Stop Times Ten aka The Ten Stop ND Filter

PinkSkyOverWhiteSands, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Lately, it seems like everybody I know is getting a new 10 stop neutral density filter. It seems like they are becoming increasingly common, anyway, so much so that I point to this as a new trend in photography. As trends go too, this is a bit of a strange one. Allow me to explain.

Some trends, you see, come about because things happen or we (as a collective-I’m talking in the Queen’s style of a “we” here) all hone in on something that’s the same. It might be a season (like, say, autumn leaves) or it might be a look, like say black and white street style images, but, often is the case, photographers spot trends, follow trends, contribute towards trends, and even, in some cases, make trends.

With the 10 stop ND filter though, something else is happening. We had the iPhone explosion, and Instagram gave us all funky-colored little square images, and then, it seems like nothing else was happening. Nothing else came along. It was kind of like “dead zone” for a while. Everybody was waiting on the next new trend to come along. The new iPhones even came out and, well, they had some new stuff, but not too many people seem to be jumping on the “sweeping pano” bandwagons. It’s just not happening, not for that anyway. I mean, yes the feature is there, but I don’t see a ton of people rushing out to use it lots, at least not yet anyway.

Meanwhile, somewhere far away, in a factory (probably off in Japan somewhere) advances in optics and glass and just cheap manufacturing have made it possible for a lot of folks to be able to afford a 10 stop ND filter. And a 10 stop ND filter is what they are getting. Phew! Lots of them. Everywhere I go, everywhere I look, I hear the sounds of, “Oh! I just got a new 10 stop nd filter. Look!” It’s like a disease almost. Thus, the trend was born.

What does it mean? How far will the trend go?

Well, I think it’s safe to say that a lot of landscape photographers will be using them. Lots probably, and rightfully so. They are handy. They make the water look like glass and they can help eliminate things like tourists from images. But, with all of that comes a price. They aren’t the easiest to use, often you have to use a tripod, and it’s hard to see in there, in that deep dark place. Not to mention not every scene calls for a 10 stop filter, really, it doesn’t. So, like everything else, they probably have a time and a place. A good thing, yes, in general but, as they say, too much of a good thing often, well, isn’t.

Still, as far as trends go, everybody and their brother, it would appear, now wants to look all Michael Kenna and get with these 10 stop ND filters. Who am I to say I blame them, right? Heck, I might even get one myself. But not for my next trip, no. For my next trip, heck, I’m going to Vegas and I really don’t need one of those there. I need a good timer/bulb release, my sturdy tripod, and probably a nice light jacket because it can get cool in the desert when the sun goes down. Oh, all of that and maybe some colored gels or a couple of funky flashlights to, you know, spruce things up a bit (not like Vegas needs sprucing up, mind you, but there it is.) That’s the kind of stuff I’ll be getting next but a 10 stop ND filter might be on my horizon as well. I mean, who am I to resist such peer pressure, right? (Right?)

Still, as I sit typing this, the echo of the quiet little “you need a 10 stop ND filter, really you do” sounds bounce around in the back of my mind. (Yes, if you must know, I’ll probably cave and get one too but, as I said already, not before Vegas. Vegas, no, not before Vegas. Maybe right after that though. Oh groan!)

Until next time…

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