10 Stop ND Filter Shootout: Lee Big Stopper vs NiSi Nano IR

If you’re looking to pick up a great ND filter, one of the new(er) brands on the block is NiSi; but how does this relatively young company compare to one of the biggest names in filters? In this video, NiSi Ambassador Imran Mirza pits the NiSi Nano IR 10 stop filter against the famed LEE Big Stopper.

First, a correction: in the video, Imran says the Big Stopper they’re using is made of Resin. It is not. Lee’s Big Stopper is made of high quality glass. Lee used to make a 10 stop resin ND in the early 2010s, but the current model, the one in this video, is glass.

Okay, now that this is out of the way, we can get to the comparison. For his part, Imran’s bias is obvious as a NiSi ambassador; but to be fair, he’s giving you the RAW files to play with in case you want to make sure he’s being honest. Short version: he is being honest, and the NiSi filter clearly outperforms the Big Stopper when it comes to color cast and sharpness both.

You can see the unedited final JPEGs below (download one pair of full-res RAW files at this link). All of the images are underexposed, but that’s not important. What we’re looking for is color cast, and as you can see, the Lee filter clearly produces more color cast in these particular comparison images. Lee are on top, NiSi below.

This first pair are 30-second exposures:

This second pair are both 8-minute exposures. Again, Lee on top, NiSi below:

It is genuinely impressive how little (if ANY) color cast is visible in the NiSi images. SOOC JPEGs and RAW files alike make it seem like it was captured without a filter, while the Lee filter shot looks a little zombie apocalypse-y.

Of course, you can correct the color cast in post—and Imran does in the video—but the NiSi filter’s almost cast-less 8-minute exposure will save you editing time. What’s more, when he zooms into the foliage alongside the waterfall in the second pair of images, it looks like the Lee produced a noticeable drop in quality… no bueno.

Check out the video up top to see the comparison for yourself, and then compare the RAW files for yourself. The NiSi Nano IR ND filter will cost you a bit more than the Lee Big Stopper ($150 vs $125), but if this comparison is accurate, there’s good reason to spend the extra cash.

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What It’s REALLY Like Taking Pictures at Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon had been on the top of my “must-photograph” list ever since I saw the first picture of a sunbeam penetrating the curvy, orange walls of the Arizona natural wonder. This unique beauty captivates most photographers in love of landscape photography.

Many, many articles have been written about both the Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon, and while I knew that I had to have an SLR camera, that I had to have a tripod, that I should not change lenses… I still found the experience as fascinating as I found it odd.

For the purpose of this post, I will concentrate on Upper Antelope Canyon. While Lower Antelope Canyon is as beautiful a destination as well, it lacks the sunbeams that make Upper Canyon so attractive.

Visit in the Summer

If you are planning to capture the sun shining into the Canyon through small spaces in the canyon opening, you must go in the summer. In the winter months, the sun is just too low to shine into the canyon straight down.

Book a Photography Tour

You do want to book the photography tours for the summer several months ahead. Depending on the operator, you will pay between $120 and $190, but you will get extra time, you will get better chances of the places cleared of tourist traffic, and you will get a guide who knows the right spots.

The guides are knowledgeable about the location and will provide assistance with angles and will throw dust into the light beams, or sand on the walls to get a beautiful waterfall effect.

What to Expect

You are coming to a Native American Reservation, and the tour I took was operated by Navajo Tours. You are supposed to check in an hour before the tour, so keep in mind you will be sitting in the sun for some time. While there is a small place with a roof to get shade, in the packed summer months not everybody gets under. Bring some water and a magazine or a fully charged phone. And sunscreen.

While everything went well at the check-in, this is not Disney-customer-support treatment. Rather, expect a no-nonsense approach. The gentleman at the check-in will want to see your equipment—your camera and tripod. If you don’t have an SLR, or possibly Sony mirrorless (A7R or other interchangeable lens camera), you may have a problem getting on the photography tour. I have talked to people who were rebooked because their point-and-shoot was not serious enough.

