I’d learnt during my year long photo a day project that I lean towards minimalism and simplicity in an image. I also now tend towards subtle colours and softness rather than the brash, vivid images I thought were great at the beginning of the project. Maybe they are natural transitions that most photographers go through; time will tell. What I do know for certain is that photography has not only become a passion, it has also become a way of life. I am totally involved in looking for ways to express ideas, moods and visions through my photographs. Filters are one of the mediums I have used to further those aims.
I had used a polarising filter and Neutral Density filters to help reduce glare and reflections as well as create a blurring of moving water. However, the filters I had were the screw on type and I found the need to screw them on and off whilst composing an image, without moving the lens and thus the focal point and focus, frustrating. It seemed that a holder system might be more convenient.
According to most opinions I found on photography sites, Lee Filters seemed to be the way to go. However, they were expensive and I didn’t personally know of anyone who had experience of their use. I had a new camera though, should I take the plunge with new filters?
I had upgraded my camera to a Canon 70D when a photographer friend decided to make a switch to Nikon. After a few negotiations, the nearly new 70D camera was mine. I’d really missed the flip out LCD screen following a brief transition to the 100D. Now I had my beloved flip out again and limitations centred on my abilities and not technical issues. The Lee Filters would complement my more sophisticated camera; I’d made my decision!
The parcel arrived and I reverently opened the cases and gazed down at my expensive acquisitions. I’d bought the Lee Big and Little Stoppers, holder and adapter. A trip out to test them was a must. It was initially a bright, sunny day as we headed towards a waterfall and I anticipated using the Big Stopper. By the time we reached the fall though, cloud had descended and it was to the Little Stopper that I turned.
I fixed the filter holder on to the lens adapter and took out the filter. There was a lot of spray around and I was unfamiliar with the holder and the process of fitting the filter. My fingers were cold and wet; I lost my grip on the filter when I discovered the snug fit between filter and holder slot. I watched in horror as it fell to the ground and landed on on a rock. With heart in my mouth I picked it up and looked for damage. There was a very small chip on one of the corners, otherwise it was intact. Obviously these filters are made of strong material and are robust much to my relief. First plus for Lee and a lesson learnt for me!
Spanish Coast at Midday
Taking every opportunity to use my new filters I soon discovered that I enjoyed the whole process involved. You can’t hurry when setting up and taking shots. There’s more time to think, anticipate results and be at one with subject and environment. My filters complement my preferences at this point in my photographic journey, as well as my camera!
I don’t only just use the Lee filters to emphasise movement to create blur however, I am able to use them during the day when the light is bright and harsh. I find that being able to reduce the amount of light entering my camera means I can use a larger aperture. A small aperture increases diffraction resulting in a loss of sharpness. Use of my Lee filters therefore, helps me to maintain a clarity and sharpness in my images. A larger aperture also gives me the option of shallower depth of field.
By being able to extend exposure time, my filters enable me, even in bright sunlight, to emphasise movement; to blur or perhaps eliminate altogether people movement in scenes, or create surreal and passive scenes from turbulence without compromising on image quality and colour .
In fact, what is happening in my photo world is the opening up of another set of photographic opportunities. I now have at my disposal, tools which extend my image options and greatly assist in achieving my aims.
Having used my Lee filters now for a few months I can’t imagine travelling anywhere without them. They are easy and quick to use and so much more convenient than the screw on type I used previously so I use them without hesitation. Their effect cannot be replicated digitally — at least not with a single shot or a great deal of photo editing. I am still learning of their potential and enjoying my journey of photographic exploration with them.
What I will now need to do however, is find another “raincoat” for my camera. My existing one doesn’t have a large enough opening on the lens protector, to include the Lee holder and filter. I can’t let rain stop play with my Lees!