Improvisation and Experimentation

Sometimes when opportunities don't present themselves one has to improvise and experiment. Earlier in the summer, the skies over Las Vegas, NV USA had been crystal clear, not a cloud was in the sky; the skies were clear for almost a month and a half.

I decided to improvise and experiment. I wanted to create a minimalist type of photograph and composition utilizing a long exposure. In order to achieve my vision, I needed a neutral density (ND) filter that was dark enough so I could use a slow shutter speed. This required the use of the Lee Big Stopper or the Hitech Prostop 10 ND filter. The closest thing I had were two Lee .6 graduated neutral density (GND) filters and a Hoya screw on 2 stop ND filter. I decided to experiment and use all three of those filters in conjunction to create an improvised 6 stop ND filter. To properly use them, I needed to push the GND filters all the way down on the filter holder, hence only use their dark area.

Lake Mead, which is in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and just a few miles south of Las Vegas, isn't normally a photogenic body of water; however, I decided to experiment, I was intent on coming home with an image that would somehow bring out the beauty of the lake.

As I arrived at Lake Mead, I waited for twilight. During this time and as the day turns to night, it is dark enough to naturally allow you for slow shutter speeds. By using my improvised ND filter set up and dragging the shutter speed even further, I was able to smooth out the water and create a misty and dreamy look of the lake. This helped give this composition an almost surreal and minimalist feel; the clear and cloudless sky added to the minimalist effect.

The improvised 6 stop ND filter worked fairly well. It wasn't perfect as there was a slight blue color cast over the image, however, this was easily removed in post-processing. Additionally, as it was getting really late, I had to guess the shutter speed length, almost impossible to calculate.

The cloudless sky helped me think about composing a photograph in a different way, it also made me experiment using different techniques. I'm excited about the whole ting and look forward to experimenting in this manner again. Although I didn't have the proper equipment to achieve my vision, a little improvisation got me close to what I was envisioning.

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