At some point, you will hear a scream for your time slot. Once the group gets organized, you will all get on a truck‚ this is when the fun starts.

On the truck, you do want to keep your cameras in a camera bag. The truck is full of people filled to the last spot, thus you sit side-by-side with your neighbors, your arms touching theirs. As you drive the bumpy road, you will jump up and down and bounce to your left and right with your neighbor in an uncontrollable fashion.

I would not advise keeping your camera hanging from your neck as that might cause injury to you or your device. Once at the entrance, your entire group gets unloaded.

Tip: On the truck, you will see a sign with a suggestion to tip your guide if you were happy with the tour. You may want to tip the guide prior to the tour—it is worth it.

Your guide will start a short orientation. You will learn that you have to create three lines. First row will have tripods on their minimum length, second row midsize, and third as extended as it gets. You will get assigned your spot in the group.

Tip: Get to the very first group. You will get a great angle from the bottom, you will not have to worry about others bumping into your tripod, and you will have an easier time moving around with it. If you can avoid it, do not end up in the middle group.

Your tour of 12 photographers (or so) will be required to organize in a small space as other tours must walk around, and you will have to shoot with long exposure. In fact, all of my photos in the canyon were shot as bracketed exposure with 5 shots for each image.

Because the canyon is frequented by so many tours and visitors, it is difficult to clear the space of any traffic. Once your tour guide clears the traffic, you have 30 seconds to shoot.

It goes something like this:

Set up your tripod, set it up, first row, second row, and in the back third row. Get ready; we are starting to shoot in 15 seconds… in 10 seconds… start shooting now, you have 30 seconds. Shoot, you have 20 seconds… shoot you have 10 seconds… get ready to finish, and 3, 2, 1 we are done, grab your tripod and get up we are moving, we are moving, take your tripod… sir, you too, take your tripod and move with the group.

While this organization may seem rather ruthless, once you see the number of people moving through the narrow (and relatively short) canyon, you will understand why this is necessary. Occasionally, the tour guide throws sand into the air and you shoot like your life depends on it. And then you move. If your camera malfunctions, too bad. 3, 2, 1 and you are done and move.

You will visit several typical spots with the opportunity to shoot this or that scene. If you have researched the canyon, you may notice that many of the photos look fairly similar. The guides are going by predefined spots assuming you do want this or that shot. Luckily, at the end, you will get 15-20 minutes just to hang around and shoot whatever you want.

You may be severely limited as there is nobody to stop the flow of tourists/photographers, but then again, you do have some freedom to try some different compositions.

Conclusion

While the whole experience was great, after the allocated time, I was ready to leave. Perhaps because of the rushed shoot-n-go schedule, and the price you pay for it, you want to concentrate on getting the most out of it. So, when the shoot was over, I was happy to get back on the truck and exhale.

If this does not sound like something you would want to endure, check out the Lower Antelope Canyon. With a considerably lower price tag, you may get to go 1-on-1 with a guide, depending on whether or not other photographers are in your time slot.

During my tour, I went with one other photographer, and it was a very easy walk/climb without the crowds, without the timing, and without the drill. Then again, it was also without the dramatic sunbeams for which many photographers come in the first place.


About the author: Martin Purmensky is a commercial and architectural photographer in Orlando, Florida. He is the owner of Arrow Studio and theVideoCards. You can find more of his work on his website, or by following him on Facebook and Instagram.

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10 Things You Should Never Do as a Photographer

In this article, I discuss some of the different things that I’ve personally decided are bad ideas as an artist. Let’s dive in.

1. Steal Other Photographers’ Work

To some of you, this might seem obvious; however, when you’re starting out you might hear the advice “fake it till’ you make it,” or see another photographer who uses photos that aren’t their own to make money.

This is a bad idea on multiple levels and isn’t just a problem with amateurs. Award-winning photographer Souvid Datta just recently got caught doctoring and appropriating photos. We’ll get to the doctoring part in a minute, but it goes to show that not even the most successful and well-established reputations can get away with this.

