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Now this is a bit of fun. And I have a loooong way to go before I can be confident in saying “I have successfully built a home-made ND filter for about $25″. But it is fun trying.

Now, stepping back a bit… we had a partial eclipse some months back and I thought I would have a go at taking a photo through a welding helmet I had. This was the result.

Partial eclipse

Not great but worth a try. Then I did a shot through some glasses which my daughter had been given by a university. These were made for viewing eclipses and I had a much better result – although still not great,

Partial eclipse

Monsieur Google introduced me to Neutral Density filters (ND) which some people use for photographing these events. But more than that, the filter gives great effects. At between $120 and $300 I couldn’t justify buying one for a play. Madam Google led me to a website called DIY Photography which had a post titled Use Welding Glass As 10 Stop ND Filter. Following the instructions, I scrounged around and found suitable glass in the US for about $8. The welding glass in Australia was all to small for some reason – obviously our welding helmets are made differently.

When the DHL man delivered it I tried to follow the instructions on DIY Photography but their rubber band trick just didn’t cut it. So a trip to ye local photo shoppe landed me an $11 rubber lens hood. This and some $5 epoxy resin gave me my first effort at an ND filter and it looks like this:

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Okay, don’t judge me. It may not be a work of art but it kinda works. The white smudges are from the super glue I used to hold the lens hood to the glass. It still lets a little light in so my next job is to get a light-proof shroud to encase it all.

Now I have a hunk of dark glass on a screw-on lens hood. Problem 1: When you look through a dark bit of glass and try to focus you see (yup, you guessed it) NOTHING! So, I set my 18-55mm lens on about 24mm, focused it, set it on f22 and bulb and screwed the ND on.

It was a windy day and these next two photos were my first real attempts. I had no idea of timing so I gave it 1 minute 30 on a bright day. Of course this was only possible with my new remote (Christmas present from the world’s best partner). The Nikon D5100 has a maximum time of 30 seconds. I can use bulb but then I have to hold it and count – increasing the shakes. So my new remote from JJC in China solved the problems. It’s a corker with interval timer and bulb of up to 99 hours and some change.

Here’s the couple of shots that I have played with to get half way interesting.

Number 2

The glass gives everything  a green look which you then adjust through changing your white balance. As you can see from the shot below, there seems to be a light leak across the top of the picture which changes negates the green tinge. This may be something else but I still have to investigate it fully once I have ruled out light. None-the-less, the pics are good fun. I love what it does to the water. The day was very windy and the tripod was shaking like a frog faced by a lizard with a taser.
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I shoot everything as raw and that gives me some more control during the post-shot processing. This enables me to push the pic a couple of shots if  necessary and also to get rid of the green. Because my Photoshop can’t handle Nikon‘s NEF, I then save it as a jpeg for a bit of play around time.

Today I  had a quick play after using some super glue to hold the lens hood on tighter (trying to block out all light).

The 2 minute shot gave me this:

1-Number 3

As you can see, very green. The people in the bottom left appear ghostly which is a nice effect as well. I don’t really like the picture and had a little play to come up with:

Number 4All a bit too dark so tomorrow (or the next day) I shall have a go at getting the exposure a bit closer.

I want to try a night shot as well. Should be interesting to see what happens when you point to a dark sky for a long time. Maybe I could do that from the Gobi desert in Mongolia (and he increases the chances of having a visitor from Mongolia to his blog).

Keep smiling!