Saturday, February 28, 2009

Photo Technique - Graduated Neutral Density Filter

© Paul K. Anderson
Here is a tip for quickly improving your photographs of the landscape.

More than with any other tool, (except perhaps my tripod) my photographs improved significantly and dramatically when I acquired my first graduated neutral density filter!

I'm not talking about the kind that "screws" onto the end of your lens like your round skylight or polarizing filter, but rather a rectangular piece of "glass" that slides into a holder that "screws" to the end of your lens.

By being rectangular it can slide up and down in the holder so you can adjust where the darkest/lightest part of the filter is located relative to the horizon or other features in your image.

Why?  Well, the camera/film/chip can handle only so much of a range in light values.  To keep it simple, that means usually one part of the image is either too light and the other too dark or vice-versa in difficult light situations! 

The graduated neutral density filter "compresses" the extremes of light to what the camera/film/chip can handle and more closely approximates what your eyes and mind see.  

Depending on which filter you buy, the "top" end of the filter is one, two or three "stops" darker than the clear, untinted  "bottom". The darker portion transitions gradually to clear glass.

In my photograph, the sky was almost totally white when I correctly exposed for the boat, dock and lake.  By adding a two stop GND filter, the sky darkened enough that the true  or more realistic texture and color of the dawn clouds emerged.

The modern digital camera has a solution but you want to use a tripod. 

You take a photo exposing for the darker areas and another for the brighter areas.  Then, when you process the images in your computer, you take the best image from both exposures and seamlessly meld them together using the proper photo software.

It's an effective way of accomplishing the same thing.

But I prefer using the graduated neutral density filter. That's just me.

Here is a link to one type I use:  Singh-Ray Filters.

1 comment:

  1. Your images are quite beautiful, which suggests that you are not just living in beautiful country but are using good equipment and techniques. Thanks for the hint about grad-ND filters, it can be easier than using expensive software to reach a similar result.


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