I was shooting pictures yesterday of the flight of the Spokane Sun God over the Umgawa waterhole in Zumba and ran into a problem that is rare - too much sunlight. And I had foolishly not equipped myself to deal with it.
The problem was that I did not want to have the waterhole in sharp focus as the Buhl sesquiplane passed over it - just a little out of focus so as not to scare the elephants out of the waterhole. The aircraft was going to have to pass fairly low to have the waterhole appear large underneath it and the depth of field of the lens at small aperture meant that the elephants were going to be in sharp focus.
There was too much light for this - the lowest ISO that the Fujifilm X-E2 goes with a good dynamic range is ISO 200. I would have been forced to use f:16. I really wanted f:2.8.
Had I been wise, I would have employed the Fujifilm X-100, 100s, or 100t because these have an inbuilt switchable 3X ND filter. Or I could have put a three stop ND filter on the 35mm lens that was used on the X-E2. Then the shot could have been done in one. As it is I made multiple shots of the plane and waterhole and made sure that the latter was very deliberately de-focused. It looked fine in the composite, and the elephants did not stampede.
There is more need for this sort of thing than we suspect - the landscape worker who wants to emphasise a foreground by going to f:2.8 or wider would like to focus on the main subject and let shallow depth of field make it pop. The shooter who wants to make moving parts of the scene blur out and needs to have long shutter speed to do it.
These are the natural customers for he ND filter - of course there is also the specialised landscape shot that also needs a graduated ND filter, but that's another tale. The full ND is available in square Lee or Cokin, or any number of round filters of different diameters. Power can be as weak as one stop or as strong as ten stops.
It is a useful accessory for most camera bags - and I'm going to make sure I have one of the 3-stop variety in place next time.
* Note: it was necessary to set the sun back another 5 metres to get the shot of the waterhole in mid-morning. The dawn shot was easier because the light is lower and more orange. Elinchrom make a nice powerful sun, but sometimes it is too much.