I decided after my recent shoot at the Pinnacles at Cape Woolamai that I needed and wanted the ability to have more than 6 stops of neutral density available to me in the field. Up until now I have stacked a couple of graduated .09 3 stop filters in my Lee filter holder when I have needed to slow down the shutter speed, or used a polariser in combination with a grad filter. Sometimes however, 6 stops just isn’t enough and I want and need more. This was the case at Cape Woolamai where I could easily have used more neutral density to slow shutter speeds even further to give me the desired effect of milky waves and ocean swells.
Thankfully LEE filters have a new product called amusingly enough ‘The Big Stopper‘. The Big Stopper is a 10 stop (expensive at $203 Australian) neutral density filter that is now part of my photographic kit for landscape work. Use in combination with a graduated neutral density filter this is going to give me up to 13 stops of neutral density; and that should be heaps!
Unlike LEE’s graduatued neutral density filters the Big Stopper is glass and not resin. It is exceptionally well designed with a soft mount system that prevents light leakage around the edges when in the filter holder. For this reason the Big Stopper must be positioned in the very first filter holder in the LEE system. Graduated flters can then be added in front of it as desired. The Big Stopper comes with a useful exposure compensation chart to help in calculating exposure times with the 10 stop filter in place. Its a simple matter of metering the scene wthout the Big Stopper, consulting the exposure chart, placing the filter in place and adjusting the exposure accordingly.
Ten stops might sound like a lot at first blush, but in reality its extremely useful for landscape photography. In both of the photographs posted below from Cape Woolamai I used a 3 stop graduated filter to both darken the sky and slow shutter speeds. The addition of a ten stop filter would have allowed the ocean and waves to go even more milky and whispy. Or, would have allowed me to open up the lens’s aperture more to an optimum aperture like F8, rather than shooting at F16 or even F22 where diffraction can play its ugly hand resulting in overly soft images. I am looking forward to trying this new filter on my next shoot.