Trying to see through a 10-stop neutral density filter is pretty much like trying to see through a lens cap. You can’t do it. We use these filters to shoot long exposures in daylight, which makes possible certain motion blur effects that we couldn’t get otherwise. If you’ve seen the photos of streams and beaches that look look like liquid fog, then you’ve seen what I’m talking about. Daylight photos shot at shutter speeds of minutes, rather than fractions of a second. Focusing and framing for these shots has to be done before the filter is screwed on because, as I said, you can’t see dingus once it’s in place. You’re shooting in the dark.
There’s something about all this that feels especially meaningful just now. Neutral density. Suppressing red, green and blue wavelengths without discrimination. As a neutral party might. A neutrally obstructive party. The bouncer at the club door who lets nobody in without extreme resistance.
Obstruction is essential to the process, of course. Moreover, the act itself — holding the shutter open for one minute, two minutes — yields far less predictable results than faster shutter speeds would. All these things … the obstruction, the leap of faith, the time distortion, the unpredictable outcome … they’re allegorically me at the moment. I’m my own neutral density filter, straining out color, compressing (or diluting?) reality … mainly, though, I’m making things difficult for myself. And I honestly don’t know why. If I’m lucky, something attractive will come of it.