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Photography Tips

St Mary’s Lighthouse – the power of a Neutral Density (ND) filter

Often when you visit a tourist attraction it’s hard to get a good photo as there are people milling around everywhere. However there are a few techniques that can be triedto overcome this.

Some would suggest taking a number of shots every few seconds (using a tripod)  then combining the photographs in post production to remove the people.

On a recent family trip to England I decided to experiment with a Neutral Density filter, the thinking behind this idea was the the longer the shutter was open then the people would be moving and should vanish from the image.

When we arrived at St Mary’s Lighthouse there were few tourists as the tide was in, as shown in the photograph below.

St-Mary-Lighthouse-4- Northern Ireland Landscape Photographer

However, within an hour the tide was out and the tourists started arriving, in this case I simply tried longer exposures with a couple Neutral Density filters. I had a B&W 110, B&W 102 and a Polarizer so tried various combination of these ND filters.

I took the following photographs, the first one being the shortest at 13 seconds.

St-Mary-Lighthouse-Norhtern Ireland Landscape PhotographerIn the above shot the people are quite obvious on the walkway.

The following photograph was exposed for 85 seconds:

St-Mary-Lighthouse-Norhtern Ireland Landscape PhotographerThe people are less obvious, but are still visible on the walkway.

The final shot was exposed for 320 seconds, I can find little evidence of people on the walkway in this image:

St-Mary-Lighthouse-Norhtern Ireland Landscape Photographer

If you are wanting to take photos and don’t want the hassle of combining files, try and ND filter and expose for long enough that there won’t be any visible movement in the scene.

Here are other photography tips

X-E1 | Fuji XF18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS | GorillaPod SLR-Zoom with Ball Head | B + W 102 ND Filter| B + W 110 ND Filter| B + W Circular Polarizer

Adobe Lightroom  


Photography Tip #4 – ISO

We’ve come to the final corner in the Exposure Triangle, ISO, and it’s the easiest corner to understand.

ISO was a property of film that determined how sensitive it was to light, also referred to as film speed. There are a variety of speeds ranging from a fast film (say ISO 50) to a slow film (say ISO 1600) . In order to use a fast film you need a lot of light, e.g. bright light on a beach in the afternoon. That also meant in darker conditions you would need to have a wide aperture or a longer shutter speed to get the correct exposure. However, a fast film will react to light much quicker and won’t need as much; this makes it useful for night photography. The problem with the higher ISO films is that the images lost image quality. This was due to the grains of emulsion used on the film and resulted in a ‘grainier’ look.

Now with modern technology we are able to change the ISO on our digital cameras. The image quality at high ISO will vary on the ability of the camera but most recent digital cameras can easily shoot at ISO1600 or higher. Just like with film, if you choose a low ISO (say 100) you will need a lot of light to get the correct exposure. However, if you shoot at high ISO (say 1600+) there will be a reduction in image quality as ‘noise’ will be more evident.

ISO is similar to shutter speed as it correlates 1:1 with how much the exposure increases or decreases. However, unlike aperture and shutter speed, a lower ISO speed is almost always desirable, since higher ISO speeds dramatically increase image noise. As a result, ISO speed is usually only increased from its minimum value if the desired aperture and shutter speed aren’t otherwise obtainable.

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Photography Tip#3 – Shutter Speed

The camera shutter allows light into the camera and onto the film or sensor. Sometimes there is a delay between pressing the shutter release and the camera responding by taking the picture; this is known as the ‘Shutter lag’. Ironically, while this delay was insignificant on most film cameras, some digital cameras have shutter lag times in the order of hundreds of milliseconds, which may be a minor annoyance to the user.

The time frame it takes for the shutter to open and close is measured in seconds and generally known as the shutter speed. In the early days of photography, available shutter speeds were somewhat ad hoc. Nowadays the agreed standard for shutter speeds is:

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Photography Tip #2 – Aperture

Aperture is a measure of the opening of the iris, inside a lens, when a picture is taken.  When the shutter release button is pressed on the camera a hole opens up that allows the cameras film or image sensor to catch a glimpse of the scene you’re wanting to capture.   The aperture of a photographic lens will be adjusted to control the amount of light reaching the film or image sensor.  In combination with variation of shutter speed, the aperture size will regulate the sensor/film’s degree of exposure to light.  Typically, a fast shutter speed will require a larger aperture to ensure sufficient light exposure, and a slow shutter speed will require a smaller aperture to avoid excessive exposure.


The aperture is measured in f-stops; moving from one f-stop to the next one, f5.6 to f4, for example, doubles the amount of opening in the lens (and the amount of light getting through). Vice versa, if the f-stop is changed from f2.8 to f4, this halves the amount of opening in the lens.  The f-stop number is calculated by dividing lens focal length by the diameter of the aperture opening, so a 100mm lens, with an aperture diameter of 50mm would give an aperture of f2.

Photography Tip #1 – Light

Over the next few posts I want to share some basic, but fundamental, information about what goes into creating a photograph.

All of photography can be discussed in terms of light. The ability to see subtle changes in the light on a subject is a key to high quality work and is part of what makes a photograph rather than a snap shot. The challenge is to control the light.

Light can do more than make an image; it can emphasize, subdue or alter moods. It can help you say many things about your subject.

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