What I learned about drop-in filters. (in Iceland)

Iceland, Travel photography

I know, you must be getting tired of reading about my trip to Iceland by now. Iceland this, Volcanos that, amazing fresh fish, incredible landscapes, stunning waterfalls, Vikings, Elves, Faires, blah, blah, blah blah.  But I did want to share one more takeaway from my trip which is “What I learned about filters” in that place called Iceland.

Now this blog is really about drop-in filters, particularly the LEE Brand. There are other companies out there as well, but LEE filters are best known, and are the main brand we sell at Beau Photo. They are also what I used on my trip.  If you are not sure what a drop in filter is, you can have a look at a previous blog back in May 2023 that talks a bit about the differences between screw-in filters and drop-in filters. https://www.beauphoto.com/a-tale-of-two-filters/

Lee 85 Aspire kit

Drop in filters are great for those photographers who want to control the image they create in-camera rather than in front of a computer. They are also ideal for those photographers who are using film cameras as you can overcome some of the limitations of the film stock you are using. Think of it as dodging and burning with the aid of a filter rather than in the darkroom. Along with traditional colour filters for black and white photography, LEE Filters carries a large selection of colour effects filters to add colour and effects to your digital or analogue created image.

Prior to my trip to Iceland, I had not used drop-in filters that much, but I knew that I wanted to experiment with long exposures when taking photos of waterfalls or the ocean surf. Since I was going to travel with my Fujifilm X-T30, the LEE 85 Aspire Kit paired well with it as this kit is more compact than their larger 100 or 150 series. The little travel pouch fit in my camera backpack easily and I mostly left the LEE adapter rings on the lenses I was most often using. It wasn’t until I put them to use that I really got to see the advantages and challenges of using drop-in filters.

The first time I used these filters on vacation (in you know where) was at Gullfoss . Now, I knew it was a somewhat inclement day and though it was sprinkling a bit, I was not concerned at all about rain getting on the lens, but I was not at all prepared for how much spay could be created by these amazing waterfalls. I stopped and set up in a couple of different spots with no problem, but as I got closer and down wind from the falls, I knew I would have a challenge to get the images I was hoping for. Soon my camera, the LEE Drop in filter kit and I were being pummeled by waves of mist from the falls. It can be a challenge when moisture comes down from above, but when it comes at you sideways it is nearly impossible to keep your drop-in filter clear and free of water droplets. Unless this is an effect you are looking for, you, like I, will find it distracting and even frustrating. Also, when it’s cold and there is a fair bit of moisture in the air, it’s hard to get the filter to dry off completely and not leave streaks. These are the same challenges you would get with the front of your lens or other filters, but if you hope to do a long exposure to create the effect of a white wall of water, the challenge is compounded by the length of the exposure.

Iceland, Gulfoss

So how do you mitigate these distracting droplets?  Those who use these filters on a regular basis know to choose a location that is up-wind or sheltered if possible. If you are going with a friend, if possible, use a board or a screen held outside of the view of the camera. Sometimes the mist comes in waves so setting up and being patient helps. LEE filters also has a hood that attaches in front of the filter holder which can help if the mist is not coming straight at you.

What I also learned is – know your gear before you go. If you have time, go out and experiment with these filters in different stops and in different gradations, preferably when it is not raining or you are facing a sideways mist. Get a sense of the great images you can create with these filters, and what challenges you will face in using them. Take your time, try to slow down, and most importantly take a deep breath and enjoy the majesty of nature that is front of you.

Seljalandsfoss, Iceland
Gullfoss iceland
Share this post
Beau Photo Supplies Inc.
Beau Photo Supplies Inc.