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 LEE ‘Big 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.
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.