What do you do when nothing’s happening? Get into the creative zone! Part Three of many. Singh-Ray 10-Stop ND Tutorial: making 30 second exposures in bright sun. « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

What do you do when nothing's happening? Get into the creative zone! Part Three of many. Singh-Ray 10-Stop ND Tutorial: making 30 second exposures in bright sun.

What’s Up?

I was discharged from Thornton Hospital a bit before noon on Friday March 25. I saw Dr. Parsons who said that everything went perfectly and that I looked great. But for the expected discomfort I am feeling pretty good. I am back at Robin and Patrickโ€™s home resting. The trick now is to avoid developing an internal infection. Many thanks for all the prayers and good wishes.

I was pleased to learn on Thursday that Barry and Marilyn Barfield of Brisbane, Australia signed up for the Japan IPT. Three slots are now filled.

The Streak

Todayโ€™s blog post marks 141 days in a row with a new educational blog post. Assuming that I will be making the trip to Namibia on April 11, this streak will come to an end soon. As always–and folks have been doing a really great job recently–please remember to use our B&H links for your major gear purchases. For best results use one of our many product-specific links; after clicking on one of those you can continue shopping with all subsequent purchases invisibly tracked to BAA. Your doing so is always greatly appreciated. Please remember: web orders only. Please remember that if you are shopping for items that we carry in the BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) that we would appreciate your business.


This image was created at La Jolla, CA with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens (at 188mm) and the amazing mega mega-pixel Canon EOS 5DS R. ISO 50. Exposure determined trial and error via histogram check: 30 seconds at f/16. Daylight WB.

Center AF point (Manual selection)/AI Servo/Rear Focus AF on the closest part of the large rock on the left and re-composed (as is almost always best when creating tripod-mounted land- or sea-scapes). Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Offshore rocks and high surf

What do you do when nothing’s happening?

Another Option

What can you do when nothing’s happening? You can reach into your gadget bag and grab something that you have been meaning to try for quite some time…

With wind against sun conditions and bright blue skies, things were not looking too good. First I reached for my Singh-Ray Mor-Slow 10-stop Neutral Density (ND) filter. Then I screwed the Canon foot/Wimberley P-20 plate assembly onto the 100-400 II, mounted one of my two 5DS R bodies on the lens, and placed the rig on my Induro GIT 304 tripod. When I am hand holding the 1-4 as I usually do, I almost always remove the foot. In fact, it is usually not on the lens. I put it on only when I need to put the lens on a tripod as with today’s image.

More 100-400 II Versatility

Today we see the new 1-4 as a seascape lens with a wonderful focal length range for extracting a variety of elements from a wider scene.

Canon Foot/Wimberley P-20 Plate Notes

When I am hand holding, I generally remove the Canon foot/Wimberley P-20 plate assembly and place it in my vest, in my fanny pack, or in my Think Tank rolling bag, depending on whatever. Note that for best balance the P-20 plate should be mounted backwards on the 100-400 II with the flange at the front of the foot. The flange stops the plate from twisting. By mounting it backwards it is easy to balance the 100-400 II perfectly whether it is zoomed all the way in or all the way out. With this unorthodox configuration, the rear end of the P-20 plate sometimes prevents you from un-mounting the lens as it hits into the viewfinder box on the top front of the camera body; it is best to get into the habit of loosening the tripod collar before un-mounting the lens.

Singh-Ray 10-Stop ND Tutorial: making 30 second exposures in bright sun

When I tried the 10-Stop ND in Alaska on the last Bear Boat IPT, I learned that it is mandatory to have an absolutely stationary subject to go along with the moving water. If the subject is sloshing around in the current, it will not be sharp and the image will be ruined. The nice rock formation off the coast of La Jolla fit the bill perfectly. And the strong west wind was slamming big waves into the rocks.

Here is the technique that I developed for using the 10-stop ND painlessly and effectively.

