Using ND Filters to create Motion Blur in Bright Sun – How We Shot It

How We Shot It May 8th 2013 6:58 PM One Comment

Hi there folks!  We are going to combine our previous article series of “Photo of the Day” with our traditional “How We Shot It” article series, in case you all have wondered where “Photo of the Day” has gone.  Enjoy!

The Photo

 train station motion blur 650(Click here to view a larger version!)

How We Shot It

The Equipment and Settings

The Shooting Conditions

You have a lot of different options when it comes to creating motion blur in bright sunlight.  Firstly of course you want to stop down your aperture as much as you can afford to, without your images getting too soft due to diffraction.  (f/22 is usually a bad idea, on most lenses and most cameras)  And even at f/16, the sunny sixteen rule dictates that if your ISO is 100, your shutter speed is 1/100 sec.  Unless this train was a bullet train going full speed, motion blur at 1/100 sec would be very minimal.  So your next step is to darken the image overall using filters.  For this particular image I used both an ND (Neutal Density) and a Circular Polarizer, however if you wish you can simply use an ND filter.

What about ISO “LO”?
ISO LO should be avoided if you have bright highlights in your photograph.  I narrowly escaped blowing out my highlights in this image, because the Nikon D300’s native ISO is 200.  If my image had been just 1/2 a stop brighter, this highlight would have been badly posterized:

train station motion blur 650 crop

So be careful with going into ISO LO when you are trying to maximize your shutter blur in bright sun.

What about variable ND filters?
Variable ND filters are awesome, if you can afford one.  They usually run $100-$300, which is only a bargain if you plan to do a LOT of slow-motion shooting.  If you are a more casual photographer, start with a Circular Polarizer filter and an affordable 3-6 stop ND filter, and try to get ones that have a thin profile in case you need to stack them.

Stacking Filters?
Usually, stacking filters is not advisable on lenses wider than about 24mm equivalent.  However especially  if your lens has smaller filter threads than 82mm or 77mm, you may just want to buy the largest size you need (82mm or 77mm) …and then use a filter thread adapter.  For example many older wide angle Nikon lenses have 52mm or 55mm threads; if you get an adapter for 77mm filters then you can easily stack filters without any vignetting!

The Post-Processing

For this image, I started with a “Vivid Landscape Light HDR” preset from the SLR Lounge Preset System.  This preset helps me to make my image pop, while also attempting to preserve highlight and shadow detail.  With a few minor adjustments and a slight correction to the tint, (due to a slight color cast caused by the ND filter, Cokin filters tend to be a little magenta) …and that’s it!

Take care, and happy clicking,
=Matthew Saville=

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About

Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge. Connect with him on Google Plus

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