A few months ago, photographer Karl Taylor got a tour of the LEE filters factory where he got to see how these high quality filters are cast, tested, and dyed (by hand!)—he even got to dye one for himself. Fortunately, he took a camera man (and now us) along for the ride.
The whole process of creating a high-quality photographic filter is fascinating to watch. From casting the “cells” using a resin liquid that’s cured in an oven for 24 hours, to testing the hardness to determine what kind of filter it will become, to dying the graduated and hard ND filters, all the way to the quality control and packaging process.
The dying process is perhaps the most interesting because you get to see how every single LEE filter is actually dyed by hand. They’re tested afterwards to ensure consistency, of course, but every one is lowered into the dye and held there by a human factory worker, not a machine. Apparently, this is to ensure the smoothest most natural transition between the clear and darkened parts of a graduated ND filter:
“There are other ways of doing this,” LEE Sales Director Ralph Young says in the video, “but we actually believe this is the best way to get the transition of a grad[uated filter] rather than using machinery to do it.”
Of course, it takes some experience to get this right over and over again, hundreds of times per day, but they still gave Karl a chance to dye his own graduated filter. Spoiler alert: his filter failed Quality Control…
The video was only released today, but we know it was shot back in late February because the then-unreleased 15-stop SuperStopper Karl got a sneak peek of was released a few weeks later in March. This was also when they put together the first Lee Filter Kits that Karl picked out himself, which you can see and purchase here.
(via Imaging Resource)