Using an ND filter to achieve a shallow DOF in bright sun

ND filters are used in two common scenarios …

  • to slow down the shutter speeds to get water to show movement or
  • to increase an aperture to decrease DOF

What an ND filter does.

In both cases, the filter is darkening the scene. But another scenario is when you are shooting into the sun, and don’t want to wash-out your background. To achieve this more dramatic look, you’ll need a flash to fill in your subject. But how do you achieve a slower shutter sync speed and maintain a large aperture?

Slap on that ND filter and suddenly everything goes dark. It’s like, well not like, it IS putting a dark piece of glass in front of your camera and shooting thru it. It’s neutral (the N part) so it doesn’t add or take away the color/tone etc from what your viewing, and it’s got a measure of density (the D part) which determines how dark it is.

An example

This portrait was shot at f8, a shutter of 1/200 sec to be in sync with the flash and iso 100. I grabbed two flash units to fill in both my subjects equally.


It’s fine, but my DOF is quite “deep” and the model behind my main subject is in focus. I want him to be soft. If I shoot at f2.8 my entire scene will go 3 stops brighter. I want to maintain the look I have here but just with a shallow DOF. Let’s add the 3 stop ND filter and shoot at f2.8


They are remarkably similar but you can see the difference in DOF. The model in the background has gone soft (out of focus). Without an ND filter this would be impossible. I could have changed my shutter speed BUT this would throw my flash and camera out of sync. Not an option. I’m at my lowest iso, so there is no getting where I need to be by changing iso either. All I got is my f stop. ND filter to the rescue.


Here is what I did.

I knew I wanted to shoot at f2.8 for this portrait. So I decreased my f stop to f8. That’s 3 stops, which is what my ND filter is. Filters come in various densities but I only use a 3 stop version. I set my camera to f8 @1/200 sec (for sync) and iso100. f8 is 3 stops “darker” than f2.8. I looked at the sky and decided that f8 was good for me. I set my flashes at the same distance away from each subject so that my settings were all the same. I set both flash power outputs to  1/8 power and in my case, metered the output on both flashes to verify f8. I also like 1/8 power on my flash so I can get a decent recycle time. Once I had everything where it looked good, I just needed to increase my f stop to f2.8 and add the filter. With everything set, I grabbed a couple of victims and put them in front of my camera.


I recommend you do all your figuring before you put the filter on. Just play with it …. your not shooting film so you can cheat by looking at the playback (back of your camera) and adjust along the way. Just remember, your ONLY changing the f stop not the iso or the shutter.


I hope this helps you begin to understand ND filter use with flash. If you got a question, don’t hesitate to contact me and I’ll do my best to answer. Who knows, maybe it will lead to another post.

Classic Vibe Bass Comparison


A photographer doing a comparison of inexpensive Squire by Fender bass models …. yep.

Let’s start with the most important aspect of this comparison


Here are two videos I just made:
The first is the modified TB. :

The second is the 50’s style CV version. :

Discussion: When I purchased the TB version I had found it at a local store and thought it sounded great. Then I played it in a performance setting and found it wanting considerably. Tremendous low end if that’s what you want but for me … too hollow sounding everywhere else on the neck. In the video, you can definitely here that hollow sound. Great if your into that classic sound.

My tech guy found the LPB (Lake Placid Blue) 50’s style in Nova Scotia and it definitely has a brighter attack. I prefer it in a performance setting as it cuts thru. With the right amp/pedal board, you can get some serious deep tones out of this bass.

Let’ s geek out on some spec’s:

Features of the TB version

  • Body: Basswood with Ash Veneer on Top and Back
  • Pickup: 1 Fender Designed™ TEB 101B Humbucking Pickup
  • Pickguard: 3-Ply Black/White/Black, (’70s Tele® Bass Style Pickguard)
  • Controls: Volume, Tone – Knurled Chrome Dome Control KnobsLarge Chrome Covered Tele® Bass Humbucking Pickup,
  • Bridge: Thru the body 2-Saddle Vintage Style Precision Bass Bridge with 2 Brass Saddles
  • Neck: 1-Piece Maple, Modern C-Shape,
  • Finish: Polyurethane Satin
  • Fingerboard: Maple, 9.5″ Radius (241 mm)
  • Frets: 20 Medium Jumbo
  • Scale Length: 34″ (864 mm)
  • Width at Nut: 1.6″ (40.5 mm)
  • Dot Position Inlays,
  • Machine Heads: Standard open-gear tuners
  • ’51 Headstock Shape, ’51 Slab Style Body Top with Sharp Radius, ’51 Style Control Plate, ’55 Style Front Arm Contour, ’55 Style Pickguard Shape,

