Neutral density (ND) filters are a mainstay of many landscape photographers, and I carry several graduated and standard ND filters in my kit. Graduated ND filters help balance a bright sky against the darker land or sea to produce a better overall exposure. Standard ND filters are useful to reduce harsh natural light, blur motion, or give water a smooth or “cotton candy” like effect. I am a big fan of LEE Filters, and love using my LEE Little Stopper (ND 6), Big Stopper (ND 10), and Super Stopper (ND 15) for composing images with an ethereal appearance to waterfalls, rivers, coastlines, or clouds.
Often times the Little Stopper, Big Stopper, and certainly the Super Stopper usually require a shutter speed longer than 30 seconds for the desired ISO and aperture settings. For these long exposures there are several smart phone apps available that calculate exposure times when using ND filters. I have been using the Long Exposure Calculator by Junel Corales on my iPhone. But, LEE Filters recently came out with an exposure calculator developed by Broadside Interactive so I thought I would give it a spin…literally.
The LEE Stopper exposure calculator is specifically designed for LEE’s Little Stopper (ND 6), Big Stopper (ND 10), and Super Stopper (ND 15) ND filters. This long exposure calculator app is extremely easy to use. Launch the app, select the appropriate filter, then use your finger to spin the white normal shutter speed wheel. As the shutter speeds "tick, tick, tick" by the colored “stopper” wheel spins like a synchronous gear in a watch and indicates the appropriate long exposure time for the filter selected. A nice touch are the different colored wheels for the 3 Stopper filters. The Little Stopper wheel is green, the Big Stopper wheel is blue, and the Super Stopper wheel is purple.
If the exposure time is greater than 30 seconds a timer button appears. Push the timer button and a digital and circular bar graph count down the time remaining on a separate page. When the time expires there are both an audible alarm and timer indicates the current time the exposure completed. I really like the audible alarm when the time expires because it precludes me from having to watch the timer if I am not using my intervalometer.
Another really nice feature of the app is the Quick User's Guide included in the app. This is a really useful guide for photographers not familiar with using LEE's Stopper filters. It also includes links to video guides on YouTube, the LEE Filter knowledge base, LEE Support, etc.
The LEE Stopper exposure calculator is limited to Lee's Little Stopper, Big Stopper, and Super Stopper ND filters. It would be really nice if it included additional filter densities for it's range of ND filters. For example, sometimes the Little Stopper may be too much and an ND 3 too little in way of exposure time for the desired effect given the same ISO and aperture settings on the camera. In the off chance I may want to stack an ND 3 and and ND 1.5 Lee filter or other filter combination requiring a shutter speed longer than 30 seconds I would sure like a calculator to help me pick the appropriate exposure setting. However, having said that I mostly require shutter speeds longer than 30 seconds when using the Big Stopper and Super Stopper. If there is ever a time I need to stack filters less than ND 6 and the shutter speed is greater than 30 seconds I still have the Long Exposure Calculator. But, I think the new LEE Stopper long exposure app is a little more intuitive, less moving parts, and has great visual and audible cues.
In a nutshell, this is a must have app in my photo kit and will be my goto app when using my LEE Stopper filters.