During a workshop scouting trip to Door County my workshop partner Cameron Gillie and I came across and old farm that absolutely needed to be photographed. We took a location setting and through some great investigative work by Cameron we were able to track down the owner and gain access to the property for one of our workshop morning shoots.
It was a mild day with light winds, perfect for spending the morning shooting several buildings and their contents, old tractors, windmills and detailed metal works such as door knobs, hinges and light fixtures. It was like stepping 70 years into the past.
Two of the students had set up and were taking pictures of the old home and windmill when i approached them and brought up the idea of using a neutral density filter to show movement in the windmill. They had heard of ND filters but neither had used one, so i set up next to them to demonstrate the impact of what the filter can do.
ND filters are extremely dark and are used to show motion during times when lighting forces a quicker shutter speed to produce a correctly exposed photo. They are great for shooting water, waterfalls, clouds, etc......anything that is moving. It adds a nice effect that produces photos with impact. Just make sure you compose and focus before you put it on. Like i said, the filters are very dark.
You can find ND filters where the number of stops are fixed or variables where one filter allows you to access multiple shades of darkness. Variables are typically more expensive.
On that morning, lighting conditions had us shooting with an exposure time of 1/125 of a second and the pictures that the students produced were freezing the motion of the windmill.
I added an 8 stop Hoya ND filter to my lens and shot the above picture. The filter slowed down my exposure to 2 seconds and allowed me to present the illusion of a fast moving windmill.
In post processing i added an analog filter from NIK software to give the picture a "weathered" feel.
Workshops are a great environment for picking up small but effective educational pieces like this. I hope that you'll consider attending one of our Door County workshops and/or some of the others that we are planning for the future.