Features of the CV version

  • Body: Contoured Pine
  • Pickup: Custom ‘Original’ Precision Bass single-coil (Alnico V)
  • Pickguard: 1-ply white pickguard with thumbrest
  • Controls: Volume, Tone
  • Bridge: HiMass, 4-saddle bridge
  • Neck: 1-Piece Maple, Thick C-shaped
  • Finish: Glossy Polyester
  • Fingerboard: Maple, 9.5″ (241 mm)
  • Frets: 20, Vintage-style
  • Scale Length: 34″ (864 mm)
  • Width at Nut: 1.65″ (42 mm)
  • Dot Position Inlays,
  • Machine Heads: Tall Vintage open-gear tuners

Both basses are members of the Classic Vibe collection. There has been a lot written about the intent of this collection but I’ll just say, there simply throw backs without being actual re-issues. The precision bass went thru some changes in it’s first years most notably the pick up design. The original single coil was replaced with the humbucker in the neck position sometime in the early seventies and then went bye bye completely. The split single coil P bass we know today was born about this time and the Stratocaster headstock put the final death nail to the original telecaster bass. As I understand it, the original prototype basses that actually had the words “telecaster” label were not for public consumption so I doubt they’re available without it costing some crazy amount. No thanks.

How about some pictures?

Bottom line

So what is my preference?

  • I did not like the mudpucker and even after the rewiring in serial, I’m still not a huge fan of that old skool sound. I much prefer the single coil Alnico V.
  • The neck on the TB model is nicer. The finish is preferred (I always prefer a satin neck) and although the difference at the nut is minimal, it does seem “faster” and more solid. The difference in thickness around the neck seem negligible as far as I can tell.
  • The bridge on the CV is a better idea if you want to adjust each string independently, – and who doesn’t? I would be curious to know if a string thru the body set up gives better performance in sustain etc.
  • The pine is not very good. The resonance I feel from the basswood with ash veneers is way preferred. I originally purchased a white CV model and it looked extremely cheap. I’ve never seen the “blonde” model so can’t say how that finish looks.
  • The input on my TB just will NOT stay put. The CV input seems better?
  • A single-ply pick guard is cheap – nothing good about it.
  • Lastly I love the body contour on the CV model over the “block” but I think acoustically (not pugged in actually) that thick body gives some great tone.

Hopefully, this little write up will help you make an informed decision.



I decided to venture out today and find some peace. Get away from FB and the TV.

It’s finally raining!!!! So of course, I’m out checking the river by my house. It’s been a mere creek for some time, but today it’s running.
It has banks.

Taking some time to watch a river flow got me thinking.

The ability to flow …

What does that mean? Lately, the news has been all about rights and privilege.

Is it?

My rights should not interfere with yours … should they? I think not.
I can disagree, oppose, can even loathe a view, position or policy but can I use my right to speak to silence your’s? Can I stop your ability to speak? Should I?

Seems the larger “gang” get’s to muscle out the smaller “gang”.
The more agressive obstructs the passive.
The more popular …

Democracy is not about being “in charge”, having the most votes or ruling from a position of majority. It’s about making sure the underdog get’s a chance. Giving voice to the minority.

Let’s not swallow up the minority …



I love it when people show such concern for their animals.

It’s nice …

I’m sure there are lot’s of evil people treating furry creatures badly. Lot’s of them. We should be appalled to say the least. But shouldn’t we treat all living things, including fellow humans, with some benefit of the doubt. With some courtesy, some sincere concern. Shouldn’t we want everyone and everything to do well. Live well?

Here is Daisy. She is not very pretty to me but to her owners, she’s a doll. My son says she is cute as a button, adorable. Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. But regardless of your gut level response to Daisy, she is valuable and worth our affection. And she likes being loved.

Love can be simple really.

For starters …

It’s patient, kind, not envious or proud, doesn’t dishonor others, not self-seeking or easily angered, doesn’t have a notebook with a record of wrongs ….  doesn’t delight in evil but rejoices with truth, protects, trusts, hopes and always perseveres.

Love is simple.

Let’s not make it hard ….