Maui Photo Tours and Workshops loves using neutral density filters

by Douglas Hoffman on April 3, 2014

This week Maui Photo Tours and Workshops had some clients that wanted to do a longer afternoon and sunset tour, so I built in a visit to Iao Valley in our schedule.  The are is famous for the Iao Needle.  Its an iconic landmark that every tourist bus stops at.   Perhaps that is why I don’t go there.  The lower are of Iao however features Heritage Park, and provides easy access to a beautiful stream running through verdant cliffs of green.  It is a wonderful place to use graduated neutral density filters.

iao stream


In this image a 10 stop B&W Neutral Density filter was used. It’s a circular filter that creates ten stops of diffusion.  That means if the exposure was F-11 at 1/500th of a second prior to putting the filter on, the new exposure would be f-11 at 2 seconds.    The slow shutter allows the water to swooosh. This adds a pleasant affect to the composition, and makes the image more enjoyable for the viewer.

There are many manufacturers of Neutral density filters.  Some are screw on.  These are usually less expensive than the filter type.   B&W makes very high quality screw on filters.  Don’t buy the cheeps brand you can find.   When it comes to lenses and filters you are much better off spending more to get quality.  I have a 10 stop B&W screw on Neutral density filter and I love the images it enables me to create.  The only bummer is that once it is screwed on the lens the photographer is not able to look through the view finder.  The filter is just too dark.  So if you need to move the camera and reset your composition you need remove the filter, re compose, and then put the filter back on and repeat as required.  It is possible to fine tune composition just by looking at the image on the back of the camera, but most of the time you would be better served removing it.   It’s a bit of a hassle but well worth it.

Another type of Neutral density filter uses a lens adapter that fits onto a slide in filter holder.  This system is much  easier to use but is more expensive. As in anything related to photography the more it costs the better quality it is.  I have the Hi-tech system featuring the adapter, filter holder, and a kit of three graduated Neutral density filters.  IT cost a bit less than $400 but has been so worth it.

There are all kinds of neutral density filters and one could write a book on them.  The range includes hard filters, soft filters, graduated filters, fixed filters. I use fixed or a straight 10 stop, and soft graduated.  Soft means the transition is smooth.  The it I have includes a 1,2, and 3 stop filter.   The great thing about this system is I can stack filters if I need more diffusion.



This image had 1 stop and 3 stop filter combined. Notice how the water flows……..

If exploring your creativity with using neutral density filters sounds fun, join us for a workshop and learn in Paradise…..