Here’s a shot from Nine Mile Pond in the Everglades. It’s a beautiful place to watch the sunrise – but on this morning, I wasn’t getting any good photos. Although the sunrise was pretty, it wasn’t very photogenic – and the water was a bit choppy. A couple of test shots failed to get me excited.

I wanted to transform the scene. So I pulled out my neutral density filter. The idea was to block some of the light coming into the lens with a grey filter – that would mean I could use a much longer shutter speed. The effect was exactly what I wanted. A 25-second shutter speed (f/8) blurred out the waves, giving the water a smooth, calm surface. The slowly moving clouds blurred just a bit – which left the sky looking dreamy. Most importantly, the reflected light on the water scattered with each wave, producing an opalescent glow.

Simple, in-camera techniques like this one can turn an ordinary scene into something just beyond the usual. Have you used a neutral density filter for a similar effect?

5 replies
  1. Lou Cragin
    Lou Cragin says:

    Hi Varina:

    A question for you: With the ND, do you find that it makes the colors more vibrant? I’m assuming in the situation above that there wasn’t much color. Is that correct? Or is what we are seeing in the photo pretty much what the colors were in intensity?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Varina Patel
      Varina Patel says:

      Good question, Lou. The ND filter doesn’t increase color intensity. But there are some factors that will make a difference to the intensity of the color. Exposure makes a big difference – the colors in an image that is under or overexposed will seem much less vibrant. So, I’m very careful to make sure I get my exposure right for really nice colors. In this case, the very long shutter speed made a difference too. The light was changing rapidly as the sun rose, and the color were changing too. As the colors in the sky shifted, the camera captured them and recorded them as though they were all happening at once. So, the finished image is more colorful because of that. The reflected color in the moving water added to that effect as well.

      If you are looking for more information about vibrant colors in photography, you might be interested in this eBook from our collection:

      Have a great day!


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