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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Thanks for lis­ten­ing and keep on shooting!


  1. Barefoot says:

    When I first began using the mega stop ND fil­ters, I started with the 77mm b+w as it was a fit for my Tam­rom 10-24mm and Nikkor 16-35mm. What I dis­cov­ered was that with the use of step down rings, I could greatly reduce vingnetting when using the fil­ter on lens with smaller fil­ter threads.(i.e. 77mm fil­ter on 67mm threaded lens) That led me to pur­chase the larger 82mm ver­sion and more step down rings for use with most of my lenses. Let’s me get at the sweet spot of the fil­ter. Not a per­fect solu­tion, but.…

  2. Troy Bourque says:

    There are some neat apps out there to help with cal­cu­lat­ing the expo­sure time. ND Timer is the one I use.

  3. Terry Babij says:

    I have been lis­ten­ing for some time Marko, nice to add a dif­fer­ent perspective.

    I have been using and lov­ing the B+W ND fil­ters. I do not find too much of an issue with vignetting. I have used it on a 10–22 Canon EFS on a full frame cam­era so really the I can only go as wide as 14mm. The advan­tage of the screw on fil­ters is there is less chance for light sneak­ing in. I have both the 10 stop ND3.0 and 3 stop ND .9 fil­ters. Star trails, water­falls and sweep­ing land­scapes are great sub­jects. Worth every dol­lar spent! I cringe when peo­ple talk about the cheap knock-offs or vari­able NDs that are sub­ject to extreme colour cast or band­ing. Best to stick with the pre­mium brands like Lee and B+W to name two.

    Thanks much for your tip on cov­er­ing the viewfinder, totally slipped my mind. It may help with light­ing issues I have with some of the work I do. I will test on a photo shoot tomor­row. I always have gaffer tape in the bag.

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