Secret confession time… today was the first time in my 17 years of living in Alberta that I took the quick trip out of Calgary to Elbow Falls in Kananaskis. When we got there, we found that many of the trails and viewing points were still closed for the winter so I ended up sticking to the main area to take a couple of photos. A few months ago I bought my first ever neutral density filter (a ND16 from Photo Repbulik) and I have been wanting to give it a try. What better day to do it that a nice pre-spring day when the kids were off school.

So what is a neutral density filter? It’s a photo filter which you put onto your lens which has a degree of tinting to it. The numbers on the filters start out giving a full stop of underexposure and as the number increases, the darkness increases meaning the image and exposure requires a longer time to achieve a good exposure.

The purpose of an ND filter is to allow you to take photographs on slower shutter speeds in bright light conditions. Often when we set our cameras, if it is bright and sunny, we max out our settings – you are on the lowest ISO, the highest aperture and the slowest shutter speed you can get for the amount of light. If you are wanting to blur motion (like in the case of moving water) and your shutter speed is not slow enough, you will not get blur. Adding an ND filter allows you to slow down your shutter speed, thus giving you the blur.

By adding the ND16 filter at Elbow Falls, I was able to get good exposures of ISO 50, shutter speed of a 1/2 second and aperture of f:22 on my Canon 5D Mark III with the 24-105mm f:4 lens on a tripod. For a few photos I did push my exposures a bit by dropping it to about a full 1 second exposure, but the downside was the snow became too blown out and over exposed. Now that I have tried the filter, I actually want a darker one to allow for an even longer exposure in the future.

I did convert and lightly work the image to a black and white image using the programs Aurora HDR and Photoshop CC2017.

I can’t wait to go back to photograph the falls more in the future when I can access more viewing points when they open from their winter closures and when the water flow will be a little higher. By then I might look at adding another ND filter and stacking them together or maybe a darker one by itself.