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Old Nov 21, 2008, 4:33 PM   #1
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Hi All,

I've been reading up on the use of graduated neutral density filters for landscape photography as well as filters used for portrait shots(diffusers). Specifically, I've been looking at the filters made by Cokin-but, there are other manufacturersas well. I've downloaded a Cokin brochure on their P-series filters and the accompanying sample photographs are impressive, to say the least.

Do you have any experience using these types of filters and if so, do you have any recommendations.

My interest lies in landscape photography including sunsets and water scenes.

Your advice would be appreciated.

Zig
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Old Nov 22, 2008, 12:19 AM   #2
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I experimented with the Cokin system back when I was using film SLR's. Very nice product, I just never really did much work with filters but for the type shots you are talking about, they would work very well since, from what I remember, the holders allowed you to vary the placement of the filter to maximize the effect. There's a guy who has in the past contributed quite a few articles to Popular Photography by the name of Tim Fiitzsimmons or something like that, who hasused gradualted ND filters with his Pentax medium format DSLR and posted some great nature shots.
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Old Nov 22, 2008, 4:24 AM   #3
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Thanks Greg.

Much appreciated. I'll look him up.
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Old Nov 23, 2008, 1:42 AM   #4
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The thing about Graduadated Neutral Density (GND) filters as opposed to your subject of Neutral Density (ND) filters is they not only have to have the ability to rotate, but you also have to be able to position the transition between clear and the darker part...that can only be acheived with a sliding filter like a Cokin.

The idea of the GND is to darken parts that would normally be blown out like the sky, however using a GND would darken other parts that extend into the darker part of the filter. For instance if you are taking a scene that's mostly flat below the horizon (i.e. where the sky meets the land), and you have one tall building that extends above the horizon, the part of the building that's in the darker part of the GND would be darker too while the part below the horizon would be lighter.

Whenever I want to learn how to use something online I add the word "tutorial" to what it is I want to learn on a search engine:
GRADUATED NEUTRAL DENSITY FILTER TUTORIAL

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Old Nov 23, 2008, 8:22 PM   #5
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Hi Mike,

Thanks for the response.

I have indeed found a number of articles regarding the use of Filters, among them, the GND type. All of the articles I've read, to this point, rave about the filters and how indespensible they are in landscape photography. But as with everything, there must be some downsides to using them. Of course, none of the articles mentioned any downsides. So I thought I'd pose the question to the members of this forum and see if anyone had any practical experience with filters, in general and cokin in particular.

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Old Nov 23, 2008, 10:30 PM   #6
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zig-123 wrote:
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Hi Mike,

But as with everything, there must be some downsides to using them. Of course, none of the articles mentioned any downsides. So I thought I'd pose the question to the members of this forum and see if anyone had any practical experience with filters, in general and cokin in particular.
Well, besides the issue I already mentioned all I can come up with is having to carry them, and you'll probably need a tripody so you can repeat the same shot over and over again, which means even more to carry.

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Old Nov 24, 2008, 1:46 AM   #7
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One definite annoyance with this type of filter is that anything sticking up from the landscape into the sky is going to be underexposed to the same extent as the sky.

Chances are, the interposing object(s) will be far less bright than the sky, so the same three-stop decrease in light that saves the sky from blowing out severely underexposes the interposing object(s).

If the object is based in the foreground enough that the lower portion is significantly beneath the filters darkest region, there could be a weird visual disconnect between the base and apex of the object. I'm sure that some of this stuff can be addressed in post processing, but one of the ideas of using a filter in the first place is to reduce the need to play around on the computer later.

I've seen some really impressive published shots that owed much of their success to GND filters, so they certainly can be valuable tools under many situations. But, things can get complicated (as noted above) unless you have a fairly uncluttered sky.

To get around this type of problem, I prefer to go the HDR/exposure blending route. By taking several pictures of the same scene at different exposure levels and then blending them together later into a composite image using the best parts of each exposure, you can handle all of the uneven dynamic range transitions a scene throws at you with little difficulty.

Depending on the kinds of scenes you run into, you might find that a few sets of GND filters works quite well for you. In the types of scenes where you aren't getting what you want out of the filters, keep exposure compositing in mind. There are quite a few programs out now that do most of the heavy lifting for you -- a few of them freeware.

When I first started playing with exposure blending, I did it manually in Photoshop. I got acceptable results but it took me longer than I would like to spend to get the result I wanted. Newer versions of PS have automated the process to a large extent, but I just use Photomatix Pro (not freeware) now.

One advantage that using GND's has over HDR is that the final image is gotten with one shot. That way you avoid the slight loss of sharpness that you can get from off-register multiple exposures. Most HDR programs have alignment functions to cover this, but they can only do so much if the photographer was sloppy. You also avoid ghosting artifacts from objects in motion.

Maybe in a few more years, cameras will do all of this stuff when you press the shutter release. Until then we need all the help available if we are tired of compromising between a whitewashed background with a good foreground and a dark, blocked-up foreground with a good background.

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Old Nov 24, 2008, 3:56 PM   #8
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Mikefellh wrote:
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Well, besides the issue I already mentioned all I can come up with is having to carry them, and you'll probably need a tripody so you can repeat the same shot over and over again, which means even more to carry.
Yep, definitely, one of the downsides is more 'stuff' to carry and it seems I'm already carrying enough as it is.

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Old Nov 24, 2008, 4:09 PM   #9
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Hi Grant,

Thanks for taking the time to respond to my post with a cogent and reasoned explanation.

I hadn't thought of HDR, quite frankly. I need to explore that avenue as an alternative. As you and Mike have clearly stated, Buildings , structures, etc.. seem always to be in a position such that it's difficult to simply slide a GND up or down and voila! the problem is solved-it's just not that easy.

Besides this concern, there are also issues dealing with transport that I really hadn't thought through. That's probably the biggest concern to me since I need to reduce the amount of equip. I cart around. Finally, the investment for a complete set is a good deal greater than I first anticipated.

I appreciate the heads up on Photomatix Pro. I'll check into that and see where it takes me.



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