During the shoot
How to get a minimalist composition
The secret to getting strong abstract monochrome scenes is to be punctilious with the photo composition before you get out the ND filter. Jonathan recommends a minimalist approach, with just the one key element shown, and then to frame this with plenty of space around it. Vary camera height and position simplify the composition; in the first shot here, the pier merges messily into the horizon. By extending the tripod to get a higher vantage point, the pier appears surrounded by the water.
How to get the milky water effect
As 10-stop neutral density filters are so opaque, you need to do the basic setting up of the shot without the filter in place. Sort out the compostion, check the horizon is level, set the focus and then take an exposure. After checking the histogram to ensure there are no blown-out hightlights, and ensuring the main focal point is sharp, you can then finally take your slow-shutter-speed seascape with the filter in place. This gives a characteristic milky, misty look to the moving water – which will look silver when converted to black and white.
How low can you go?
Having found the perfect tuft of dune grass, they realised that the legs of Maria’s tripod did not splay out far enough to get the low camera angle they wanted.
Down and out
Reversing the central column of a Vanguard Alta Pro tripod brought Maria’s D7000 down to the right height.
Using light and shade
“By late in the afternoon, we headed to another lake surrounded by holiday camps,” Maria says. “Nestling along the banks there were all sorts of boats. This rowing boat made a promising prospect, but with the 15 second exposure we got with the ND filter, it was important to check that it stayed sharp in the light breeze. Fortunately it did, while the ripples were transformed into the perfect millpond! ”