When a ND Filter doesn’t help
Neutral Density filter gone right

While in New York City and Jesse and Mark recently, we walked toward the water to photograph some boats and stuff. I set up my camera ready for some long exposures. When I use my Neutral Density filter, I also use the Promote Control to set the exact time required.

In the first photograph you will see smooth water thanks to the two minute shutter speed during use of the 10-stop Neutral Density filter.


Neutral Density filter gone right
Neutral Density filter gone right


In the second photograph you will notice a similar photograph and result, but with one problem. The boat in this photo was too light and/or not anchored the same way so the boat was bouncing up and down with the current. That ruined the photo because in a two-minute exposure, the boat is blurry.


Neutral Density filter gone wrong
Neutral Density filter gone wrong


Just to point out, it wasn’t the Neutral Density filter that ruined the photograph. It’s the boat. Here is my takeaway: When setting up for a long exposure, and if the exposure is long enough that you don’t want to waste your time, do a small test. Adjust the exposure for a shorter shutter speed just to make sure you won’t have this problem. I was fortunate enough that it was only two minutes wasted. I was also fortunate that I could blog about this oversight and share my mistake with everyone.

I would rather waste two minutes than thirty. Thanks for reading and happy shooting,


This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. I’ve been running into this as well… Water is definitely a prime target for ND-10 and I’ve had blurring problems with docks, boats, gulls, etc… I like your idea of testing first if you’re not sure.

    1. Thanks Steve. A short test is much better than a lot of wasted time.

  2. There is a solution that works and is fairly straightforward – I’ll often times get my long exposure and if I see certain elements moving (and it degrades the shot), I’ll take my filter off and get a good exposure of that moving element.

    I’ll then mask it in later in Photoshop and do some necessary exposure blending to make sure it all fits together.

    There is always more than one way. :)

    1. Totally. Great solution!

  3. Ha I remember how bummed you were that this shot went wrong. Good tip by Brian though, may have to try that.

    1. I think got a regular exposure of as well. I might have to use Brian’s tip if I did.

  4. Good tip by Brian – and nice demonstration how to be careful with water & ND10 images.

  5. Two great suggestions – and now Brian can make a little tutorial for us all on his blending technique :)

    1. Thanks Rob. I hope he does!

  6. I have a very similar shot from that location and day, and thought that the blurry boat in mine bordered on being interesting, but not quite. Maybe I’ll try the masking thing.

    1. Please share your version Mark!

    1. Going to check it out now!

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