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A dense filter from Lee that cuts down light by 10 stops

A dense filter from Lee that cuts down light by 10 stops - John Gravett of Lakeland Photographic Holidays shows you how to use the Big Stopper 10.

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Landscape and Travel

Gear needed:
  • Camera
  • Big stopper & lee filter holder
  • Lockable remote /cable release
  • Sturdy tripod
John Gravett of Lakeland Photographic Holidays guide to using the big stopper 10
John Gravett's guide to using the big stopper 10.

The new Lee filter "Big Stopper 10" is the ideal way to slow down shutter speeds to smooth out water, or show loads of movement in clouds, trees, car trails or indeed anything that moves. I love using it on lakes – to really smooth out a ripply surface, it gives a simple, but slightly surreal look. Waterfalls on bright days are another obvious target, but 10 stops of light might give too long an exposure for some people's taste.

Shot of Derwentwater without the Big Stopper 10:
Derwentwater without a big stopper
Shot of Derwentwater with the Big Stopper 10:
Derwentwater with a big stopper
Photos by John Gravett.
The first thing to realise is that with the filter in place, you can't see anything through the lens. So all composition has to be done before the filter is put in place. Essentially no special rules here – except that the subject must have at least some motion in it – or there really isn't any need to use it.

Meter readings can be taken before you fit the filter, as Lee provide a conversion chart to help you work out longer exposures – for example, a 1 second metered exposure without the filter equates to a 16 minute exposure with the filter in place. If you're exposure isn't likely to exceed 30 seconds with the filter in place, you can meter through the filter, but be careful to totally obscure the eyepiece when taking the reading, or stray light entering the viewfinder will affect the exposure reading.
Closing eyepiece blind
Close the eyepiece blind.

Once the picture's composed, the filter needs to be inserted carefully in the rear slot of the Lee filter holder – the filter itself has a foam seal applied to one side of it, to ensure that no stray light reflects off the rear surface of the filter and degrades the image by reflection. It is really important to handle the filter with care, as unlike many square filters, this one's made of glass, and won't take kindly to being dropped or scratched.

Positioning the Big Stopper 10
Insert the filter carefully.
Foam seal on the Big Stopper 10

As the filter isn't a pure neutral density, it does impart a slightly cool colour cast to the picture, if you're shooting raw files, this isn't too much of an issue, as you can alter the white balance at post processing, but I usually take a custom white balance reading through the filter just to make sure. Or you could simply set a slightly warmer white balance. Some auto focus systems will cope with focusing through the filter, if you're not sure, focus first, switch to manual focus, then fit the filter.

So pack your big stopper and your tripod, and get shooting on some truly different pictures capturing the passage of time in a still image.

Waterall without the Big Stopper 10
Without the Big Stopper 10.
Photo by John Gravett.
Waterall with the Big Stopper 10
With the Big Stopper 10.
Photo by John Gravett.

Words and pictures by John Gravett of Lakeland Photographic Holidays.

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21 Feb 2012 9:28PM
I have a Hoya NDX 400 which is essentially the same thing but as it screws to the lense is nice and portable. There are so many other applications apart from landscape photography, such as photographing welding, getting a longer exposure on the full moon, cityscapes etc.

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