Using ND filters for blurred coastal photographs


Since starting this site I’m constantly trying to do creative things with my SLR camera.

For too long it’s been just a job but I’m enjoying the new lease of life I’ve had.

If you read my previous post about blurred coastal photos you will know that I love these shots that slow down the water to give a milky effect but the first time I tried it I didn’t have any filters and was really struggling to slow down the water enough. Thankfully I had the idea of something else and ended up getting some great artistic shots from panning the camera as I shot the beach scene. I loved these images and encourage you take a look if you missed them.

Anyway, since then I bought some fairly cheap filters and yesterday had my fist opportunity to have a play with them.


My Filters

Full & Graduated filter set

filter kit


This is not an expensive set and if we’re needing professional results I’d likely get a set from a trusted name but I want to show you how this can all be done on a sensible budget so here’s the pack I got for £16. That’s a great deal and the various ring sizes mean the holder works on all lens sizes. I do have a screw in ND filter for my big lens and that cost me about £80 for the one filter and it doesn’t fit any other lenses. This is a good deal!

Neutral Density ND 16 filter

nd16 filterSo this thing is crazy dark! It’s like looking through 4 pairs of sunglasses.

Again, this is remarkably cheap for what it is so I wasn’t really expecting great things but the reviews on Amazon were all go so I went for it. As you’ll see below I was a little disappointed but maybe that’s down to my technique as much as anything. I find it amazing to be honest that the camera can see anything through it, I can’t with my eye.


My Situation

So this week I’ve been trekking around the south of England creating virtual tours of some gorgeous hotels and yesterday we were done around 3pm so I shot down to the beach and with my camera, tripod, remote release and new filter set. I had no experience with this but who cares, it’s all digital and easily deleted right!
I first set up my camera on the tripod looking at some rocks on the edge of the beach and then started locking it down.


My Settings

I set the white balance to daylight (although the colours were very pink with the ND16 filter),

I focussed on the rocks then changed to manual (it’s essential to focus manually because the camera won’t be able to auto focus through such dark filters),

I set my aperture to f22 (as high as you can go on a Canon) and

I set my ISO to 100 (as low as it will go).

Now the only variable is the shutter speed and that’s where you can play.

… Let the fun begin!

You might be able to get as slow as 1/4 second shutter without any filter if you have your camera set like mine above and that will certainly give you blurred water but I want to go for total milky water and so I’m really needing 30 seconds+.

Please experiment though,and enjoy it!  Don’t get too hung up on getting the perfect shot, dabble and see what you get, after all this is all the fun of your photography. Keep slowing down your shutter speed and adding filters. With a set like this you can stack them on top of each other to increase the intensity.

As a slight aside, I’ve just ordered a wifi sd card as mentioned in this article and this is the exact location where it will come in useful. I’ll be able to instantly transfer my images to my iPad and see clearer how well the images have come out, and then make instant changes.

So what did I get? Lets take a look…


So the blurring worked but I’m realising there’s a lot more to getting that killer shot than just slowing down the water.

Well that’s my second outing and I wanted to share how it’s going and watch this space as I might get to the beach again tomorrow.