Tip #51: The Variable Neutral Density Filter

Winter Stream - Osceola, WI
Canon 5D MarkII + Zeiss ZE 35mm f2.0 @ f16 w/ Fader Variable ND Filter
The roots that compose the word for our craft, photography, are photo (light) and graph (picture). Absent from the prefix and suffix is mention of the camera, lens, sensor and resolution. While gear expands the possibilities and entertains our desire for things, it does not define the medium. As such, I have devoted very few words in this blog to discussions about photographic equipment. 
Frozen Falls - Osceola, WI
Canon 7D MarkII + Canon 300mm f2.8L IS @ f8
Master photographers perceive the way highlights enhance and shadows define. They recognize how the angle of inclination can alter a mood, and know that controlling a light's tone, duration and intensity conveys an intent. 
Winter Stream II - Osceola, WI
Canon 5D MarkII + Zeiss ZE 35mm f2.0 @ f16 w/ Fader Variable ND Filter
Light-picture - manipulate the light to convey your vision.
The variable neutral density (ND) filter is an inexpensive tool for controlling the amount of light that strikes the sensor. When attached to the front element of the lens, a rotation of this polarizer-like filter allows you to block 1 to 10-stops of light. These filters facilitate long exposure photography during daylight hours, thus allowing you to capture the blurred ebb and flow of cars, people and water during the brightest minutes of the day. A long-time tool of videographers and cinematographers, the variable ND permits access to fast apertures and slow shutter speeds when ambient light would otherwise restrict the exposure. Used here at Osceola Falls, my variable neutral density filter was attached to a 35mm lens. I set the gear on a stable tripod, used a cable-release and applied mirror lock-up to shoot a 20 second exposure at f16
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