Updated: Mar 6, 2022
Photo filters are an integral part of my photo backpack. During my five-month stay in Seychelles in 2020, I was giving them a tough time. Beautiful sunsets and palm-lined turquoise beaches have attracted me to these tropical islands in the Indian Ocean for the third year in a row.
In this blog post, I would like to share my experience with VFFOTO filters in the field with several illustrative photographs.
Filters can do magic
Unlike many other photographers, I don't refuse to pull out the camera at noon, especially when capturing the sea's unique turquoise colours. During the day, strong ND (Neutral Density) filters come in handy, through which nothing is usually visible or very little. Such filters in my backpack are the ND64x (6-stops) and ND2000x (11-stops). They can smooth the sea, blur unwanted seaweed and miraculously "remove" people from the photograph. The polarising filter saturates the colours, highlights the clouds in the sky, removes reflections from the water surface and the bluish haze. A software program can not fully replace the effect of the polarising filter.
The following photo was taken around one o'clock in the afternoon using a polarising and strong ND2000x (11-stops) filter. The wind was blowing that day; I only needed 60 seconds to capture the movement of the clouds while blurring the seaweed in the water. The polarising filter enhanced the colours and highlighted the clouds in the sky.
Shooting with these strong neutral density filters, which are almost entirely opaque (black) - has its specifics. Whether alone or in combination with a polarising filter, you must first select the composition, focus correctly, and then apply the filter. If you also use a polarising filter, adjust it first, then insert the neutral density filter carefully so that the polarising filter does not rotate. Remember the setting values before attaching the dark ND filter. If mathematics was not your favourite subject at school, I recommend downloading an ND filter calculator application to your smart phone, which will come in handy when calculating the correct exposure time with neutral density filters.
I took this photo on one of the most photographed beaches in the world, Anse Source d'Argent, around two o'clock in the afternoon. The 30-second shot was enough to smooth the water beautifully. At the same time people swimming in the ocean magically "disappeared".
The polarising filter's effect is most pronounced when the lens is pointed perpendicular to the Sun at 90 degrees. That is, the Sun is to your right, left, or above your head.
To capture the water dynamics while maintaining the structure of the wave, you may want to shoot at a shutter speed from 1/25 - 1/50 seconds. For splashing waves, I recommend experimenting with different filters - ND8x (3-stops), ND64x (6-stops). The movement of the waves is often unpredictable, and the result can be pleasantly surprising. I photographed many beach scenes directly from the sea; sometimes, I stood in the water up to my waist. In this case, a stable tripod is a must, and a waterproof bag for transferring filters and photo equipment can also come handy. On the photo below left, the shutter speed was 1/4 seconds.
The polarising filter can beautifully enhance the rainbow when correctly rotated.
Romantic sunsets were naturally very photogenic, but ND filters give them an ethereal look.
The following panoramic photograph consists of five images, each using an ND64x (6-stops) filter with an exposure time of 25 seconds. The polarising filter is not suitable for shooting panoramas, as uneven transitions in the sky can occur.
The old pier on the beach was an excellent object for a long exposure using a strong ND filter. The five-minute exposure created silky water and captured the movement of the clouds in the sky, which was invisible to the naked eye.
The filters are also great for minimalist telephoto shots.
My experience with VFFOTO filters is excellent, even though photographing the seascapes in Seychelles did not go without minor accidents.
When using two threaded filters at once, it is possible that they "bite into each other". It could be caused by excessive tightening, grains of sand or even seawater. Fortunately, VFFOTO offers handy tools in its range - a graphite pencil for lubricating threads and pliers for loosening filters. They do not take up much space in the backpack and help even if you carry the filters screwed on top of each other to save space.
Thanks to my clumsiness, the filters sometimes fell out of my hands into the sand or landed directly in the water. They were constantly deployed, and I did not spare them at all. Despite all the adrenaline situations, they all survived in perfect condition. Less fortunate were the metal filter boxes, which got wet and rusted. However, VFFOTO thinks of villains like me and works hard on an improved box design that will be more durable in similar ruthless conditions.
In addition to the mentioned CPL, ND64x and ND2000x, my family of filters has recently been expanded by magnetic filters. I am looking forward to trying them out in the field and sharing my experience with them!
You can find the entire range of VFFOTO filters at https://www.vffoto.com/
You can find my Sechelles gallery here.
For more information on my planned Photo Tour to Seychelles, click on https://www.epicbyerika.com/phototours