Limitations are the fuel of creativity. Budget being something that sets limitations for most of us at one point or another and trying to find workarounds for effects is what sometimes I think about a lot.
Some people in the internet world got all over the ND filters with the quote "they are not worth it". Well let's see:
First of all, ND filters, most of them and most of the good ones are expensive ( Lee filter ~ 150$ ) sooo yeah. I got a Chinese plastic not so fantastic set ( ~8$ filter ) and lets see how it stands up against the power of microprocessors.
The first picture is a 3s exposure f29 (crazy right :p) mid day with a stack of 3 stop, 2 stop and 3 stop gradual. Had the pleasure of a reasonable windy day so some movement in the trees and clouds can be seen. The down part was recovering the colors. The filters have a really intense blue tint so even with a 10000K white balance things needs to be fixed in post.
The challenge for the NDs is a technique of taking multiple shots (30 for this test) and stacking them to blend the different positions of the clouds in this case, resulting a long exposure look. I was really hopping this will turn out good, but just stamping the same cloud in different positions is not quite the trail graphic I was expecting. Maybe more frames would help but i still think the smudging effect of a moving object in the frame can't be simulated 100% in post. This thing can be seen in the next 3 pictures, even if the equivalent of the exposure time is more the a few minutes, that smooth silky sky is not quite there. The exposure time variations is the result of changing the time between the frames ( 5s for the 2min photo and 15 for the 8min one) the 45s picture was with out ND filters 1/80s at 5s intervals, all of them from 30 frames. As you can see more time between frames results in more gaps between moving objects, things that don't happen in the single long exposure one. Using the NDs have some weird color issues, not even talking about what happens with the light after it passes through 3 pieces of static charged plastic pieces :P but i think turning it BW fixes the color hues or just trying to correct them, personally i like that variation too (first pic) looks like an old kodak film :) .
My take on all of this, it's nice that you can have an alternative if you don't have any ND filters, but if this could be done exactly the same with a plugin or an action, sales and development on this stuff would have dropped drastically. I personally remain that optics first and post..well :) in post. Maybe some day I will test a welding glass as a big stopper, at least it's a piece of glass not plastic. More about the ND kit I used on my old blogspot HERE.
Hope you find this informative and enjoyed the results, one result of this is not believing everything you see or hear on the internet :D Let me know what do you think about this, opened for ideas for future tests.
Until next time,
CheeRS and keep them shooting!