What ND filters for landscape long exposure, and focus stacking

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Policar, Apr 14, 2017.

  1. Policar macrumors 6502a

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    Nov 21, 2004
    #1
    I’m getting back into my landscape photography hobby, very casually. I bought a point and shoot and small tripod and I'm working on a project where I just shoot stuff casually.

    I used to shoot 4x5 with 50-100 ISO film. I rate my camera at 64 ISO, so that won’t be a change. I like shooting right before or after sunset, but also during the day, and I think my camera won't expose more than 30 seconds, but I like maybe two to ten seconds, maybe longer at times. I used to get this all the time at f32 or whatever, now that I shoot at f6.3 usually I think... so that would be a four stop filter just to get to normal. So maybe I want a four stop filter and a ten stop filter?

    Also... I stop down to f5.6-f8 most of the time now and focus stack... because I can't tilt or shift anymore. It's obvious that long exposures of moving objects (water, branches, etc.) won't stack great, but can it be done at all?

    Maybe I should go back to 4x5 but it's so much work!
     
  2. anotherscotsman macrumors 65816

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    #2
    If you are after capturing cloud or water movement, it might are worth considering taking several short exposure photos at your preferred aperture and then merge these together in software in the same manner that you focus stack. By averaging the moving areas you can get a pretty good alternative to a single, long exposure. Affinity Photo and others will let you do this. Given the likely diameter of the P&S camera, you should be able to pick up a relatively inexpensive ND filter set that you could use - even if only held in place with rubber bands.
     
  3. Policar thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #3
    My camera has a super long processing time and longer SD card writing so between focus stacking and "exposure stacking" the light would have changed too much. I've considered that option, too, but dismissed it as realistically there is no way that would work with waves or leaves, for instance, or even fast-moving clouds and fog.

    I've decided on Firecrest ND filters (the X3 rates better but is too expensive for casual use imo) so while the size will be small, they're still.. expensive. I think $50-$100 each. Thankfully I do have threads on the lens, 49mm. :)

    EDIT: is it possible to stack long exposures? I know there are limits but I shoot with a wide angle lens at f6.3 so other than extreme near/fear I can usually get a decent portion of the scene in focus and can cheat the stacking a bit.... and am even willing to stop down to f8 or f11 despite diffraction.

    I miss the view camera's movements so much but I don't miss the back ache. :oops: Getting everything sharp without scheimpflug is even harder! Hence focus stacking.
     
  4. anotherscotsman macrumors 65816

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    #4
    As long as the items you want sharp focus on are static then you can certainly focus-stack long exposures. Even if not static, you can always mask the areas from each frame that you wish to include/exclude - essentially what focus stacking does in any case.
     
  5. Policar thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #5
    Yeah, that's a good point. I'm worried about leaves and grass swaying in the extreme foreground but I have some practice compositing in Photoshop. It's either do this or get a MFDB and a tech camera, and that's way too expensive lol.

    Do you have any recommendations regarding ND filter strength if I can only afford two filters? I almost never shoot in direct sunlight. But if I want at least a 1 second exposure based on the sunny 16 rule (and I rate my camera at 50-64 ISO so it applies) and want to shoot now more stopped down than f8 then then I get about 10 stops and then the brightest conditions I shoot under at f8 would also require 10 stops. So maybe a 5 stop and a 10 stop filter? Or I could get a 3 stop and a 6 stop filter and stack them as shooting in bright sunlight is VERY rare for me.

    Would stacking two firecrest filters (high quality IRND) be better than a cheapo 10 stop?
     
  6. anotherscotsman macrumors 65816

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    #6
    i personally have a 10-stop and a 6-stop screw-on filters that do the job for me. Most of the time one or other does the job, especially when combined with a circular polarising filter which can give an additional stop or two reduction. I do have rectangular filters but they are only grad NDs. I tend to get most use out of the 10-stop only in daylight but the 6-stop is handy in dull conditions. At sunrise and dusk, the CPL does the job for me if any is required at all.

    Given what you say, you may be best with a 6 + 3 combination that you could stack for the rare occasions when you need something around 10-stop. Stacking of Firecrest filters seems to be popular especially for ND + ND grad but I've no experience of them. The 10-stop was a relatively inexpensive CameraPlus (multi brand) model that has relatively small colour cast and was something like £25 for the 77mm version! I may not be the most demanding user but I'm more than happy with it.
     
  7. Policar thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Nov 21, 2004
    #7
    Thanks, yeah I don't use grads and polarizers for shooting landscapes. It's just my hobby so I have my own crazy rules.

    You might be right that I'd use 10 stops more than I think I would, 6 and 10 seem most common. Hmm....

    Firecrest are down to about $50 each. $100 for all I need is not much. I actually have a 77mm 10 stop filter that was cheap and works well but it's not for the point and shoot, I'm selling all my fancy lenses.
     
  8. Hughmac macrumors demi-god

    Hughmac

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    #8
    Just out of interest, which point and shoot do you have?

    Cheers :)

    Hugh
     
  9. Policar thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Nov 21, 2004
    #9
    Sigma Merill DP2. A short review, if you're curious:

    I wasn't satisfied at all with the image from my 5D Mark III and it was too big anyway. Ideally I would like a DP2 and a DP3 now since I like both focal lengths, but I have a cheap back up dSLR I bought for when I need a longer lens, and often times I want to shoot at a REALLY long focal length so that covers all bases. I don't like shooting wider than the normal.

