Thursday, March 30, 2006

SG - Graduated Neutral Density Filters - Sunrise and Sunset Pictures

Subject: SG - Graduated Neutral Density Filters - Sunrise and Sunset Pictures

For our last theme, I bet most of you noticed you could get good colors in the sunrise/sunset, but the rest of the picture was too dark. Or, the foreground was in good exposure, but the sky washed out. What to do?

Try a graduated neutral density filter. Many of the great BP sunrise/sunset pictures make use of the graduated density filter. Here are a couple:

In all three pictures, you can see how the foreground has detail, versus being washed out. That’s the advantage of the graduated neutral density filter. Please note this is different than a regular neutral density filter.

Derrald Farnsworth, from Omaha NE (never met him), took the first two pictures. I asked him about his graduated neutral density filters. Here’s what he said.

Ken, I use Singh-Ray filters for my neutral density filters. I currently have a 2-stop soft grad filter and a 3-stop hard grad filter, however, I am waiting on a 3-stop soft grad. They currently fit in a Cokin holder that I have. The benefit of using a square filter is that you can set your horizon to any location in your photograph. You are not confined to where it is in the screw-on filter. Also, there are many times that I turn the filter slightly to hold back more light if the sun is to the right or the left of the composition. I strongly recommend Singh-Ray filters as they have less of a color cast then the Cokin filters, however, they are more expensive. If you want to do more sunset or sunrise photos I strongly suggest paying the extra and I suggest starting with the two I mentioned. You can go from there. You will defiantly get hooked on using them. You can get them at

I highly recommend getting the 2-stop soft and 3-stop hard filters. With that being said, I know that we all have budgets and they are not the cheapest filters. I would probably start with the 2-stop grad soft step one. I have found that I used that one the most and it was the one that I really started with. It is also the most forgiving. What I mean by that is if you do not use the 3-stop hard stop grad filter carefully, the line where you placed the filter will be evident in your photographs. The soft-step line in the photographs is much harder to discern, if you can at all. For my last three uploads to Betterphoto, I used the 2-stop soft grad filter with. It worked perfectly in those situations.

In my opinion, the order in which you should purchase the grad filters:

  1. 2-stop soft
  2. 3-stop hard
  3. 3-stop soft
  4. 2-stop ND filter (full ND, no grad)
  5. 3-stop ND filter (full ND, no grad)
  6. 1-stop soft
  7. 4 or 5 stop hard
  8. 1-stop hard

Of course, if you were to buy all 8, you are looking at $800. I only have the first three and it has taken me 3 years to accumulate those. I try to buy one a year."

Ken’s words…I just purchased the 2-stop soft filter. Previously, I had the screw-on filter. It cost $99. I will experiment later. Have a good evening.


1 comment:

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