Finally Used my ND 16 Filter

Finally got a chance to test out my ND 16 filter! On our road trip to Jefferson Lake we noticed a nice little waterfall at Tarryall Reservoir that I’ve never even heard of before. We stopped for a bit to see if we could get a good view of it for pictures but we were focused on moose and didn’t want to spend the time to get out a tripod and a make a long exposure so we quickly scouted out the location and hit the road.

What is an ND 16 filter you ask? It’s a color neutral density filter that comes in varying degrees of darkness, the 16 in this case translates to four stops of light. So on a scene that might normally call for a 200th of a second shutter speed at F8 can be shot with a two second shutter speed at the same aperture. This of course means that anything in the image that is moving is going to be blurry in the final image. In this case the water is moving and will show as a smooth flow down the mountain. I shot the below image without the ND filter as we were scouting out the scene and as you can see the water appears rough and frozen in place by the fast shutter speed. The bottom image shows smooth flowing water using a slow shutter speed facilitated by the ND filter.


You have to be very careful when buying an ND filter to make sure you are getting the light stops that you think you are, some filters use a filter factor naming system, while others just use the optical density system. To be sure of your filter you may need to consult this chart created by B&H Photo as a guide. For instance, while the ND16 is four stops on the filter factor scale, your ten stop filter may be labeled with an ND 3.0 rating on the optical density scale. I happen to have a nine stop filter called ND2.7. Very confusing, I know… But don’t feel bad, I spent almost $100 on an ND4 filter thinking I was getting a four stop filter, but only wound up with a nearly useless half a stop of light modification 🙁

Well anyway, our day of moose and hawk photography was complete and we were on our way home when we stopped for long exposures of  the waterfall. Unfortunately we encountered a rather formidable fence as we made our way down the hillside to our intended shooting location and were forced to Plan B which as of yet did not exist  :{ It appeared that if we switched to long lenses we might get a view from the hillside on the opposite side of the valley, so back to the car it was. We loaded up our stuff and drove around the mountain to the other side where we got all our gear back out, switched to the 100-400 F4-F5.6 lenses and fitted them with a four stop filter.

Waterfall at TarryallA short climb up the hillside yielded a pretty good view, so I set up the heavy tripod and attached the camera.  I could hear the sound of thunder echoing across the valley and a quick look at the approaching clouds revealed that I was not going to have long to pull off this shot. I put my camera in Live View, selected a two second exposure and watched the screen as I dialed in a suitable aperture, which turned out to be F10 at ISO 100.

By the time the first sprinkles were hitting my face I was satisfied that I had the shot… Packed up my gear and headed for the vehicle and it was a good thing we didn’t get too far as within a few seconds we were in a deluge of water and hail that was almost severe enough to require pulling off the road! But we were able to keep going slowly and eventually drove out of the foul weather and into the beautiful light of evening.

Well anyway, I hope you find the article helpful and the image enjoyable! If you find the content useful please consider following my blog and / or supporting my work with a donation or a tip by clicking the buttons at the beginning and end of the article 🙂


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