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[imageeffect type=”frame” align=”aligncenter” width=”940″ height=”415″ alt=”” url=”/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/YOSS_Stage_01.jpg” link=”http://highsierraworkshops.com/yoss/” ]

[imageeffect type=”frame” align=”alignleft” width=”350″ height=”541″ alt=”” url=”/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/YOSS_YosFallsBlur.jpg” link=”http://highsierraworkshops.com/yoss/” ]In photography, any time you want motion blur that requires a shutter speed that you count in seconds, you need a Neutral Density (ND) filter. In workshops such as our flagship Yosemite in Spring Photography Workshop (photo of Vernal Fall, above, Yosemite Falls, left), we spend time at every location learning about ND filters.

There are several options out there for ND filters, from varying density to gradated to the Vario-n-Duo. If you are new to ND filters, or only bring one, either a Fader/Variable ND or a straight -6 stop (not a graduated ND!) is a great starter, especially for the studies in water motion we do during our workshops. 

To say a -6 stop ND filter sounds simple but is actually confusing, as the most common rating system for ND filters is numeric, whereas .3 equates to one-stop of ND filtration. So a .9 ND filter is really a –3 stop ND filter.

Some other filter manufactures use a proprietary system to rate their filter’s level of ND. The key is too look for the actual number of stops that the ND filter truly blocks. You might have to read the description for the filter to find the actual number of stops of light reduced.

ND filters can be a tricky and expensive venture. One thing that does hold true is that you get what you pay for. We caution everyone to avoid Cokin ND filters as they produce horrible color casts. In fact, nearly all non-glass, low quality ND filters have this problem. We recommend the Lee brand of filters that are resin based and do not have sever color casts.

[imageeffect type=”none” align=”alignright” width=”100″ height=”172″ alt=”” url=”/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/NDfilter_inset_100x172.jpg” link=”http://highsierraworkshops.com/yoss/” ] One option for ND (and STRONGLY recommended) is to use a variable ND filter, where you can dial in your degree of ND from –1 to –8 stops, all in the same glass filter. The most popular brand (and pricey!) is the Singh-Ray Vario-ND filters, and also the Vario-n-Duo, which combines the ND filter with a polarizer filter.

Another option to consider in addition to the Singh-Ray is the Fader ND from Light Craft Workshops. Several past workshop participants have purchased it and have been very pleased with the results. (Especially as the price is a fraction of the Singh-Ray!)

Nothing, however, beats the quality of single-density glass ND filter, such as -2, -4 and -6 stop ND filters. B+W & Schneider are the purest and cleanest. But then you are dealing with carrying multiple filters, and that can be more expensive then a single Singh-Ray!

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Want to put those ND filters to use? Need to learn more about how to use ND filters to improve your photographs? Take a look at our two signature workshops, Yosemite in Spring and Eastern Sierra & Owens Valley, where we do extensive training on the use of ND filters. These two workshops are our most popular!