A Cinematic Video of India’s Chai Wallahs Shot With a Variable ND Filter

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Videographer Luiza Herdy of Seconds TV shows us her latest documentary project in India, and talks us through why she uses a variable ND2-400 filter to adapt to bright conditions and capture cinematic footage.

Words and Photography by Luiza Herdy

Amazed and intrigued by an obsessive and repetitive routine of chai tea drinking in India, I observed those who work incessantly to supply the popular fresh tea everyday.

With a daily 5am start, this Chai Wallah only stops when the first batch of tea is ready, a few hours later and after much preparation. The first cup of chai he makes is thrown in the fire as a Hindu offering which will bring him luck and good business, the second cup he kindly offers me, as customers line up waiting for theirs.

In the midst of a busy and noisy Indian routine, time seems to freeze around the chai stalls. People can relish their warm, spicy and fresh tea, as well as a moment of peace, before continuing on with their days, looking forward to their next chai break.

Why did you use a Variable ND filter to shoot this video?

Buying my first variable ND filter (the ND2-400) was a game changer for me, as it really helps with shooting a lower f-stop to attain a shallower depth of field, whilst in really bright daylight conditions and without overexposing my footage. It’s definitely an essential tool for being able to control your exposure whilst maintaining the film look.

I especially love using a variable ND filter because it’s so versatile and it helps me find the correct exposure quickly and without having to change filters and put my camera down. This can be very time consuming, especially when you are shooting documentary style footage on the fly. Putting the camera down to change a filter might prohibit you from capturing those amazing spontaneous moments, especially in this case in India where everything was happening so fast, a little chaotically and there were new amazing scenes to capture every second! 

Any tips for fellow videographers on shooting with a variable ND

Some tips I would give videographers who are beginning to experiment with ND filters would be to try and expose correctly with the filter when you frame up your shot. I like to try and stick to this so as to avoid changing the exposure on the filter during a take. You can sometimes afford to do some changes on the filter during filming, but it can often show up on your footage later, which can be a shame if you’ve captured something really great and the exposure begins to shift. I would also advise videographers to stick to the ‘180 degree shutter’ rule to keep the cinematic feel to their videos. And most importantly, practice and experiment, as this tool really allows you to do so! 

It’s definitely an essential tool for being able to control your exposure whilst maintaining the film look.”

Any challenges you experienced when using the variable ND?

I didn’t have many challenges shooting with the variable ND2-400. I found it versatile and very useful, especially shooting in bright places such as India. On occasion, if you push the filter too much on some wider lenses you may sometimes find it can create a small vignette. An easy way to overcome this is knowing the ND’s limit and not pushing them too far. Stay in the boundaries of what it’s capable of doing and keep an eye out for details.

Did you know Gobe makes camera gear, like variable ND filters, that reforest the world? Five trees are planted in deforested areas for every product purchased. Shop our range of lens filters, lens adapters and camera accessories here.

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Luiza Herdy

2020-08-06T00:38:24+00:00Categories: Film|Tags: , |