Different Tools, Different Looks

April 17, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Lake Erie Pier on a Cloudy Evening, initial photo, no filters. This was one of those moments when weather did not matter. I just wanted to get out with the camera and capture something new, something different. It was cloudy, no not cloudy, it was overcast. One solid layer of clouds covering the sky in all directions. Pretty much a guarantee of no special light that evening. Forget sunset! It was also drizzling. I put my waterproof marine coat on and headed out. I kind of had this location in mind for other opportunities, but a lake and a pier just sounded good for a rainy evening.

What you see in the first photo is my establishing shot. I like to do those to make sure I don't miss opportunities while I mess with the settings of the camera or with filters, or with whatever.

It's shot at ISO 100, f/16, and 1/5 sec. Thanks to the overcast sky and diffused light, the sky actually fit in the dynamic range of the sensor and the photo's exposure was fairly balanced, with still enough contrast though. You can see the small water ripples on the water since the exposure was not all that long. Now with the establishing photo on the card, it was playtime. I started wondering what different tools could do with the prevailing grey tone.

Lake Erie Pier on a Cloudy Evening, Cokin Blue/Yellow (Gold) Varicolor Filter. With colors lacking and water present the first thing that came to mind was the Cokin Blue/Yellow Varicolor filter. As you can see in the second photo, the effect was not what one would call subtle. The water just turned this great blue and the grayness acquired a purple cast, which I thought went nicely with the blue. One filter and what a change!

Exposure was ISO 100, f/16, 1.3 seconds. The filter not only transformed the colors but also cut the light by over 2 stops. The water texture is much less obvious now.

At this point, with the gadget bag handy, I wondered what else I could do here. The biggest transformation was done I knew, since I do not have any other filters that would alter the scene so significantly. 

While the sky was actually rather well balanced with the rest of the photo and did not need any holding back, I decided to try a graduated neutral density filter anyway to see if I could add more drama, more mystery.

Lake Erie Pier on a Cloudy Evening, Cokin Blue/Yellow (Gold) Varicolor Filter, Cokin 3-stop Grad ND filter. So this third photo added a second filter, the Cokin Strong 3-stop Graduated ND filter. As you can see, all as expected here. The sky a bit darker while the rest of the photo remains mostly unchanged.

On the exposure side, still at ISO 100 and f/16 but with a little bit of light taken away from the sky area, I was now at 1.6 seconds, barely noticeable difference even blown up full size.

Now as far as the second and third versions go, I am sure that is a matter of preference. I still like the third one a little more, but there's also something about that pier heading into a bright distance.

Two filters already in place, what could be next? I decided to extend the exposure quite a bit more to see how much I could obliterate the water texture. Since I had the Cokin P Filter Holder directly on my Nikon 18-200 mm lens using the 72 mm adapter ring, the whole rig had to come off to give way to the light blocking 6-stop neutral density filter.

Lake Erie Pier on a Cloudy Evening, Cokin Blue/Yellow (Gold) Varicolor Filter, Cokin 3-stop Grad ND filter, B+W 6-stop ND filter.A Pier on Lake Erie, Buffalo, NY This fourth version now had the B+W 77 mm 6-stop neutral density (64x) filter on using the 72 to 77 mm step up ring, the Cokin 77mm P filter Holder using the 77 mm adapter ring, and the Cokin Blue/Yellow Varicolor filter in the slot.

To prevent significant vignetting the 77mm holder only allows for two flat glass filters or one thick one like the Blue / Yellow. So the Cokin Strong 3-stop Graduated ND filter had to be handheld in front of the filter pack. I knew from the previous shot just about how much of the filter had to stick above the filter and moved it slightly up and down during exposure to make the transition even smoother.

I was still at ISO 100, f/16, but my shutter speed was now at 3 minutes! My camera only goes to 30 seconds and then to bulb, so bulb time it was along with a stop watch built into my phone to measure approximately 3 minutes. To hold the shutter open, I've been using a cheap alternative to the name brands remote cables. It's an ADIDT M1 remote cable, which I think is no longer available. However, it works like a champ.

Lake Erie Pier on a Cloudy Evening, Cokin 3-stop Grad ND filter, B+W 6-stop ND filter. If you were wondering what I could possibly add next, I am here to disappoint you. My final trick was to remove what I started with. I pulled the Cokin Blue/Yellow Varicolor filter out to return to the original color scheme while preserving the other filtration.

My shutter speed was back down to 20 seconds for this photo, still ISO 100, f/16.

And that completes my fun on the lake. Don't let bad weather hold you back and have fun!


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