Yarra Valley in Autumn and the Big Stopper

I had a chance today with the Anzac day public holiday to get out and do some photography. I had been itching to try out the new LEEBig Stopper‘ 10 stop Neutral Density filter I purchased a few days ago and today was my first opportunity. I set my alarm for 5:00am, crawled out of bed, grabbed my gear and headed out to the Yarra Valley in the hopes of a good sunrise and some Autumn/Fall colour. The golden colours in the leaves are just starting to peak in certain parts of the Yarra Valley at the moment (in particular in the many vineyards) and I was hoping to be able to capture a little bit of it.

There was a thick fog as dawn broke and unfortunately no sign of colour in the sky. Normally, I get quite excited when we have a fog as the photographic opportunities are usually wonderful. However, this time the fog was thick and was obscuring the colour I was looking for. I have not been able to crack a really good Autumn sunrise recently despite several attempts (I will just have to keep trying, and it gives me a reason to go back). Thankfully, the dawn fog quickly burned off in the morning sun whilst I enjoyed a cafe lat’e in one of the many Yarra Glenn Cafe’s. With the fog gone the morning had developed into a glorious sunny day with some lovely high cloud that was very photogenic.

These two photographs were shot about an hour and a half after sunrise at the Yarrawood winery (actually its the same photograph with a different crop as I could not decide which I prefer?). I scouted this location more than a year ago and had kept it in the back of my mind for its beautiful lake with the old rowing boat set against the vine yards. I used my 24mm lens in combination with the LEE Big Stopper to give me a 13.0 second exposure in bright sunlight at F8/ ISO 100. Contrary to how it might appear I did not use a polariser. The long exposure has captured the clouds streaking across the sky and has added a good deal of drama to the image. Metering with this new filter is quite easy in the field. Just meter the scene as normal without the Big Stopper in place, then slide the filter into place and consult the handy LEE exposure chart to determine the corrected exposure. Switch the camera to Manual or Bulb, set the exposure accordingly and the exposure will be correct. Its a little more fiddly than just pressing the shutter, but after a half dozen frames or so I pretty much had it nailed and could do it quite quickly. The soft mount system of the Big Stopper is very effective in keeping out extraneous light and the fit is firm and feels good in the filter holder.

Cloud Warp
Cloud Warp

One of the first tests I did with the new filter was to shoot exactly the same scene with and without the Big Stopper in place so that I could compare them side by side in Lightroom for any noticeable flaws such as a colour cast. I am happy to report as expected that there is no noticeable colour cast with this filter in place (as is the case with all of LEE’s ND and Grad ND filters). Overall I am very pleased with this new ‘Big Stopper’ filter. It provides the ability to keep shooting long after sunrise and still create dramatic photographs in the right conditions. This filter is now a permanent addition to my photographic kit and I suspect will see quite a bit of use in shoots to come.

7 thoughts on “Yarra Valley in Autumn and the Big Stopper

  1. An additional value of a filter like this is in its ability to provide sufficient filtration in order to capture extremely bright sources without color clipping. In the field of feature film digital visual effects (computer graphics), this is invaluable. Using a 10 stop filter allows for the capturing of an extended range of exposures, from dark to bright. This bracket of images is used in various computer lighting simulations imitating the properties of natural light. This in turn is the foundation of photo-realistic renderings which are then composited with live action footage…


  2. Hi,
    I have been following your work and blog for a little while now and it has been a bit of an inspiration to me (as are others on LL forum to me). I originally saw your work on LL (really nice rainbow shot which i strongly remember and then the ones from NZ). After I was eventually led to your blog I saw your photo of the month for nov and i have been a reg follower since.

    Twice I have found myself in the field at the summit of a mountain which has tarns and thought of your photo as something to reference and have adjusted my position for the better because of it.

    I also use lee filters and am planning on getting the Big stopper. One thing i wondered was how you carry your lenses around with the holder system?

    Do you just leave the adapter ring on and use the plastic Lee covers or do you leave the whole system on or nothing at all?

    My bag is a top access one (LP nova 190aw) so i have had a great deal trouble getting the body with a lens attached to it in and out while the adapter ring is attached because of its wider circumference.
    If you have the time to get back to me on this i would greatly appreciate it!


    1. Hi Steve,

      Thank you for the kind words and for visiting my website and blog. I usually take off the adapter ring when I am finished with a shot and put the lens cap back on the lens. Its a little slow to work this way, but I like to know my lens is protected since I dont use UV filters or any other type of protective filter. In general, once I decide to take a shot it takes me a few minutes to set up and get the adapter ring on and filters set in place etc.. I might then leave it all set-up if I am working the general area and just carry it around on the tripod from spot to spot – but if I need to move to an entirely new location I pull it all down and pack it up. I dont have any of the plastic lee covers. I am almost always carrying at least 3 lenses plus a half dozen filters or so, and generally like to work at a slow place, so I dont mind having to screw on and off the adapter rings as required. I carry the adapter rings and filters in a couple of lee pouches in my shooting vest as I find this the most convenient solution and they are always at hand.

      Thanks again for the kind words and for writing to me.



      1. Lol, thanks for that information… it’s good to know how you operate in the field, I was secretly hope you had some quick way of working but it looks like the slow set up time is something I’ll have to live with.
        Anyway, I look forward to the future work you will show.


  3. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!



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