  • With the rig on the Mongoose, frame the image as desired and tighten both the horizontal and vertical locking knobs. Turn the zoom ring a bit toward Tight to prevent an unwanted focal length change.
  • Level the image by rotating the lens in the tripod collar by using the electronic level. I prefer the in-viewfinder level to the one on the rear LCD. Then tighten the tripod collar snugly.
  • Set the ISO to 100 (or to 50 if possible).
  • You will need to focus accurately before you put the 10-Stop ND otherwise neither you nor the AF system will be able to see anything as the viewfinder will be too dark. Set up for rear focus and focus from 1/3 to halfway into the frame. Alternatively you could use One-Shot Shutter button AF and then turn AF off by moving the AF switch to M (for Manual focus).
  • Once you have set the focus, mount the 10-Stop ND; it is imperative that you use the Xume system with the magnetized rings otherwise you will likely screw up the framing and possibly the focus as well if you need to thread the filter onto the lens. See more on the amazing Xume system below.
  • Work in manual mode.
  • Set the exposure to 30 seconds and start with an aperture of f/16.
  • Make an image. There is no need to use the two-second timer, mirror lockup, or the 2-second self timer.
  • If it is windy, be sure to remove or tuck in your Black Rapid RS-7 Strap to prevent possible sharpness problems with the rocks; you want them razor sharp.
  • Check for blinkies and evaluate the histogram. As always, you want lots of data in the rightmost (highlight) histogram box, the fifth box for Canon, the fourth box for Nikon. Push the exposure just to the point of blinkies and then back off 1/3 stop. This will keep the WHITEs white despite the blend-blur effect. When you get the right exposure, you can mentally note the exposure compensation on the analogue scale; though the viewfinder will be close to black you will be able to see the analog exposure scale. Once you do that, you might wish to experiment with somewhat faster shutter speeds like 15 or 8 seconds. You will of course need to set a correspondingly wider aperture.
  • Once you have fine-tuned the exposure, make lots of images. Make some when the waves are really breaking, and make some when there is a lull between sets.

Questions Welcome

If you are confused by anything above, please leave a comment with your question.

Technique Question

Why is it unnecessary to use Live View, Mirror Lock-up, or the 2-second timer when doing 15- or 30-second exposures?

Singh-Ray 77mm Filters

I regularly travel with my Singh-Ray 77mm Warming Circular Polarizer and both the Singh-Ray 5-stop and 10-stop Mor-Slo glass Neutral Density filters. I can use each of them on the 16-35mm f/4L IS, the 24-105mm f/4L IS, the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II, and the 100-400mmL IS II. With the intermediate telephotos I always use the Xume magnetized mounting system; this system makes it easy to mount the filters in just a second rather than having to struggle to get them properly threaded. (See more on the Xume system below). Do not use the Xume system with your wide angle lenses as it will cause serious vignetting at the wider settings.

Click on the logo link above to purchase and use the code artie10 at checkout to receive a healthy 10$ discount.

Singh-Ray Filters

Singh-Ray filters have been used by the world’s top photographers for many decades. Singh-Ray is and has been the name in quality filters. I own several of the 77mm filters so that I can attain slow shutter speeds in bright conditions. No other filter manufacturer comes close to matching the quality of Singh-Ray’s optical glass that is comparable to that used by NASA. And they continue to pioneer the most innovative products on the market like their ColorCombo polarizer, Vari-ND variable and Mor-Slo 15-stop neutral density filters. When you use their filters, youโ€™ll create better, more dramatic images and, unlike other filters, with absolutely no sacrifice in image quality. All Singh-Ray filters are handcrafted in the USA.

Best News: 10% Discount/Code at checkout: artie10

To shop for Singh-Ray’s most popular solid ND filter, the 10-Stop Mor-Slo Glass Filter liter (for example), click on the logo link above, click on “Neutral and color Solid Neutral Density Filters (glass), then click on “Mor-Sloโ„ข 5, 10, 15 and 20-Stop Solid Neutral Density Filters (glass),” choose the size and model, add to cart, and then checkout. At checkout, type artie10 into the “Have a coupon? Click here to enter your code” box and a healthy 10% discount will be applied to your total. In addition to enjoying the world’s best filter at 10% off you will be supporting my efforts here on the blog.

