130 — The Big Stopper Filter Review

Pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast #130 reviews the Big Stop­per by Lee fil­ters. The big stop­per is a 10 stop glass fil­ter that slows down shut­ter speeds in order to accen­tu­ate move­ment. Both clouds and water are clas­sic sub­jects for use with this fil­ter and the result­ing pho­tographs tend to be ethe­real and dreamy. Aside from review­ing the fil­ter, I offer up 6 tips on how to use it effectively.

Thanks to The Cam­era Store (The largest cam­era store in Cal­gary, Alberta, Canada)  for spon­sor­ing the Photography.ca podcast.

Click the player at the end of this post to lis­ten to (or down­load) the 18ish minute podcast.

This evening image of Rue Laurier in Montreal is a long exposure image using the big stopper. You can see movement in the clouds, and in the cars. The people look 'ghostlike' because they moved (somewhat) in place while waiting for the traffic light. Notice the traffic light has all 3 colours lit because the traffic light cycled during this 30 second exposure. Exif data -  ISO 100  f/11 30 second shutter speed.

This evening image of Rue Lau­rier in Mon­treal is a long expo­sure image using the big stop­per. You can see move­ment in the clouds, and in the cars. The peo­ple look ‘ghost­like’ because they moved (some­what) in place while wait­ing for the traf­fic light. Notice the traf­fic light has all 3 colours lit because the traf­fic light cycled dur­ing this 30 sec­ond expo­sure. Exif data — ISO 100, f/11, 30 sec­ond shut­ter speed.


Fast moving water at Chutes Dorwin in Rawdon, QC. Canada. In the top image I used my lowest ISO (50) with my smallest aperture (f/32) and this yielded a shutter speed of .4 seconds. The water does look dreamy. But when I used the big stopper, I was able to get much slower shutter speeds and the lower image was exposed for 15 seconds. It's much dreamier and more ethereal looking. If you look at the top of the bottom image you can see where flare entered my camera. This is easily solved with a hat (or postprocessing).

Fast mov­ing water at Chutes Dor­win in Raw­don, QC. Canada. In the top image I used my low­est ISO (50) with my small­est aper­ture (f/32) and this yielded a shut­ter speed of .4 sec­onds. The water does look dreamy. But when I used the big stop­per, I was able to get much slower shut­ter speeds and the lower image was exposed for 15 sec­onds. It’s much dreamier and more ethe­real look­ing but the fil­ter must be used with care. If you look at the top of the bot­tom image you can see a rain­bow­ish arc and this where flare entered my cam­era. As dis­cussed in the pod­cast, this is eas­ily solved with a hat (or postprocessing).


Fountain at Parc Lafontaine in Montreal, QC., Canada - The slowest shutter speed I could get without a filter was 1/60 in this light.  When I put the big stopper on, It extends the available shutter speeds big time. The image on the right was a 15 second exposure using the big stopper and look how dreamy the water looks.

Foun­tain at Parc Lafontaine in Mon­treal, QC., Canada — The slow­est shut­ter speed I could get with­out a fil­ter was 1/60 in this light. When I put the big stop­per on, It extends the avail­able shut­ter speeds big time. The image on the right was a 15 sec­ond expo­sure using the big stop­per and look how dreamy the water looks.


How the lee filter system works

How the Lee fil­ter sys­tem works


Links /resources men­tioned in this podcast:

Pod­cast 77 - On Neu­tral den­sity fil­ters and grad­u­ated neu­tral den­sity fil­ters
Pod­cast 84 - Back But­ton aut­o­fo­cus
The big stop­per at The Cam­era Store
Reg­u­lar forum assign­ment — Rep­e­ti­tion
Level 2 pho­tog­ra­phy assign­ment — Forced perspective

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Photography forum image of the month — July 2014

Hi Photo lovers!

Every month on our pho­tog­ra­phy forum mem­bers nom­i­nate images that they like. Then at the end of the month I choose an excel­lent image and talk about why it rocks. The photo I choose is not nec­es­sar­ily the best one of the month. I’ve come to real­ize it’s not really log­i­cal to pit images from totally dif­fer­ent gen­res against each other. That’s why there are cat­e­gories in photo con­tests. I just choose a photo that has extremely strong ele­ments that we can learn from.

This month’s choice goes to Lizardqing for cap­tur­ing Sun­set on the Blue Ridge Parkway

I chose this image for sev­eral reasons:

1. Composition/Framing — This sun­set image has many strong com­po­si­tional ele­ments going for it. The lay­ing of the fore­ground trees, midground hills and back­ground clouds/sky and sun works really well for me. My eye really enjoys the lines and curves in the moun­tains and hills. There are also no major dis­trac­tions on the edges in this scene for me. My eye goes straight to the sun, then straight below it to the midground sun patch, and then it explores the rest of the pho­to­graph with delight.

2 . Exposure/lighting — The light is just plain lovely here due to the par­tial cloud cover. That said, shoot­ing into the sun is often chal­leng­ing and often yields under­ex­po­sure. Cor­rect­ing it often leaves lots of shadow noise but this image looks clean and the tones in the fore­ground and midground have lovely shadow detail.

3.  Colour and post pro­cess­ing — The colours are warm and bright in the sky but not too over­done. Sharp­ness works well for me and looks very natural.

For all these rea­sons, this is my choice for image of the month. Since we all have opin­ions, some mem­bers may dis­agree with my choice. That’s cool but THIS thread is not the place for debate over my pick, NOR is it the place to fur­ther cri­tique the image. The pur­pose here is to sug­gest strong ele­ments in the photo that we may learn from.

Con­grats again to Lizardqing for cap­tur­ing this fab­u­lous moment!