Controlling time

In the Field - Lee Big Stopper

Via torch light, I am descending the cliff face at Howth, Ireland. The descent down is made up of the occasional bum slide and a set of breeze blocks that stick out of the mud. Behind me, my good friend and accomplice is turning back, beaten back by vertigo.

A few minutes later and I am on a small pebble beach, waiting for sunrise. 

Standing, waiting, I can't help but think, that this is a location for a wild stormy day. However, on this calm morning, with sunrise 20 minutes away I am attempting to manipulate time. Not in an astro physicist way, but in the photographers way.

In an age of ever increasing high ISOs, a big bug bear of mine is how manufacturers like Canon and Nikon bump up the low light capabilities of modern cameras, while ignoring the needs of photographers like me who want to slow things down. 

Why can't I drop ISO's below 50 (L)? Even better, why can't I dial in a desired neutral density level thereby lengthening exposures at will? I guess these kind of ideas don't fly with the respective marketing depts. So instead I am playing with a Lee Big stopper, a filter I have a love hate relationship with. 

The Big stopper allows you to reduce the amount of light entering your camera by 10 stops. It takes a little getting use to, when using it, it is essential to compose, pre focus and turn off auto focus before seating the filter. Once it is in position, everything goes black, and you are essentially shooting blind. Its effect on exposure are dramatic!! 

In the images below, a 0.3 sec exposure is increased to just over two minutes.

 

Exp 0.3 seconds @ F11  0.9 Graduated ND

Exp 0.3 seconds @ F11  0.9 Graduated ND

Exp, 2mins @ F8. Lee Big Stopper + 0.9 Graduated ND filter

Exp, 2mins @ F8. Lee Big Stopper + 0.9 Graduated ND filter

You either love or hate the effect. In this instance, I think the Big Stopper has improved the image. What do you think?

Be warned - Due to a number of issues, The Lee Big Stopper can be difficult to get hold of. Many photographic retailers find it difficult to replace stock. If you are in Ireland, Mahers cameras in Drogheda, for what ever reason seem to be able to get stock easily. They are expensive, so expect to pay around €120 for one.

 

All images are © Peter McCabe