that is why I like it.
Shooting landscapes has for me become predictable. I was almost always able to accurately visualize what the final result might look like when I shot traditional color. This “new” for me kind of photography is like visiting a new country. I never know at least not yet what I will be seeing and bringing home.
I awoke early today, 4:30 am to drive my university student/Starbucks barista to her early shift job where she started at 5:30 am. The skies were cloudless and that was the forecast for the whole day. In fact that is the forecast for the next few days here. Clear skies to my thinking are only good for one thing, astrophotography. Landscapes without clouds usually look lifeless and blah. Clouds are the glue that hold heaven and earth together.
Around 3:00 in the afternoon I looked up to see small puffy clouds drifting overhead so off I went replacement filter in hand. It wasn’t very long before I arrived at a small barren hillside and started shooting. I moved to a few different spots and two hours later I was home putting shish kabobs on the barbecue for supper. It was that simple. That fast.
Because each long exposure averages about five minutes in length I don’t take very many photos. I think that I had less than a dozen exposures on my memory card.
What do I do when I am shooting this way? I look for shapes. I look to simplify the landscape. A few basic shapes in the viewfinder is all that I want. Busy photos don’t seem to work as well as simple ones. The difficulty is finding a subject that lends itself to “nothingness”. It takes a bit of practice to learn to avoid including clutter but that is part of the allure. If it was easy I would probably get bored like I have with color and take up playing the trumpet.
ps. So far my replacement filter looks good but I won’t jump to any conclusions until it has been tried a few more times.