Here’s the punchline: people will figure you out.

How many times can you show a client an amazing portfolio, only to deliver mediocre work before the reviews start coming in and the conversation starts happening behind your back. Once your reputation is damaged and you are seen as a fraud, its extremely difficult to recover, and there is a high likelihood it will be game over for you.

2. Be Disingenuous About The Edit

Let’s face it: we live in a Photoshop world. The line between photography and digital art get blurrier every year. At what level of alteration does something cease to be a photograph and become digital art?

No one can say for certain. There is a place for both in this world, and believe it or not, you could use every tool in the Photoshop arsenal to completely depart from the original photograph and create something new-and that’s OK. What’s not OK is to lie about it and allow people to believe something that isn’t true.

Look at the case of one of the most famous photographers in the world: Steve McCurry, the man who photographed the iconic image of the Afghan Girl. In the Summer of 2016, Steve was caught digitally manipulating and cleaning up his photos.

For most of his life, Steve has been known as a photojournalist. His work came to mean something more to the entire industry. Recently he has been doing more personal and commercial work and considers himself a visual artist; however, because he didn’t make that blatantly clear to the world, people realized his alterations and cried foul. Despite having none of his altered photos produced for a journalistic outlet, this caused him to go through a lot of heat-some of which still hasn’t died down.

The lesson here is to always be very deliberate as to the intention of the images original creation. Steve McCurry barely survived that mistake. You won’t.

3. Be a Shit Talker

This one doesn’t just apply to photography, but life as a whole, and is a big problem in the industry today. Being a shit talker doesn’t get you anywhere. If you don’t like someones style or their preferences toward art or how they handle their business, let it go. Focus on you.

Going around bad mouthing people-even if they deserve it-looks bad on you. Especially when you are friendly to that persons face. If it bothers you THAT much, go discuss it with them. If you aren’t willing to do that then quit wasting your breath.

You might think the nods of approval towards your distaste of another person is equal to another person actually agreeing with you, but you would be sorely mistaken. How can someone trust that you aren’t talking shit about them too when they do something you dislike? This kind of behavior just ends up earning you distrust and makes you look insecure.

Remember: small minds talk about people; great minds talk about ideas (and then go execute them).

4. Fail to Prepare

Only amateurs fail to prepare. Even the most seasoned of photography pro makes time to double check everything the night before a big shoot. The moment you get so cocky and believe you don’t have to prep, will most likely be the moment you raise the camera to your eye with the client beside you, only to realize you forgot your batteries at home.

Yeah. Don’t be that guy.

5. Be Impatient

I’ve been shooting for over 7 years now, and if there is one thing I’ve learned to do, it’s be patient in all ways. Let’s start with the high-level: your career success.

Being a successful photographer doesn’t happen over night, if at all. It’s one of the most demanding and difficult professions that one person can be involved in. There is an extremely large number of people fighting for an extremely small number of jobs and even talented people can fail to be noticed in the short term.

People always ask me how I have come this far and the answer is the same reason why I will continue to be successful in the future: I’m willing to outlast everyone. I was (and am) willing to show up every day with great new photos and be completely ignored, because I truly believe that eventually, if I continue to create work people can’t ignore, I will be seen and given more opportunities than someone who dropped out, couldn’t make the sacrifices, or let that get inside their head and affect the quality of their art-even if that person is of a comparable skill level. So keep your chin up and be patient.

On the micro-level, being patient in the field also pays dividends. This is why the people practicing photo-tourism will never get the same level of shots as the people who embed themselves in one place and culture for weeks. The world and humanity gives something of itself when you’ve dedicated time to it. Something that will never be received by the rushed and frantic.

No matter the situation, patience is key.

6. Expect Work to Fall from the Sky

Although in the previous point I stated the importance of patience-don’t confuse this with laziness.

Even at the top it is rare for work to fall in your lap. If you aren’t actively creating new personal work, reaching out to people to collaborate with, reaching out to clients to create art for, selling them on your ideas, and promoting yourself in every way you can, then just go ahead and wave any chance you had goodbye.

