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Sobia Chishti
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/13/2002
 

Filters for Shooting Landscapes


Hi everyone,

I am expanding my filter collection to shoot landscapes. I am looking to get some neutral density and graduated nuetral density filters. But am confused what number should I buy. ND .3, .6 or .9 ? I know they cut down amount of light by every increase in number. My question is if I have to buy only one of them, would I better be off with .9?
And does Graduated ND also comes in .3,.6,.9? I would really appreciate advice in this matter. Thanks.


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9/5/2009 8:44:15 AM

 
R K Stephenson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/5/2007
  If money is no object the Singh-Ray VariND is awesome. There are a lot of more reasonably priced alternatives. For example, Lee Filters offers a set of individual .3, .6, .9 filters and a filter holder that allows you to stack them. I believe Cokin does, too.
Cheers,
RK

P.S.: For completeness I should mention that each of the filters I listed, except the VariND, are available as both regular and graduated filters.


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9/5/2009 9:47:13 AM

 
Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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Hello Sobia,
I only have a .3 GND filter and it works fine for the rare times I actually use it. The .3 does a good job in very bright sun. Makes images a little less contrasty and allows for slower shutter speeds. I have never tried a .9 but am a little intrigued to maybe try one :)
I tend to use my circular polarizer more as I shoot a lot of waterfalls and landscapes with water, and the CP works great for cutting down on reflections, making the sky a little bluer and allowing more detail in darker areas. I like looking through the viewfinder as I rotate the filter to see what effect it is having.
I have the B&W Kaeseman 77mm CP and though it's not cheap (about $175), neither is the L glass I am putting it on :)
And the tripod... best bring a good tripod when using GND and CP filters as you will lose some stops requiring longer shutter speeds.
I recently shot some waterfalls in the bright 1 o'clock sun using the CP filter and several exposures to make an HDR image. I wonder how a .9 GND would have looked for this image?


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9/5/2009 9:59:21 AM

 
Sobia Chishti
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/13/2002
  R.K.S and Carlton, Thanks for your response. Singh Ray is really expensive! Actually I have a EF 17-40mm L and I am looking to buy 70-200mm. Do I really need ND and Grad. ND for both of them?

Can Circular Polrizer and ND be screwed on to each other for a better effect?


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9/5/2009 11:10:15 AM

 
Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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  Hi Sobia,
If you are getting the 70-200 f/2.8, it has the same 77mm filter size as the 17-40mm (the 70-200 f/4 models are a smaller lens). I use my filters more for landscape with my 17-40mm but I have also used my CP on my 100-400mm lens when shooting on the open water on whale watching trips. The CP filter really helps with reflections and clarity. I have 5 L lenses and they are all 77mm so my CP will work on any of them:)
Singh Rays are expensive but do you want to place an inferior filter over your expensive L glass ? That's why I use B+W, as they are very high quality as well. This is also the reason I don't use UV or other filters, I prefer not to have anything between my L glass and my subject with the exception of a quality ND or CP filter because these are the only ones that cant be duplicated in Photoshop. Warming and cooling filters are no longer necessary as PS can imitate them.
About stacking filters, I would think you would start getting some degradation in image quality with filters stacked on each other, but I don't know this from experience since I've never tried it.
I would start with either a quality circular polarizer or .6 ND filter.
I hope this helps.


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9/5/2009 11:54:03 AM

 
Ken Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/11/2005
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  Sobia, I enjoy shooting landscapes and I really love the Singh-Ray 3-stop "soft" graduated ND filter ... you mention they're expensive, but if you already have the 17-40mm L lens and will get the 70-200mm L, then you shouldn't skimp on the filters.
I use the Graduated ND filter to hold back the brigher sky, as your camera's auto exposure will be fooled and either expose the skies, leaving more silhouettes in the foreground, or expose the foreground and wash out the sky. Although you can use the Cokin mounts for these rectangular filters, I usually just hand-hold them in front of the lens and move them up/down to get the desired effects.
I also have a circular polarizer, a must for landscapes. And I have the .3 and .9ND filters. But the only times I've used them are to really cut the light so I can get a slow exposure of moving water in bright sunlight.
To summarize: get the circular polarizer (screw-on) and the Singh-ray 3-stop ND filter. You won't regret it!