The 10- and 15-stop Mor Slo filters are great for landscapes with water and moving clouds. With the 10-stop, 1/125th becomes 8 seconds and with the 15-stop, 4 minutes. Next, I need to get my hands on a 15-stop Mor-Slo ND…

Xume Stuff!

Here is how I use the magnetized Xume system with my intermediate telephoto lenses:

First I screw one XUME 77mm Lens Adapter onto the front of my 100-400 II and another onto the front of the 70-200 f/2.8 L IS II.

Next I screw my Singh-Ray 77mm 3-Stop Resin Mor-Slo Neutral Density Filter, my Singh-Ray 77mm 5-Stop Glass Mor-Slo Neutral Density Filter, and my Singh-Ray 77mm LB Warming Circular Polarizer into their own individual XUME 77mm Filter Holders. Be sure not to screw the filters on too tightly to the Filter Holders. If you do, it can be a real challenge to remove the filter when you need it for a wide angle lens. Light pressure is fine.

The lens adapters stay on the lenses. The ND filters and the polarizer stay screwed into their own filter holders as noted above. The filter/filter holder combos are stored in the lovely labeled leather pouches that come with each Singh-Ray filter purchase. The three of them fit perfectly into the small upper left zippered pocket of my Xtrahand vest. When I wish to mount a filter onto the front of one of my intermediate telephoto lenses I simply remove the lens hood, grab the filter that I need, and pop it securely into place in less than an instant. Ah, it’s the magnetic thing!

Be sure to replace the lens hood so that you do not accidentally dislodge the filter by whacking it against some shrubbery when you are walking about. To remove the filter simply remove the lens hood, pop the filter off instantly, place it back in its leather case, and stow it. With the Xume system there are no more tears. You do not have to screw and unscrew the filters onto the front of the lens. There are no more jammed threads. The Xume lens adapters and the filter holders are precision-machined to guarantee fast and secure filter attachment every time.

It is an elegant system but I can recommend it only for intermediate telephoto lenses: when used with short lenses and short zoom lenses some serious vignetting will occur at the wider focal lengths. As noted above, you must use the Xume system when working with the 10-stop ND so that you can snap the filter in place after setting the focus without messing up either the framing or focus as you might if you needed to screw the filter on.

If you own only one lens and two filters I would recommend the XUME 77mm Lens Adapter and Filter Holder Starter Kit. It contains one lens adapter and two filter holders.

The next step up is the XUME 77mm Lens Adapter and Filter Holder Pro Kit. It offers two lens adapters and four filter holders. That one was perfect for me.

If you need Xume stuff for front element sizes other than 77mm please use this link; you will find two pages of good stuff!

Please Remember to use our Affiliate Links ๐Ÿ™‚

To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you get in the habit of using my B&H affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your photo and electronics purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod heads, Gitzo tripods, Wimberley heads and plates, LensCoats and accessories, and the like. We sell only what I have used, have tested, and can depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know what you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And we are always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail. I just learned that my account was suspended during my absence; it should be up and running by Monday at the latest.

I would of course appreciate your using our B&H affiliate links for all of your major gear, video, and electronic purchases. For the photographic stuff mentioned in the paragraph above we, meaning BAA, would of course greatly appreciate your business. Here is a huge thank you to the many who have been using our links on a regular basis and visiting the BAA Online store as well.


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In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right ๐Ÿ™‚

22 comments to What do you do when nothing’s happening? Get into the creative zone! Part Three of many. Singh-Ray 10-Stop ND Tutorial: making 30 second exposures in bright sun.

  • avatar Den Bagwell

    Re: Technique Question

    Artie, I didn’t see anything about turning IS off, therefore I’m assuming one of two things.

    1. You’re allowing IS to correct for any vibrations, however, I thought it should always be turned off on a tripod.
    2. Is it possible that you want a softer landscape to contrast with the water blur?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I actually thought of that while I was trying to nap today. I did not see any indication that there was an IS problem though there surely is. I have seen that happen with big glass and exposures measured in seconds… IS sensed motion where there was none, moved the glass elements, and created unsharp images. Perhaps that is a problem only with the longer focal lengths.


      ps: good thinking!

