OK, many of you have been wondering about using Neutral Density filters; if you are a portrait or wildlife photographer, skip this article! However, if you want to try photographing a landscape at some point, it would be good to read it. Many people use the digital filters and graduated filters in PS and Lightroom and feel they are adequate for the job…if you subscribe to this theory, go right ahead and edit in any manner that works. You can speak to me at the club meetings if there are any questions about using these filters.
I am a proponent of on camera filters…it seems to me that nothing can compare to using an ND or a graduated ND filter on camera: the light is on the sensor a long time giving great depth of color to landscapes or slowing down movement of water in the ocean..my favorite filters are as follows:
- a 3 stop soft graduated ND filter (forget the 1 or 2 stops, they are almost useless) I use this filter to control the exposure of the sky when it is brighter than the foreground…sometimes, the foreground is brighter than the sky and I have flipped it upside down…whatever works, do it!
- a 3 stop hard graduated ND filter: I use it if there is a sharp demarcation between the sky and foreground (example: sea and sky)
- 3 and 5 stop solid ND filters..these are specialty filters..the three is good if there is little color in the sky: it allows a longer time for light to hit the sensor and adds a little color at times, but not always; it works on brooks if you want to get the whirlpool effect..the 5 stop can add a color shift sometimes which can be good if there is no color in the sky; also, it is great if you want the misty look to ocean water.
- 10 stop ND filter…this filter can drive you nuts, it takes so long to get an image..use it during the day if the sky has bland clouds but there is wind aloft, the clouds can become interesting streaks…don’t use it at sunset, you’ll be shooting all night…
- I love filter holders..there are people who hold the filters in front of the lens; I don’t know, maybe they have steady hands, but my filters end up hitting the lens and blurring images..
- Don’t use Cokin filters unless you love the magenta color cast. Here are some examples of filter use: This is about a half second exposure with a 3 stop solid NDThis is a longer exposure with more water movement using 3 stop ND This is even longer with a 5 stop ND filter. This is an image taken on a bright day in Scotland; it is pretty boring. This was taken with a 10 stop ND filter to give the clouds movement and interest.These are petrified trees in Yellowstone…the morning was bland..no filters.5 stop solid ND filter with a polarizer gave it some punch.This is evening at Newport bridge; I have a polarizer giving me a 2 stop slowing of water but no ND on skyA 3 stop ND grad on sky brings foreground and background into the same dynamic range.