Long Exposure Light Leak With My Lee Big Stopper
Hi everyone. Here’s my public service announcement for the week. I had a trip out to Portland, OR last week so I decided to extend it by a couple of days and head down to Bandon Beach, OR with my buddy Brian Matiash. I’ll make sure I post some photos this week, but one thing struck me while doing some long exposures that I wanted to write about.
The Lee Big Stopper
I wrote about the Lee Big Stopper 10-stop ND filter a while back. Since then I’ve really become a fan of long exposures. Well, ever since I got my Nikon D800 I’ve had this intermittent issue with long exposures – light leak. Here’s a Before/After example of what I’ve been seeing from time to time.
You can see this line that appears at the bottom of the image. Not to mention it’s got an even weirder color cast than normal big stopper photos have. At first I thought, I needed to clean the filter. Plus, it wasn’t happening consistently (that’s what really screwed me up), and I used the same Lee Big Stopper on other cameras without this issue (another thing that had me confused). Then I thought I was placing the filter on wrong and a multitude of other things ran through my mind until I realized what was going on.
For a while I thought I had a defective filter. I’ve read about some issues with some 10-stop NDs. But on my last trip doing some long exposures, I borrowed some one else’s Big Stopper and tried it out. Sure enough, it did the same thing. So I could rule out a problem with the filter. Plus, it happened when I did long exposures with other screw on filters too. It seemed like the longer the exposure the more chance I had of the mysterious shape showing up.
The Light Leak Fix
See, I’ve always known that my Nikon had a small eyepiece shutter cover built in (most Canon cameras have them on their strap). It’s there to protect light from entering into the sensor through the eyepiece. And from my research, the higher the ND filter you use, the more susceptible your sensor becomes to light leak through the eyepiece. But I’ve never really had a reason to use it on any of my other cameras. It’s never been an issue in my photography. I’ve done plenty of longer exposures before and never had issues with light leaking in. That’s partly why it never occurred to me that this was the problem. It wasn’t my first time doing long exposures and this problem wasn’t happening on other cameras with the same exact filters.
Anyway, sure enough, I tried closing the eyepiece shutter and no light leak. Totally gone. I’m not sure if it’s the Nikon D800 and every camera is built a little different. Who knows. I’m not alone though. David duChemin wrote about a similar issue on his blog.
My Public Service Announcment
Now that I know about it, it’s an easy fix. The main problem is remembering to close the eyepiece shutter thing. I can’t tell you how long exposures I wasted this past weekend because I forgot to close it Plus, it’s a little hard to see in camera sometimes. Sometimes it’s totally obvious, but others (depending on what you’re shooting), it can get missed until you see the photo on the computer.
So my public service announcement is in two parts:
1) If you have a Lee Big Stopper or another darker ND filter, keep this tip in mind.
2) If you plan to ge one, and you take some photos and wonder why your photos look weird, remember this tip as the fix
Thanks for stopping by. Have a good one!