If you've ever tried to tackle time-lapse photography and failed, there's certainly a lot of culprits for why the results weren't what you wanted.
I'd say that more often than not, though, poor results are the result of challenging light conditions.
More specifically, harsh lighting can make it nearly impossible to get a quality time-lapse of certain scenes.
It makes sense, too.
When you try to take a regular still photograph of a subject in challenging lighting, it's easy to get an image that's underexposed, overexposed, or has too much contrast.
It stands to reason, then, that when you try to create a time-lapse in the same harsh lighting conditions that the results might not be that great.
That's where a variable ND filter comes in...
Benefits of an ND Filter
When you're outside and there's harsh light, what do you do to make yourself more comfortable?
You put on sunglasses...
A variable ND filter is like sunglasses for your camera!
Add a filter to your lens, and suddenly your camera has a much easier time adjusting to the harsh light. That's because a variable ND filter limits the amount of light entering the lens.
By limiting that light, you have a greater capacity to use longer shutter speeds, even in harsh, daylight conditions.
With longer shutter speeds, you can avoid another problem that's common with time-lapse videos - a flickery look.
If your time-lapse flickers, it's due to the shutter speed being too fast.
Again, that's where a variable ND filter comes in. Because you can extend your shutter speed, you can get a more flowing, natural look in your time-lapses.
Check out the difference in results between a time-lapse with shorter shutter speeds and no ND filter, and time-lapses with longer shutter speeds and an ND filter in the video above by Syrp.
Get Creative With a Variable ND Filter
The beauty of a variable ND filter is that it isn't just for time-lapse photography.
You can add one to your lens for long exposures that indicate movement.
Waves, rivers, waterfalls, passing traffic - as long as it's moving, a variable ND filter allows you to blur that movement.
Really, a variable ND filter is the ideal add-on if you want to tackle long exposures and time-lapse photography.
That's because you can adjust the exposure level with a simple turn of the filter.
For example, if find that five stops of power isn't enough, simply turn the filter to six, seven, eight, and so on.
Better still, some variable ND filters have front and rear threads, so if you need even more light-stopping power, you can easily stack the filters.
Not All Filters are Made Alike...
Just like you won't get the same sharpness and detail using a cheap lens as you would if you use a higher-end lens, the same applies to filters.
After all, you don't want to get a spendy lens and then cover it with a sub-par filter, right?
The Super Dark Variable ND filter used in the video above (and pictured above) is made of high-quality Japanese glass. That means your image quality will be right on par with what you expect.
Plus, the Super Dark allows you to extend your shutter speed to up to 15 seconds in broad daylight.
With that amount of time on your hands, you can easily create gorgeous long exposures and time-lapse videos with smooth movement, just like you saw in the video above.
As far as I'm concerned, if you have desires to get into time-lapse photography or long exposures, a variable ND filter like the Super Dark from Syrp is the way to go.
It's beautifully made, easy to use, and comes in large and small sizes for various lenses.
Heck, you even get lens adapters for different sized lenses, a cleaning cloth, and an awesome leather carrying case.
What's not to like about that?!