black and white

B+W ND 3.0 MRC Filter

I finally got to take a little vacation and decided to do some shooting along the way.  Along with my truckload of gear I brought along a new toy: the B+W ND 3.0 MRC filter.  I picked up one from B&H last week.  It is a neutral density filter, but just not any neutral density filter.  It decreases the light coming through the lens of the camera by a whopping 10 stops (even more if stacked with other filters like polarizers).  Why on earth would you want to reduce light transmission 10 stops you might ask??  From what I understand, this filter was made for astronomical sun studies, welding applications, anything that would involve photographing insanely bright things.  Along the way, photographers discovered this filter had another use.  It allows you do long exposure shots in broad daylight!  Imagine the kinds of things you can do with 30 second exposures in broad daylight!  Unfortunately this specialty filter does not come without any caveats.  There are two issues with such a dense filter.  First, seeing through the lens is damn near impossible with the filter attached.  Second, autofocus is also rather difficult.  You also have to use a tripod for the kind of work I'm interested in.  What you end up having to do is composing your scene and focusing with the filter detached, putting on the filter, and then hitting the shutter.  Your camera may also have difficulty metering so there's going to be some trial and error getting the correct exposure.  It's definitely not a filter for the lazy but I've had a lot of fun with it so far.  Here are some examples from flickr that people have shot and below you can see some I took today.  I'm hoping to get more shots with the filter while I'm down on the coast (it's great for moving water) so stay tuned! Pics taken with Nikon D300, Nikkor 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 DX, 77mm Hoya UV, 77mm B+W ND 3.0 MRC at ISO 100, F/8, 30 seconds (at around 5 pm).  Post processing done with Adobe Lightroom 2.x, Photoshop CS5, Nik Dfine and Silver Efex Pro. [gallery]

Nik Silver Efex Pro

Many photographers, such as myself, initially learned on 35mm black and white film.  Black and white still holds a special place in my heart.  Although modern dSLRs take color pictures by default,  color pictures can be converted to black and white by any number of techniques.  Whether you choose to do in camera conversion or conversion in software in post, all that inevitably matters is that you get the look you want.  I choose to take the software conversion route.  The advantage of converting in post is whether you take the image intending to be black and white or simply stumble on it in post as a result of playing around, you always have the original color image if you want it.  Awhile ago I purchased the Nik Software Complete Collection which is a plug in collection for Lightroom, Aperture, and Photoshop.  One of the included plug ins is Silver Efex Pro, a black and white conversion tool.  I have been playing around with it more and I think its pretty fantastic.  You have a lot of control over the look of your conversion, from film stock emulation to tone curve control to the hue of the paper.  Lots of control can be kinda intimidating but it's a good thing in the end.  When we're talking "shades of gray", more subtle changes are often needed to get the look you want or to make your image stand out.  Subtle changes require finer control over the parameters of your image that you manipulate.   Below are some examples that I played around with tonight for your enjoyment.  If you would like to try out Silver Efex Pro, trial software downloads can be found at Nik Softwares website here.  The current software version is Silver Efex Pro 2.0, the examples below were created in 1.0. Camera: Nikon D7000

Lens: Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED


-pictures taken as .NEF sRGB and converted to .DNG using Adobe DNG converter

-.DNG files imported into Adobe Lightroom v2.7

-initial contrast/exposure/hue/cropping performed in Lightoom

-black and white conversion and processing done with Nik Silver Efex Pro 1.0 Lightroom Plug-in

-watermark created with Adobe Illustrator CS5 and added to picture as smart object in Adobe Photoshop CS5