Even WITH all of that, it’s extremely difficult, so without it… you’re just another wanna-be with a camera.

7. Over-Edit Your Work

As photographers, we ALL want to make our work look as good as humanly possible. This can include a rigorous amount of editing-especially if you are a perfectionist like me. However, after you spend a significant amount of time editing, it’s always a good practice to step away from the computer or image and come back at a later date.

I can’t tell you how many late night edits I’ve done, only to wake up in the morning and not understand what the hell I was thinking the night before.

The most common mistake here is actually something really simple-and especially prevalent on Instagram: over saturation. It’s OK to give your images a little pop of color, but there is a tasteful line that is worth seeking out in order to ensure your great images don’t turn into rainbow crap.

8. Not Understand Your Audience

This one is tricky for professionals too, but can really make the difference when it comes to how your image is received. For instance: understand that the images being placed in an art gallery in SoHo will be received differently than if you posted those images on Instagram.

Just because you don’t get a lot of reception through one channel doesn’t mean that other channels won’t find value in that piece. Find out who uses those channels, what is popular, and test which is best for you.

Understanding your audience is crucial to maintaining high spirits and marketing yourself and your work effectively.

9. Charge Too Little

There are only two kinds of photographers: those who charge what their worth, and everybody else. Competing with other photographers on price is bad for everybody.

If you charge less than your competitors in order to get more jobs, eventually they will find out, and lower their price accordingly. When this happens, all of those jobs that were coming to you will be divided once again, and you will have to continue lowering your price until everyone in that market is making diddly. It benefits no one.

You may also not want to charge a lot because you are afraid a client will say no and you’ll lose the potential job.

I don’t know your financial situation so I’m not going to tell you to never price your work to ensure the job, but I can tell you that I’ve regretted it every single time I’ve made that decision, because the client was always willing to pay more. And the ones that wouldn’t have paid more, were usually the clients that were nightmares because they didn’t value my work.

In every situation, charge your worth and not a dime less.

10. Not Give Back

There is a certain point in a photographer’s career when life gets significantly better. You are making decent money—you don’t have 5 roommates and can afford to go out to dinner with your partner every once in a while—you’ve probably developed a decent following on social media, and you have steady work from a good base of clients.

At this point, it’s time to ask yourself if you can contribute towards someone else’s success.

For many successful pros, this can be one the most gratifying parts about making it to the top. It’s also important to remember the struggles you went through as a budding photographer. How badly you wished you had someone to help you out, how it felt when someone did help, how appreciative you were, and how much time that saved you from having to dig up the information yourself.

Be that positivity for someone else.


About the author: Gavin Doran is a Brooklyn-based photographer best known for his cinematic portraiture and dynamic lifestyle imagery. You can find more of his work on his website or by following him on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.

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Seldom Bored: B&W Film Street Photos on the Street of New York City

My name is Ricardo Lozano, and I’m a photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. In my project Seldom Bored, I shoot photos to encapsulate what I know about life in New York City.

A lot of what I shoot is black and white Kodak film. 400 speed Tri-X with some push.

My pocket camera setup is a Fuji Klasse. I use this system with warming filters over the flash.

Some of these images were made with a Konica Hexar. I purchased a used filter lot on eBay and tested them until I achieved the look I wanted. I keep a Y A2 filter on the Hexar. I shoot Tri-X and push it a stop.

I used a Canon 1V with an R 25A filter to complete the series. I pushed that film 3 stops.

I shoot a roll of film over a few days, sometimes longer.


About the author: Ricardo Lozano is a photographer based in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. He’s the founder of A Love Token (ALT), an independent publisher for contemporary photography, and Silver Tongues Magazine. You can find more of his work on his website and Instagram.

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This Artist Matches Pantone Swatches to Real Life

Pantone’s quest is to become the universal language of color. The Pantone Matching System allows printers everywhere in the world to ensure they’re producing colors accurately. Artist and graphic designer Andrea Antoni has found a different use for this language of color: matching it to photographs taken in his home country of Italy.

