A matter of light leaks

-‘Light leaks you say?’ I’d heard that concept thrown around a few times. Mostly in terms of lo-fi instruments such as the classic Holga camera with its light leaks polluting the film in a, according to who you ask, either horrendous or rather pleasing manner.

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Two years ago, when I bought my first and only neutral density filter, I would for the first time unknowingly experience this. I thought it was the unavoidable result of buying a cheap filter and did my best trying to avoid the colour cast in my post processing.

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Parallel to this I’d several times heard people saying it’s important to cover up the viewfinder during longer exposures. My reaction would mainly consist of a smug smile while joking about long-winded and overly ambitious photography geeks. Time went and I decided to try this. My D800 has this brilliant feature where you with a simple click can cover up the viewfinder. Since it’s my only camera I can’t really photgraph it, but here’s how it looks in an image stolen by the help of a google image search.

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A quick test at home with the inspiring subject being my bookshelf, I took two photos to try this out. One with the viewfinder open during a 30 second exposure, using my ND filter and trying to provoke light leakage with a flashlight; one under the same conditions but with the viewfinder closed. The results are quite striking.

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I also redid the test without the filter and could not replicate the colour cast, so I do suppose there is a correlation with my ND filter. Having said that, I’m not entirely sure a 5x more expensive filter wouldn’t render the same effect.

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I’m no engineer, but it is clear that somehow light gets inside the camera and lens-combination and creates an unflattering colour blotch when combined with a/my cheap ND filter. How to solve it? Remember to press that one button when I am doing long exposures out nearby bright lights.

/Martin

2 thoughts on “A matter of light leaks

  1. Every now and then I forget to shut the eyepiece – sooooo annoying …. especially when I’ve just waited for four minutes for the exposure!
    For peace of mind, I use (not cheap!) Lee filters and it still happens; as you say, remember that last button!

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