    It's a lot better than the 5D Mark III in terms of sharpness and approximates the look of large format slide film, but there is a lot of banding and some raster artifacts from the low bit DSP so you can't blow images up too big at all. The lack of tilt and shift is fatal for serious work, but I'm experimenting with this new thing where I always shoot with the horizon level then hang all the prints at eye level exactly, and all shot at the normal focal length (diagonal of the sensor). And focus stacking for depth of field. Just to decorate my apartment. Selling the 4x5, I will miss it a lot.

    The lens is amazing. It's pretty slow to use but coming from a film background it's lightning fast.
     
  10. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

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    Oct 25, 2008
    #10
    I found this all very interesting. I am unsure of how you calculated for your 4x5 exposures, bellows compensation etc. but glad you found a technique that served you well.

    Is your DP2 an absolute choice? I ask because I like all those Sigma cameras but they had certain limitation. I often called them the "Kodachrome" cameras because they took such impressive images AND you were limited to certain parts of the day to get the most out of those cameras. If you do manual racking of your lens to get the multiple shots with different focus points for depth, is there any issue with movement of the camera itself creating issues? Also, I gather that if you need longer than the 30 seconds, you could do a triplet shot of exposure compensation (though you will need to calculate the values totaled for each 3 shots together with different ISO value) before moving on to the next racking of the lens.The two drawbacks being added noise and draining the batteries. Please let me know if you get some good shots and a technique for these long exposures along with making sure the camera remains perfectly still while focusing.

    I'll just say that in your shoes, though you don't like the DSLR, maybe consider another camera (used?) that works well with long exposures. There are some mirrorless camera that do quite well with Sony and Fuji coming to mind. I don't know if the final resolution of the images will satisfy you but you probably could go to various sites and get sample images such as Luminous Landscape etc. Also - have you ever thought about Lee's filter set instead of screw on filters? They do have advantages.
     
  11. Policar, Apr 14, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2017

    Policar thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #11
    I struggled a lot to nail exposures, even after practicing on 135 and medium format. I'm too rusty now I fear to nail focus and exposure on a view camera. Since I was usually shooting at infinity, even with a little tilt and shift I wouldn't have much to worry about in terms of bellows compensation and weirdly I usually calculated that right when I did shoot closer focus. Compounding that with reciprocity error etc. was difficult. Man I loved those images. Velvia green is way nicer than Foveon green, and Velvia red is out of this world. Velvia 50 has to be my favorite film. I do like the Sigma colors, though.

    I'm not that much more limited by the Sigma than I was with the 4x5, but focus stacking long exposures will be a problem I'm sure. I am not a serious photographer, AT ALL. I am an instagram/iPhone guy. This is an excuse for me to kill two birds with one stone: leaving the apartment more often and decorating the apartment, that's it. (I'm a three hour drive from the Carizzo Plain Monument and yet I'm skipping the super bloom even with a 10 pack of 4x5 Velvia in the fridge and the view camera beside me–because I am busy with work; I did go to Antelope Valley this year but it was a bad bloom this year. Frankly I think nothing touches a view camera for quality or power, though nothing touches digital for finishing and printing; even cibas are inferior IMO to digital prints.) I have friends who are serious photographers but for me it is an afterthought. The image quality of the 5D was adequate, I just didn't like having such a big kit and I do appreciate the extra sharpness. It's for this reason I'm not after a big filter kit. I don't even like using an ND or polarizer I just enjoy having limitations to work within when I am working on a hobby. Having one lens and two NDs is probably all I need, what I really need are some great locations to travel to, or really just the time to make the trip.
     
  12. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

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    Oct 25, 2008
    #12
    Well again, when you figure this all out let us know what you are up to and maybe some images?

    When I shot 4x5, I used 90, 150, 180, 210 often enough. For black and white, I preferred Ilford and Agfa films. For colour, I stuck with Kodak and Agfa. Most of my experiences with Fuji were with 135 and roll films 120/220. I am one of those left overs that still remember using Rodinol B/W developer where you can change dilutions, temp and time to achieve particular results without creating more problems than successes.
     
  13. Policar thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Nov 21, 2004
    #13
    I missed that experience, and wish I hadn't. I think I developed a total of one photo in a dark room, once, when I was a kid, and otherwise have had them processed. That's what got me started in my current career, though. I got the chance to use Photoshop 2.5.1 when I was in elementary or middle school on photos we scanned from the dark room and now I use Photoshop professionally on a nearly daily basis. I love that, but I miss shooting film and the physical aspects of it. Even in cinema, I miss the physicality of the photochemical image, it had a better look to me by far and films were far more "physical" in the 1990s, the style of cinematography was taking on a 1970s influence I think with heavy filtration but better stocks and lenses. I think Oliver Stone's JFK and contemporaneous Spielberg films are truly beautifully shot and they look nothing like movies today.

    I always liked 135mm-210mm. 90mm felt a bit wide, not sure why. I wish I'd had more experience with film than I had (it is just too expensive now and I'm out of practice). The physicality of the process is everything. Well, next to getting out of the house and waiting on the best light; the subject itself is more important than anything and then the light but I still miss shooting film.

    I'll gladly post some images once I get started, but it will be months. I am busy with work for the next few months, unfortunately. Wish I could make it to the super bloom, but it wouldn't be worth sacrificing my first day off in two weeks.
     

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