Though not the first artist to re-purpose Pantone swatches, Antoni has used them in his own unique way to describe the world he sees around him. In his series on Instagram, he holds up a Pantone fan deck to match the landscape – from the Cool Gray 1 C of Madesimo in the Italian Alps to the 1495 U of the buildings lining Venice’s famous canals.

“The total white mood of the mountain of Madesimo, Italian Alps.”

Antoni manipulates his photographs to better evoke his experiences of his home countries, as he told Creators:

While it is definitely these same places in the pictures, it is also not them; colors have changed, buildings are cut out and presented in different ways. The result is a world that is unreal from one point of view, but extremely true from another. That’s the place of memory; real and recreated at the same time.

Following are a selection of images from Antoni’s series. You can find the entire collection along with his other photography and photo manipulation work on his Instagram.

“In a travel in the beautiful city of Verona (city of Love, Romeo And Juliet) I decided to enfatize the color of the houses. The image is vertically mirrored”
“A pic of the canal of Trieste, vertically mirrored, to create a epic perspective.”
“This is a place, near the beach of my hometown, called “Marina Nova” in which many persons of my town goes to walking on the weekend.”
“The most famous city in the world. I wanted to create something of different, not the real Venice but my idea about it.”

(via Andrea Antoni via DIYP)

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A Beginner’s Guide to Creating Black & White Photos in Lightroom

Here’s a 15-minute video tutorial from photographer Nathaniel Dodson that’ll help you learn how to create the perfect black and white image using only Lightroom.

Although titled as “3 great ways to create black and white photos,” this tutorial demonstrates 2 different methods for converting the images in Lightroom, with a third segment showing the effect applied to a dramatic HDR photo.

At 1:35, Dodson begins with the first method: using the HSL panel. This panel has a B&W tab, which converts the image to black and white when selected. Because the color detail still exists in the image, you can then use the color sliders to make targeted adjustments to the luminance of the image. This section also discusses using the Tone Curve to make global adjustments to the tones of the image, which is a more natural effect.

At the 6:00 mark, Dodson shows how the exposure of an underexposed RAW image can be adjusted to bring back detail, before converting it to B&W using the Black & White Treatment option in the Basic panel. He then shows how the temp and tint can be adjusted to change the tone of the image. To add to the “old school” film effect, Dodson adds film grain and bumps up the black levels of the image using the Tone Curve.

Finally, at 11:07, Dodson shows how an HDR image can be converted to black and white to produce an epic contrasty look. He also demonstrates how the Graduated Filter Tool can be used to increase or decrease the exposure in just one side of the frame.

Check out the video at the top to follow along with Dodson as he covers every aspect of how he likes to create black and white images using Lightroom. If you like what you see, check out Dodson’s YouTube channel tutvid, which has a tonne of tutorials on both photo and video editing.

(via tutvid via ISO 1200)

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This Bride Doesn’t Have Girlfriends, So She Did a Photo Shoot with Bros

24-year-old Rebeca Brantes of Brazil is a computer engineering student who’s one of just 4 women in her class of 60 students. Leaving up to her recent wedding, Brantes realized that she didn’t have any girlfriends from school for a bridal photo shoot, so she decided to invite her best guy friends for an unusual photo series.

Brantes invited photographer Fernando Duque to shoot a series of cliché bridal party “behind the scenes” photos, except with a group of five bros standing in as Duque’s girlfriends.

“I came up with the idea one week before the wedding,” Brantes tells Bored Panda. “I was looking into some ‘making of’ pictures of brides with their gang of girls, all in robes, laughing, drinking champagne and all, and I got a bit sad because I wouldn’t be able to do anything like that.”

The friends posed for silly photos while drinking cheap liquor, and at times they laughed so hard they had to take a break from the shoot to recompose themselves.

The photos began going viral when Brantes shared them online afterward.

You can find more of Duque’s photos on Instagram here and here.


Image credits: Photographs by Fernando Duque and used with permission

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