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9/5/2009 1:28:18 PM

 
R K Stephenson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/5/2007
  Here's something that is apparently new from Singh-Ray: a variable neutral density filter with polarizing built-in. Hmmmm...less glass in front of the lens?

http://www.singh-ray.com/varinduo.html


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9/5/2009 2:05:45 PM

 
Sobia Chishti
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/13/2002
  Okay every one, you made a point. I will buy Singh ray GND, may be .6 or .9 soft edge. But I searched for their ND and didn't find any other than the VariND??

I was looking at the cokin p series holder system to go with it but a couple of reviews were not good. What would you say about it? Can I just hand hold the filter infront of the lens?

And the circular polarizer...has to be Singh-Ray too?

Thank you so much for your help.


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9/5/2009 9:59:32 PM

 
Ken Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/11/2005
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  Here's the link for the Singh-Ray Graduated ND filters:

http://www.singh-ray.com/grndgrads.html

They have different options; e.g., 2-stop hard, 2-stop soft, 3-stop hard, 3-stop soft, reverse, etc...it can be confusing. It's the Galen Rowell ND Graduated Filters for the Cokin P holder. Click the down arrow where it says to indicate the graduation. I use this one: 3 F-stop, soft step grad.

You can purchase your CP from any vendor.

I always hand-hold mine, but others like the cokin adapter cause it frees up their other hand..


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9/6/2009 6:44:12 AM

 
Allen M. Aisenstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/3/2005
 
 
  Bridesmaid Falls (d201)
Bridesmaid Falls (d201)
Photo was taken at Bushkill falls on the PA side of the Pocono Mountains. Exposure was over 1 second at f 16. ND 0.6 Filter plus Circular Polarizer was used. ISO 100. 18-70mm Nikkor lens. Tripod of course.
© Allen M. Aisenstein
Nikon D200 Digital...
 
 
Hi Sobia, After many years of landscape photography, I have found that the most valuable filters to me are the Circilar Polarizer, Grad ND-2 stop, and a 0.6 ND Filter. Warming, cooling and intensifying filters are no longer necessary because of photo-editing techniques such as in PhotoShop. I sometimes stack the ND Filters with the Circular Polarizer to adjust reflections and get a slower shutter speed as need to shoot moving water. Now I do believe in "good" glass. All of my lenses are Nikkors. I've heard the arguments for using high-end filters, but I have not seen any discernable difference with using an expensive brand of filter rather than a less expensive Hoya or Tiffen. Good luck! -Allen


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9/22/2009 7:42:04 AM

 
Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
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  While I have two Cokin P sized holders for my smaller 2 stop and 3 stop soft GRD filters, they do not fit some of my newer wide angle lenses without risking vignetting. Therefore, I recently purchased a single 4x6 3 stop soft Singh-Ray GRD filter which can be placed horizontally, vertically or diagonally over the lens. I also ordered, sight unseen, a Lee Holder with a 77mm adapter size, to fit my 24-70mm f2.8L, 24-105mm f4L, and 300mm f4L lenses. This will also fit your 17-40 f4L and 70-200 f2.8L lenses.

I love my low dispersion glass, and wouldn't put anything but the finest filters in front of it, because I don't want anything to interfere with the sharpness for which I dearly paid. I thought it was my eyes that were getting soft (and they are) but, these lenses make all the difference in the world when I have an 8 pound ballast (a gallon jug of water or sand) on my tripod to make it steadfast.

After much research and talking with myriad people both here and at Photo-net, I decided to purchase the Lee holders, which are said to be much easier to use with the filter. Although I have hand-held the filter over the lens. Hand-holding the filter is tough when a long exposure is involved because placement is everything. I've found it challenging enough to look through the preview while hand-holding the filter and then trying to press the shutter without a third hand. This takes practice.

