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Photography Question 

A Must Have Filter??


My wife and I will be travelling up the coast from where we live to the Carmel/Monterey area. I am looking forward to hopefully capturing some amazing photos up there.

My question to you all is....Is there a "must have" filter that I should purchase for this trip. Currently, the only filters that I own are a basic polarizer and a UV Haze filter.

For the beautiful beach scenes, sunsets, etc. that I anticipate seeing, I'm just wondering if there is a particular filter that perhaps might really enhance some of the scenery in that area. Perhaps a ND filter, a color enhancing filter, or anything else??

Thanks in advance for your suggestions!

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1/30/2006 10:47:34 AM

Bob Fately   Hi, Brian,

You might want to consider a gradiant ND filter as well - that is, one where the ND covers about half the filter. The purpose here would be to help with sunset-type shots, where the foreground (beach, pier, whatever) will be relatively dark in comparison to the sky/sunset. If this differential is more than 6 or so stops, the film (or chip) won't have the dynamic range to capture details in both the bright areas and the darker ones.

So, by using a graded ND, with the dark portion on the top half of the lens, you are effectively bringing the sky area into closer range of the luminance of the foreground.

These filters can be had in standard circular mounts (where the filter is half clear, half ND with the zoe of transition in the center) or in the 4x4 type squares that are used with the filter holders. Those that prefer the latter point out that by using a mounted oversized square filter you can position that transition zone at the optimal place, rather than have to compose the shot with the horizon basically in the center.

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1/30/2006 11:19:31 AM

Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
  Are you shooting film or digital? In my opinion, shooting digital reduces the need for many filters traditionally used in film photography.

A polarizer is still just as useful for film or digital. I think the next most useful filter would be a graduated ND filter. They are very useful for balancing the exposure of a bright sky in a landscape picture.


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1/30/2006 11:21:18 AM

Brian    Thanks Chris and Bob for your responces!

Chris, I am using a film camera. (I know, I need to join the rest of the world and buy a digital camera. Ha) I just like shooting film. Maybe someday that will change.

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1/30/2006 11:33:17 AM

Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
  Brian, I wasn't trying to pass judgement in any way, I promise. There's enough of that around here already. ;-)

Have a great trip!


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1/30/2006 12:23:56 PM

Glen Taylor   The grad ND filter is almost a necessity at sunrise/sunset. A polarizer or warming polarizer is useful. I don't know if an enhancing filter would be of that much use to you at the beach (pops red colors). Most people use those for autumn foliage.

Before Photoshop, some folks liked to try colored (tobacco, purple, blue, etc.) grad filters at the ocean to create unusual sunrise/sunset color effects, but that seems to have died out.

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1/30/2006 1:16:11 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  Hello Brian,

Just a suggestion; drop the UV haze filter. I've yet to see one actually cut haze. LOL
On the contrary, stacking a filter over the UV usually leads to distortion..(air-glass-air-glass medium)

I've seen several tests..unless the UV filter is perfect glass, (most are not) leave it off.
Most people use one for scratch protection.
I've never scratched a glass is pretty durable and resilient to scratching.


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1/30/2006 6:43:31 PM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  hey brian,
they don't make a patience filter.or a weather filter.
have you checked out the tides?fronts coming in?moon phases?
i use no filters on sunset pics.i have been thinking of the grad density filter, but just to get the reflections in the water to match the sky.and you don't have to have the sun in the picture to get great colors.
a simple set up and patience will give you good results.
i have many examples in my gallery for those to see with just basic settings.
if you meter, use a medium or mundane cloud for your settings, and then recompose for the shot.never center the sun and won't like the results.
cough, cough, sam

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1/30/2006 7:39:08 PM

Larry T. Miller   A graduated ND filter (2 Stops is pretty safe) and a Warming filter. That Warming filter does wonders on early morning and late evening shots.

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3/27/2006 12:42:49 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Greetings Brian: So you're traveling up to my neck of the California woods eh? Lately, the last few weeks, I'd plan to shoot everything in black and white because of all the rain, especially the coastal scenes since the surf has been pretty dynamic and dramatic.

I don't think much of graduated ND filters. My own preference, especially in this area with radiant blue skies, is graduated sky-blue filters like the ones made by Hitech or Lee, I think. You get a purer blue using those over a N.D. filter and they come in grads. Look at, among other places.

Beach scenes, wharf areas (we have 3 in Monterey), and city scenes like Carmel and Pacific Grove, don't require much filtration either other than say an 81B warming filter or what's called a "Redhancer" which does a lot to make colors on foliage snap.

Polarizers? I rarely use one of those anyway, but for reducing glare on the water, sure, a circular polarizer is good to have around. Personally, I think some reflections on the water give it some interest and ummmm...depth.

You may not have seen this happen up here, but at sunset the sky conditions change very very quickly from bright clear to fog bank to solid overcast within a few minutes. It also depends on where you're situated. Over by Asilomar State Beach, it's pretty windy and conditions change more quickly there than at say the Wharf II in Monterey.

Best place to have color film processed here whether for C-41 or E-6 (dip and dunk) is Fry Photographic at 215 Pearl Street (near Tyler) in Monterey. Myrick's on Fremont in Monterey also does a good job with C-41.

Don't forget to try the pasta dishes at the Sand Bar and Grill on the Commercial fishing wharf (Del Monte at Figueroa St. Monterey). The food is great and reasonable and the views at sunset are beautiful fishing boat-harbor scenes, complete with sea otters and seals). Subject to weather availability ;>)

Have a safe trip. Don't get caught on the rocks when the tide comes in.
The e-mail address below should find me from time-to-time if there's anything else I can suggest for ya.

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3/27/2006 6:27:28 PM

Brian    Hello everyone.

I just wanted to thank you all for your responses.

My wife and I returned from our trip to Monterey this past weekend. We had a great time! The scenery there is simply amazing. We drove the 17 mile drive, visited the wharfs, the lighthouse in Pacific Grove, we drove through Pebble Beach, and we stolled through Carmel. We went to the Farmers Market last Tuesday night on Alvarado in Monterey. On the night we arrived in Monterey, which was Monday the 20th, we even experienced a winter storm, complete with snow, hail, rain, and sleet! Incredible! The locals told us that this was NOT normal!
I shot about 4 rolls of film. Aside from using my polarizer filter once in a while, I basically just shot with no special filters. Oh, I take that back. I did buy a blue colored filter from a Wolf camera shop in Carmel. I took a few night time shots of the beach in Carmel. I am picking up my pics tomorrow (Tuesday the 28th). I hope that they turn out OK.
Anyway, thanks again everyone, and if you ever get a chance, I would definitely recommend visiting this beautiful area in California.


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3/27/2006 10:02:43 PM

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