Finding that elusive image and test driving our ND Filter

Looking for the elusive image (and a trip to Shongweni Farmers and Craft Market with a shiny new ND Filter)

Do you ever wake up and think “This is going to be a great day for photography?” We woke up just like that. Well…… the day didn’t start out quite like that though. Little did we know the struggle for beautiful images we would have when we, armed with a new shiny ND filter and a travel tripod, set off for a day’s photography.

Read most blogs on photographing people and you will be told to go to a place where people are relaxed and don’t mind too much if you take their photograph. A market sounds like just the thing.

At Shongweni farmers market (Kwa-Zulu Natal, in South Africa) our hopes for a long exposure image with moving people were very high. Set up the camera on a tripod with an interesting row of stalls behind and use the ND filter to get long 30 second exposures that will turn the moving people into a water like flow … This was the plan! Easy huh! We’ve visited this market a few times and always take advantage of a great breakfast out. Full of food stalls, crafts and food this place is brilliant for shopping, eating and listening to music.

So here is where I tell you about all our amazing images we created…. Errr no. So very disappointed. Tim tried doing a long exposure to get people in motion but the images didn’t really look great. The stall holders were not doing much crafting either, only selling, so no nice creator photographs. The only saving grace to be had however, was a beautiful view across the valley of a waterfall and an accordion player.


Shongweni farmers market South Africa long exposure nd filter

Shongweni farmers market South Africa waterfall with local musician playing accordion

What about the live musicians?

Maybe some good photographs there? I really believed that there was an image to be made there somewhere and after a lot of difficult searching the best one I found was from behind the guitar guy with a narrow depth of field (f2.8 at the 70 mm end of my zoom lens), so the audience was out of focus. I popped it into black and white and whilst not award winning I was pleased with the result, but it was a struggle. See our post on what makes a good black and white image.


Shongweni farmers market South Africa with local musician playing accordion


The moral of the story is? Sometimes the incredible is not going to happen and we just have to do the best we can with what we have.

On to part 2 of the day and not very far away in Shongweni Dam.

Test Driving the new (Neutral Density) ND Filter and the incredible just happened.

Have you ever tried to photograph a dam? They can produce very graphical images. However the large slabs of concrete with “frozen” water droplets are the same images that everybody else shoots on their smartphone. We approached the dam with a bit of trepidation after our disappointing start to the photographic day.

Shonegweni dam is accessible by driving through a rural village with many cows and goats on the road (very picturesque looking but all the little shops along the roadside had bars across the front and a small gap through which to pass money and goods between shopkeeper and customers). Not sure this is a good place to brandish our camera equipment.

After being chased down by the park warden for our entrance fee – (how were we to know we had to stop and sign in if they don’t put up big signs) – we were there.



shongweni Dam, South Africa, Normal Water Exposure


It’s R40 (about £2.40) each to go in and the dam is home to some spectacular views. We test drove our new  ND filter which allows you to have longer exposures, thus giving you great effects on water. After photographing in the hot sun for a while we knew we had something special.  You can drive down one side where you see the tumbling waters over the dam. We photographed mostly using the ND filter to get the milky water effect which you can see as well as the moving clouds.


shongweni Dam, South Africa, Long Water Exposure


Here is the link to our nd filter tutorial so you can see how we did it.

Finally!!! Something we’re proud to call our images.


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