Welding Glass Photography [Experiment]

June 5, 2011

I recently found about a new DIY filter that produces some interesting results (from other photographers!). It turns out, if you put a piece of welding glass in front of your lens, it acts as a very affordable neutral density filter. Basically, you can shoot in daylight while doing long exposures. I’ve heard this looks best with clouds, water, and for removing people from a busy downtown scene. Since we have one of the three out here in west Texas (clouds), I went out to one of my favorite (and first) ghost towns, Penwell, to try some test shots. The clouds were not great, but I figured since I wasn’t doing anything else…

Things needed (preferred):
DSLR (or any camera that shoots in RAW and has a ‘BULB’ setting)
Tulip lens hood
Rubber bands (3 for my setup)
Dark cloth
Tripod
Piece of welding glass (bought mine at Lowes, #10 grade, for $5)
Remote (optional, but extremely handy)

My setup:

Turn your lens hood around (so the glass will fit flush against your lens). Put two rubber bands on the glass and wrap it around your lens hood (this holds it against your lens). Finally, drape the cloth over your setup, and rubber band it down (so it won’t flap in front of your lens). The cloth prevents any reflections/light leakage you might have. Snap away!

I didn’t get very impressive results (we don’t have water or a busy downtown), but I do like what I see from the photos. You will have to adjust the white balance/tint to your liking, or just go simple and do black and white. Luckily on this shot, I had a point of reference for my white balance.

I took two photos: One with just the camera (no filter), and one with the filter. The only post-processing I did on both photos was to change the white balance. The point of reference I used on both photos was the door panel on the bottom truck (which was white).

Here’s an original photo, straight out of the camera, only white balance corrected:

Here’s the image with the welding glass, only white balance corrected:
f/13, ISO 100, 60 seconds

I really like the detail the welding glass gives, along with more natural color. The clouds are blurred just a bit, as is the grass at the bottom (since it was windy).

I look forward to trying this out more when I can find some water or lots of people.