Using a ND400 for the First Time


This past week I went to Apollo Bay with a friend to take photos.  I love trips like that, it is such a great thing to do, just to go somewhere and take lots of photos.  Apollo Bay is a gorgeous place on the South coast of Australia and somewhere where I have spent lots of time, but not for a long time.

One of the things I was really looking forward to was using my new Neutral Density Filter.  I have used other ND filters, but nothing like this, and I have to say I really wasn’t prepared for what would happen and how to use it.

crap photo with ND filterWe went out the first afternoon to some rocks nearby and I set the camera up and away I went. The first thing I noticed was that it was so hard to see through the lens, this filter is so dark that you really can’t see what you are doing, and then when I first took some photos the photos were black. Some seemed to work and some didn’t.

When I got back to the place that night and had a look through my photos, well, as you can see from the image above, I had trouble.  There was a strange line or area of dark on the sides. There were also areas of magenta, which in theory shouldn’t happen.  I thought, oh no, it is dodgy, what is happening. It was time to do some research.

So what I found out was that I need to stop light from entering the camera through the eye piece, which is why some images worked and some didn’t.


The above image worked, I think, because there wasn’t a lot of light around, so there was strong sunlight pouring in the back, like in the first image.

Once I knew what I was doing I tried using the filter again the next morning, and it worked a whole lot better.


It worked every time after that and I got some interesting shots.  I will have to play with it a lot more yet, but I do wish I had done some research before the first time.  I will have make sure I try that a lot more, the research I mean.

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  1. I read both blogs. A few technical points. Using an ND filter is all math. A ND400 filter gives you a nine stop variance. You compensate by exposing longer. So, something like 250 @ f5.6 becomes 2 seconds @ f5.6, which might not be slow enough to make the misty kinds of pictures most people want. So you end up using something like f16 or f22 to make a really slow shutter speed. The equivalent correct exposure a slow shutter speed would be 16 secs @ f22.

    A gross underexposure while you are using an ND filter gives you all kinds of storage results, not the least being a magenta shift in the shadows that you experienced. That is an issue exacerbated by the quality of the glass. A slightly better underexposure will leave the file looking muddy and brownish.

    Hope some of that helps.

  2. I have also recently started using a 10 stop ND filter. I understood that you normally set everything up before you put the filter on. Then you can look up the shutter speed adjustment on an app (free) – I use LongTime. I get some vignetting – easy to correct but annoying and a magenta tint – less easy to correct but doable with practice. The longest I have shot is 2 minutes but some go for much longer. I also only shoot using the LCD or Live View, never use the viewfinder. Its great fun experimenting. Good luck.

    1. I am trying to work it all out Andrew, it will take time, I suppose. I just used the shutter speed the camera suggested and once I started closing the eye viewer thing, then it worked it well. I thought the magenta tint wasn’t meant to happen if it is used properly, it shouldn’t give you any tint at all. I am sure it will be, and once I did the research I was quite happy with what I got, so I am looking forward to trying it out more. Thanks Andrew.

  3. I learned the same thing you did through trial and error. I was too lazy to put the eye piece cover one, that and it was really cold when I was doing it so I tried to take as many shortcuts as possible, and I had faint lines on the bottom of my photos from light leak from the viewfinder. Now it’s a habit to always cover the eyepiece when I am using the ND filter. I wish I had the D800 so that I could just flip the lever to cover it, but unfortunately, even though I have a full frame, I still have to put the cover on manually. It is a bit more of a process because you need to focus and frame your shot before you put the filter on and then it’s more of a trial and error for how long to leave the shutter open. I really want to get different strengths because sometimes I don’t want to change the aperture or ISO in order to get different effects from the different shutter speeds. It is wonderful once you understand how to correctly use an ND filter and you can get some great results. I hope you continue to like yours. I thought at first that I’d probably use it a little then forget about it, but I find that I’m always trying to find excuses to need to use it as it helps create some great photos.

    1. I will have to learn to do that too, close the cover on the eye piece. it is all trial and error, so much to learn. Though I was happier with some of the other shots I got after I read about that. It is quite a process using it, it is going to take some getting used to, but I hope it will be worth it. I think I will end up doing the same as you too Justin.

  4. Oh yeah…I remember I had to use my eyepiece to cover the viewfinder. Your camera may even have a door on it that you flip. I can’t remember which cameras have that luxury. I hate having to find that tiny eyepiece in my camera bag. I always think I put it somewhere and then I can’t find it. lol

    1. Yeah, my camera has a little switch you flip and it shuts the eye piece. I thought they were something that came with all Nikons. The eyepiece would be annoying. Well I know now, let’s hope I don’t forget for the next time I go out, lol.

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