Eddie Ruffell has been with Lee Filters since near enough the beginning (he was the firm’s second employee); he’s worked his way through the ranks and now as managing director he walks us through the firm’s history and his involvement with its development EddieRuffell
It’s a skilled and repeatable process that allows us to produce the various different types of graduation needed by today’s differing formats. Why do you favour that method when competing with mass-produced products? We have researched the production of filters by mechanical means and have concluded that hand-produced graduated filters are better than the mechanically produced version as the process allows perfect graduations to be constructed. What are some of the most exciting developments you’ve witnessed at Lee? I was the major influence in the unique design of the Original Lee Filter Holder and the recent explosion of the digital era has spawned some exciting new products that I have helped develop, such as the Big and Little Stopper. Do you have a personal highlight? I created the self-supported bellows (no need for a rack and pinion) that is used in the Lee Hoods. It’s a unique item that has sold well and has also evolved into traditional camera bellows, removing the sag often seen in long extensions. I enjoy photography immensely – the process of seeing the subject from my perspective, capturing the frame, using filters in imaginative ways. The Stopper range of filters has provided the most thought-provoking photography recently: to learn to see what a five-second exposure is in your mind prior to the actual shutter press, is quite intriguing. However nearly all landscapes do have a graduated filter in the frame somewhere. What can we expect from Lee in the future? We do have new filters in development currently. Our latest introduction though has been a form of pouch that attaches directly to the tripod or belt, that we have called the Field Pouch. It allows for the easy selection of filters when in the field. It allows the process of changing filters to be seamless, thereby letting the photographer concentrate on the image, rather than where the filter needs to be put whilst not in use. Is there anything else you’d like to add? We will continue to develop further products in all areas of photography as and when we identify a need. Feedback from our customers is very important, it helps to us generate new ideas. Are you a photographer yourself? Do you have a favourite filter that you like to use?
a very valuable and important asset. A typical day consists of arriving at the factory just after eight, and reviewing the overnight email torrent. I like to keep very hands-on with product and manufacturing processes so a reasonable proportion of the day consists of review. My door is always open to my staff. Developing new products is very much a part of the day’s thinking. In my role I also travel around the globe looking for new opportunities and ideas. You’ve recently added a new landscape polariser to the line-up, can you tell us about it and its development? The new Lee landscape polariser was developed and introduced as we had recognised the need for a filter to be able to work with the wider-angle lenses of today. Our new landscape polariser, being made as thin as possible, allows for a 16mm lens full frame to be used without any vignetting. We also included a small degree of warming in the polariser as it benefits landscape photography. Filters are traditionally used by landscape photographers, are you seeing a change in the primary use of your filters? Our filters are primarily used to help the camera catch all of the detail within the frame. Graduated filters help to balance the light within the frame and bring the highlights and lowlights within the grasp of the camera’s range. Polarisers allow the camera to see beyond reflections, and ProGlass Neutral Density standard filters help to provide the longer exposure times photographers sometimes want. Cameras are now being developed with inbuilt art filters, how does this differ from what Lee offers and what would be the benefit of investing in an external filter? Built-in filters are effects that are applied in-camera after the image has been captured, what exterior filters help provide is a balanced scene to allow the camera to capture the frame with the maximum detail. Polarisers cannot be applied after the frame has been taken as the polariser affects the polarised light within the scene. Standard neutral density filters allow longer exposure times to be used. I do not see this digital development impacting on the demand for optical filters more than it currently is. I always advocate getting it right in-camera as opposed to sitting in front of a computer screen after the event; it allows more time on location, where we should all be. It’s rumoured that your graduated filters are dipped by hand – is there any truth in that? We produce all our graduated filters by hand dipping.
Lots of people know and use Lee Filters, but many of our readers won’t know its background. The company was founded in 1967 by John and Benny Lee who formed and owned Lee Electric, a very successful lighting rental company, with David Holmes, a lighting cameraman in the cinematographic industry. David had seen the need for a range of lighting filters to correct all the many types of light and lighting and had suggested this to John and Benny. Lee Filters started the production of lighting filters on 1 April 1974. Next, polyester camera filters, as opposed to gelatine-based products, were invented in 1978 and then the resin camera filters that you see today started production in 1980. What’s your history with Lee Filters? I joined the company in 1972 (I was the second employee) in London at the age of 18. David Holmes, the managing director, and I moved to Andover at the end of 1973 and we started producing lighting filters in 1974. I have held various positions within the company from van driver, to mixer, to coating machine operator, to product development and technical sales, into today’s position of managing director. My role as MD is quite varied, but includes ensuring Lee Filters remains at the forefront of lighting and camera filter technology: keeping an open mind for new products that help photographers; keeping the company profitable; keeping costs under control; introducing new procedures and processes to help in manufacturing; and providing the best possible environment for the employees, who are What does your role now entail and what does a typical day look like for you? Years in the photo industry: More than 40 Current location: East Cholderton, Hampshire Last picture taken: Poppies at the Tower of London Hobbies: Photography, rock music and my Triumph Stag When youwere younger, what did you want to bewhen you grewup? A fire engine driver or train driver. Dogs or cats? Dogs (although don’t let my cat read this) Toast or cereal? Both (alternate days) Email or phone call? Email or text
I always advocate
getting it right in camera as opposed to sitting in front of a computer screen after the event
π To find out more, go to www.leefilters.com.
Photography News | Issue 15
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