Standing by the shore of Lake Bled in Slovenia with a workshop group happily clicking away, as they waited for the sun to rise over the mirror calm scene in front of them, I thought this was a good time to try out my new mist stripe filter.
If, like most of the workshop group I announced my decision to, you weren’t already aware, yes there is such a thing. A clear filter with a frosted stripe through the middle that replicates the look of mist. In fact Lee Filters make a set of 3 mist filters for different effects but the mist stripe was the one I had taken to Slovenia with me to try out.
I know what you’re thinking and I have to admit being somewhat sceptical as to how effective it would be myself. Not just whether or not the filter would actually replicate the look of mist in the image but whether it would look natural. Mist tends to swirl and drift rather than appear in neat lines after all.
In use though I was pleasantly surprised, most of the time anyway. The mist stripe changes with the focal length, zooming in seems to make it deeper and softer, while zooming out to wider focal lengths makes it thinner and more defined. By adjusting the focal length you can get exactly the effect you want, but you then have to hope that the focal length that works best for the filter is also the best one for the location you are shooting. In the case of the image above, it worked out well because standing by the lake in the cool blue light before dawn, there wasn’t a hint of mist in sight, but it didn’t work every time. I’ll admit I’m still in the experimental stage of using it and I may get more consistent results with practice, but I’d still like to see a more natural ‘uneven’ version of it.
As I played around with the filter during a workshop, what sparked the idea for this blog was the conversation that followed among the group… is it cheating?
I'm sure there are purists out there screaming that it is but surely when it comes to artistic expression, there are no rules, so how can you break them? Competitions however are another matter, those do have rules and some of them are quite strict on the subject of manipulation.
In a certain high profile photography competition, filters are allowed but altering the integrity of the landscape isn’t and, to avoid a repeat of the embarrassing situation that led to the winner of one such competition being disqualified a few years ago, the raw files of shortlisted entries have to be submitted. As this isn’t the scene I saw before me, I’d say the integrity of this landscape has been well and truly altered but as it was done in camera the raw file will show no foul play.
So what’s the answer? Well, as this image wasn’t shot in the UK it’s not eligible for that particular competition anyway so it’s not something I’m going to lose sleep over but going a step further, it raises an interesting point. As camera technology advances and photography changes, should we use whatever is at our finger tips to get the results we want, even if it means bending the truth or should we keep getting up early, plugging away in pursuit of the ultimate conditions. I fear it will be the former but for me it’s the latter, not just for the satisfaction of capturing the moment but the joy of being there.