  • avatar Elinor Osborn

    Why is it unnecessary to use Live View, Mirror Lock-up, or the 2-second timer when doing 15- or 30-second exposures? — Because at that slow a shutter speed any camera movement from the shutter will not show up?

  • avatar Glen

    Art, have you tried this to speed up exposure determination: Set camera on shutter priority @ 1/30′ and fine tune f-stop for perfect exposure. Now set camera to manual exposure, shutter speed at 30 seconds at whatever the perfect f-stop was determined in shutter priority. Insert 10 stop ND filter and viola! Perfect exposure! Try it, you’ll like it!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Will not work perfectly with varying amounts of white in the frame due to breaking waves ๐Ÿ™‚ a

  • avatar Wtlloyd

    Glad you’re recovering nicely, Artie. I will be in San Diego for a couple days before joining you in Namibia – visiting friends but specifically looking forward to seeing the exhibit. Although I am probably familiar with a number of your “jewels”, seeing them along with many others in a professionally prepared exhibit will be a treat!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Bill,

      When do you arrive? There are some great photo opps here right now. a

  • avatar Dietmar Haenchen

    Hi Artie,

    I am glad the surgery went well and I wish you a speedy recovery. Nice photo and an excellent description. However, I think that you need to go to a larger aperture when you experiment with a faster shutter speed.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Dietmar, Thanks, and thanks for catching my brain typo. I was thinking smaller f/number ๐Ÿ™ I have fixed it thanks to you. a

  • avatar James Saxon

    Love this image.

  • avatar Loren Charif

    Xume rocks! One of the best accessories I own (based on your rec). Gets used every day!

  • Artie…….have you had any problems with the foot on the Canon 100-400mm II? I see that there are replacement feet for that lens…..just wondering if you had considered one. I know they will take more effort to remove than the original foot. I have to admit I had a very hard time putting the original foot back on……probably just user error but I might be inclined to leave the replacement foot on for handheld.
    And……glad the surgery went well and you are doing well. Here’s to a very speedy recovery.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Lana, Interesting that you ask. I should have mentioned that when I am hand holding that I almost always remove the foot. In fact, it is usually not on the lens. I put it on only when I need the lens on a tripod as with today’s image. (I will add that to the post.) I will admit that the screw-on mounting system is less than elegant, but when I line things up carefully I have no problem screwing the foot on or off though it is a bit tedious.

      I did notice when doing the 30-second exposures the other day that there was some play in the foot. I assumed that it was because the screw was not tightly seated but that was not the case. The play was between the two sections of the lens foot. They are connected by four star-nosed screws. I got my tool kit and everything tightened up nicely. Best would be to remove them completely and re-assemble the whole thing after applying some non-permanent Loctite.


      • Thanks, Artie. I’ll get the tool kit and Loctite out and work on them. Maybe I should just practice putting the foot on and off a couple of times. Maybe it will get easier to get the alignment just right.

  • avatar Holly

    Thanks for the great info. I will definitely be adding this to my wish list. Glad you are doing well.

  • avatar David Peake

    Streetscapes are fun with with the ten stop ND too because moving people don’t show in the image.
    Thanks for the educational instruction once again.

  • avatar Kerry Morris

    Great photo. Thanks for sharing your amazing knowledge. So happy you’re doing well and the surgery was a success!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Kerry and you are most welcome. The effectiveness of the surgery will not be know for sure for from two weeks to two months. But I am glad that there were no unexpected problems and that I am feeling very good. My discomfort level is 80% less than it was yesterday ๐Ÿ™‚

      later and love, artie

  • avatar Bob Allen

    Love this effect and the sample image! A photographer featured on Singh-Ray’s website has short videos on doing this. His directions are incredibly detailed and perhaps a bit overcomplicated. As usual, Artie, your directions are much easier to follow.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Bob ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope that you can make it down for a day of photography at La Jolla MON-THURS or next SAT or SUN ๐Ÿ™‚ a

      ps: Basically, you need to frame and set focus before you put the 10-Stop on. And the Xume system makes it all possible.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Thanks for this most educational blog, Artie. Glad you’re doing well.