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Surprising Trick: Moving ND Filters for the Perfect Landscape Shot


On this short video professional photographer, Karl Taylor demonstrates a very surprising technique back from the days of analog cameras and film development that can be modifying or adapted to the modern digital area and help fix overexposure issues in landscape shots.

The technique demonstrated by Taylor is based upon an old darkroom technique of burning and dodging. The scenario that made Taylor show this interesting technique is pretty special although we are sure that landscape photographers are very familiar with it. Taylor encountered a promising blue hour night scene under a bridge and decided that it can make for a great shot. The problem was that he didn’t have enough light for the bridge so he added a powerful strobe to his 8-sec exposure.

That was sort of fine but then the lighting changed and the bridge lights turned on (luckily so did the lights in the cathedral in the city). Now his 8sec exposure was fine for the city but too bright for some of the bridge.

Our go-to solution for this problem was to shoot 2 or even 3 bracketed shots in different exposures and combine them in post, but Taylor wanted to demonstrate how he can shoot the scene in a single shot.

What he did was to use two square ND filters in front of the lens (hand holding them) in the overexposed areas of the frame and keep moving them throughout the entire 8-sec exposure so you won’t see them in the frame just their light reducing the effect.

To our surprise, it seemed to work really well and if you two ND filers and you want to reduce an overexposed portion of your shot this might be an option (although you might need to do some testing and playing around).

The main drawback of this method as we see it is that typically the camera screen turns dark during long exposures so you can’t be sure that you are covering the right areas and even if you do get it right – you are always limited to areas around the corners – you can’t effectively cover a bright distracting light in the center of the frame if the corners look fine. Still, the fact that this method actually works, and works well in some situations is really cool.

You can find many more landscape videos on our landscape photography section. You can also find more of Taylor’s videos on LensVid on this page.

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