Relying on Singh-Ray Mor-Slo filters to render ocean landscapes with a timeless calm

In Equipment & Technique, Landscapes, ND Filters, Scenes & Scenarios by Kevin McNeal

We were lucky enough recently to make a trip to the coastline of California and more specifically to the Big Sur region. Anytime I am shooting ocean landscapes, my Singh-Ray filters play a big part in creating the mood I’m shooting for. My current favorite is the 5-Stop Mor-Slo ND filter.

My favorite shooting technique for ocean landscapes is to use the 5-stop Mor-Slo to produce very long exposures that dramatically enhance the mood of the image. For example, others might choose to shoot the scene at a shutter speed of about half a second or faster to freeze the motion of the waves. Such split-second exposures can give the surf the appearance of a fast moving, powerful force that draws the eye into the image and conveys a sense of explosive tension. There is nothing wrong with such fast-action images, but I prefer to go for the opposite effect by using exposures that range from 30 seconds to several minutes.

With the 5-stop Mor-Slo ND filter, I’m able to change the expectations and reaction of the viewer by presenting an image that instills a more thought-provoking mood and a sense of timeless calm. Using the Mor-Slo filter, I am able to capture the image I am visualizing right in the camera. This not only saves considerable time in post production, it also enables me to compete successfully in today’s market for digital images when magazine publishers and photo editors ask to see my RAW images. My ability to offer them final images that are as close as possible to how the scene was originally captured is of vital importance for those important situations.

The 5-Stop Mor-Slo is really unique from other neutral density filters that I have tried in the past. Some other ND filters come with a color cast that can be difficult to remove in post processing without also removing other colors. One of the techniques I am fond of using with ND filters is to use them when the sun is still visible along the horizon. The appearance of a long exposure with the sun still present is very deceptive to the eye when used correctly in an image. In situations like this I will stack two 5-Stop Mor-Slo ND filters to get an even a longer exposure that’s free of any color cast or lost resolution.

Even with the sun visibly present, I can get more than a 30-second exposure with my Mor-Slo filters that can really look dramatic with the last light illuminating elements in the foreground. I haven’t been able to achieve such excellent performance with any other filters.

I have found that the greater the density, the less consistent the imaging results. With Singh-Ray I can use either a 5-Stop Mor-Slo or two stacked together and still get the same consistent results. The images are clean with no color casts. This is important because in post processing you can remove color casts but the process may also remove color you don’t want removed. The results with the Mor-Slo filters are right on in terms of exposure and lack any of the spotting I find with other ND filters.

By the way, if you are going to stack two 5-Stop Mor-Slo ND filters, it is important that at least one has threads on both sides so the two can be mounted on your lens together. I am often asked the difference between the Singh-Ray 5-Stop Mor-Slo ND filter and the Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter. The Mor-Slo filters are thin enough that I can stack two of them together and still get fairly wide scenes without affecting the image. I can use the 5-Stop Mor-Slo for scenes that need a wide-angle lens without vignetting. That’s another reason I am such a big fan of my 5-Stop Mor-Slo ND filters.