I've been told that the soft GRD is better is one's image if it is not always on a straight horizon line, and mine aren't. Also, the soft GRD are more forgiving and therefore easier to use.

Or, you can take a course from Lewis Kemper at: http://tinyurl.com/yd64rsh to teach you to use the computer to stimulate the GRD filter. This course is on my wish list.

But, I wanted to take Brenda Tharp's course first. And for me, that meant a 3 GRD soft filter, which I need to learn to use better.

Hope to "see" you there.
~Bunny


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9/23/2009 9:54:42 PM

 
Jeffrey R. Whitmoyer   Lots of good advice here. In addition, pick up a copy of the current (Oct.) issue of Outdoor Photographer for an article on filters for landscapes and fall colors.
Jeff


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9/24/2009 4:44:40 PM

 
Sobia Chishti
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/13/2002
  Thanks everyone for your valuable advice. When I first started using 17-40L, I fell in love with L lense. The sharpness and clarity is AMAZING. And I agree with you all that you don't want to trade that sharpness even a bit.
I have singh-Ray GND 3-stop soft step filter. I am going to order their Neutral Polarizer, but I am going for their Sproket mount which can fit in my cokin filter holder with ND filters and this whole system would work with my both lenses. The lady at singh-ray told me, I will have to be careful when sliding in both these filters to avoid scratches. Just wondering what do you think about that?
My 70-200 f4L has arrived and it is so long to handhold filters while looking in the view finder. Truth is this lens scares me so much, I haven't even tried it seriously!

Again THANKS A LOT for your time and advice.


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9/30/2009 8:08:46 AM

 
Sobia Chishti
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/13/2002
  Oh totaly forgot about this one. Do I need a tripod collar for 70-200mm IS? I have a Manfrotto tripod with ballhead.

I hope I could earn back my investment!


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9/30/2009 8:14:17 AM

 
R K Stephenson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/5/2007
  I thought all Canon's 70-200s came with a tripod collar, but if yours didn't I would recommend it. They're pretty well balanced near the center of gravity.

I had a Giotto ballhead a while back that wandered quite a bit because the collar didn't fit well on the quick-release.


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9/30/2009 8:29:17 AM

 
Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
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  When I bought my 70-200.00 mm f4L lens, all lenses came with a tripod collar.
Because some photographers use Really Right Stuff tripod equipment which reduces vibration. There is movement in the collar around the lens if it isn't tighten down all the way. When you are searching for the sharpest image, you ultimately go for the best tripods... that is, if you have the money.

I don't have that much money, so I recommend getting the tripod collar and making certain it is tightened down enough when you shoot.

Really Right Stuff is like Dell in a way, they make customized ball heads and gear with special features for tripods. It is the best money can buy.

When you are just starting out, you really don't know what you need or don't need. So, I would start with a good tripod collar and make certain it is tight, but not so tight that you cannot loosen it when to go from horizontal to vertical. And, get a well built tripod which will reduce vibrations and hold your camera steady in low light. Also, use a ballast to keep the tripod steady if there's wind. (I use a one gallon milk container, which I fill with water or sand. That makes my tripod 8 pounds heavier.)

Once you know the problems with equipment you have and know where you want to go to make images as perfect as you are able, then check out RRS.


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9/30/2009 2:25:51 PM

 
Sobia Chishti
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/13/2002
  Stephenson and Bunny, I have bought my lens from B&H and it did not come with a tripod collar. Canon sell it separately for around $140.00 !!


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10/1/2009 5:59:37 AM

 
R K Stephenson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/5/2007
  Yikes! Somebody else pointed out to me in BPMail that the f/4 version of Canon's 70-200 does not come with a collar.

Perhaps the best way to decide if you need one is to work with the lens on your tripod without the collar and see if you have any problems.


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10/1/2009 7:13:46 AM

 
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