So as you may know, I get around bit. I'm constantly out and about shooting this amazing place called Tasmania. I travel hundreds, if not thousands of kilometres a year to visit and explore these wonderful regions of Tasmania. In my travels I cross paths with many a photographer; whether they are visitors to the state of Tasmania or they are locals out enjoying what this place has to offer. On every occasion I am noticing that there is an ever growing trend with other photographers. I would like to discuss some of this now...
The classic spot that I see most other photographers would have to be the Cradle Mountain view from Dove Lake within the Cradle Mt/Lake St Clair National Park. A classic view over the lake and up to the peaks of Cradle Mountain. People flock from all around the world to view this spot, and so often I see people taking the easy option to try and capture a beautiful image of Cradle Mountain.
What do I mean by easy option?
There is a huge movement, for lack of a better word, in the photography scene for everyone to use the same process to create dramatic looking images. So many times I see photographers arrive at the wrong time of day (for light) and proceed to set up, focus, compose and then.... whack a 10 stop ND filter on the front of their expensive lens.
Every time, Every shot, this big ND filter is used. For a bit of background; a 10 stop ND is a near non-transparent glass filter that is used to drop down the exposure value of an entire scene by a factor of 10 stops of light. So instead of shooting a scene at 1/30th second you end up with a longer exposure, 10 stops slower, 30 seconds in length. The longer exposure helps create those whispy clouds, or silky water or both.
Now I am in no way knocking the use of filters, and I am not knocking the use of a large 10 stop filter, but there needs to be a time and place to use them. All I seem to observe these days is photographers just using the 10 stopper to death. Every coastal shot, every waterfall, every clouds infused shot... it has a massive 10 stop filter applied. It's becoming very common and starting to detract from the possibilities within the original scene. What's even more upsetting as a professional photographer is witnessing photographers open up there iPhone, look at a chart for exposure readings and then dial in the adjustment 10 stop exposure setting. If you are going to use a 10 stop filter frequently, at least do the research on how to correctly calculate the exposure manually, not just with using an app to do it for you.
Understanding the calculation and how to apply this is the whole purpose behind this funny photography game. If you can't calculate this part of your exposure, or you are just too lazy to figure it out, then you may as well return to shooting in Auto mode. Understanding how to calculate exposure is what can help you become a much, much better photographer, separating your work from others and helping you enjoy your photography on a whole new level. Trust me.
I would love to see the photographers who can't take a shot without a massive ND filter try and shoot without one for sometime. It will help you fine tune your skills, create more creativity in your work as you will have to plan more and visualise, and lastly, it will not group you into the continuously growing trend of online celebrities that have created their celebrity purely through the use of a 10 stop. I am sure there are some very happy filter companies out there who have seen sales drive up, but just leave the 10 stop in the bag, only occasionally bringing it to light.
It's getting old folks... try and be original and more creative with your work, not just follow a trend.
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