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Photography QnA: Camera Filters

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Category: Best Photographic Equipment to Buy : Camera Filters

What are camera filters used for? Ask this question and more in this Q&A. You can also check out For Sharp Results, Try a Filter!, an article written by Jim Miotke. Or take a look at Tony Sweet's The Four Essential Filters for Film and Digital Cameras online photography course.

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Photography Question 
Debra L. E.

member since: 6/21/2005
  1 .  Characteristics of a Circular Polarizing Filter
I recently purchased a Hoya circular polarizing filter. While hand-holding the filter, should I be able to see the difference in color as I turn it? It looks like a clear piece of glass to me. My pics with it do not seem affected either. Thank you for your help over the last couple of years. Thanks to you guys, my husband saw an answer you had given me about camera choices, and a few months later, he upgraded me to a Nikon D80. I am a happy woman!

4/15/2008 2:22:31 AM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Your eyes and brain "correct" the effect, but you still should be able to see the difference when you turn the ring while looking through the viewfinder. You can also watch the TTL metering system in your camera adjust when you turn the ring.

4/15/2008 3:51:45 AM

Ken Smith
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Ken
Ken's Gallery

member since: 6/11/2005
  Find a reflection in a window ... as you rotate the polarizer, you should see the reflection disappear, or at least be reduced. Same for water. And if the sky is blue, you should see it deepen. It's very visible. When you say "turn it", are you simply holding the polarizer in your hand, without the camera? Or is it screwed onto your lens, and you're turning the outer ring? It sounds like you have a straight ND filter, but I doubt that's the case.

4/15/2008 4:04:30 AM

Debra L. E.

member since: 6/21/2005
  Thanks, Bob C. and Ken S.. I have held the filter in my hand looking at the sky through the filter. And I have taken pictures in sucession, rotating the filter 1/4 turn, I see no difference. As it was dark when I arrived home I could not try your suggestion with the sky. ( I will tomorrow, though) I also looked at the monitor while rotating the outer ring and the camera did not change the settings. Is there a circular ND filter? I bought this filter online and was shocked when I could not see any difference when I have read many photography facts that tout the darking of the blue in the sky snd the reflective surfaces. Again thanks for your responses.

4/15/2008 6:12:41 PM

Ken Smith
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Ken
Ken's Gallery

member since: 6/11/2005
  I've never heard of a circular ND filter. You can do a google search on circular polarizers; e.g., http://www.offrench.net/photos/articles/polarizing_filter.php

You might take your camera and the filter into a reputable camera store and have someone knowledgeable on polarizers check yours out...

How much did you pay? The good ones can cost upwards of $100.

4/15/2008 7:01:19 PM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  Debra, I'm thinking it was too dark to see so wait till morning. I just grabbed a couple of mine and in the dark without lights on I couldn't see anything.lol

4/15/2008 8:57:46 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  You can look at your bathroom faucet.

4/15/2008 9:33:01 PM


BetterPhoto Member
  It'll work with the mirror. Anything except metal. Polarizers have no effect on reflections on metal.

4/17/2008 3:42:33 PM

Debra L. E.

member since: 6/21/2005
  Thaks agin for all your help. I have determined that I have a "cheap" filter. I only paid around $40 for it...I thought by buying the brand name, the cheap price would not lessen the quality. I have tried all the numerous test you gave and there is no difference. Thanks again for helping me to leearna valuable lesson in buying cheap equipment.

4/18/2008 2:23:19 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  I thought Hoya was a good brand. Maybe you got a packaging mistake.
Does it say CPL along the rim of it?

4/18/2008 5:49:57 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  Heliopan or B&W are high quality filters. Never understood spending $2,000 on a lens and trying to save $40 on a filter to cover the expensive glass.

4/18/2008 8:53:02 AM

  Debra, There is a quick check for how good a polarizing lens is. If you know someone who has a good lens or good polarizing sunglasses, hold them together and turn one, at some point if they are good lens you should not be able to see through them or very little. They work by passing light at one angle only so when they are at 90° to each other no light can pass. Reflected light that is at a different angle is stopped, this is how they work. Polarize-rs at times do not appear to work because there is very little reflected or scattered light to stop. My lens is a $40 SUNPAK and it works very well. Also a camera shop can tell you very quickly if the lens is any good. Hope this might be of some help.
Denny

4/18/2008 9:31:02 AM

Debra L. E.

member since: 6/21/2005
  Again, thanks. Gregory, on the rim of the filter reads HOYA 62mm PL-CIR. Denny, thanks so much for your excellent description of how the filter works. I truly understand now why walking around the house in the evening would not have shown me any difference. This site always has friendly people who are so willing to help amateurs on limited budgets. I confess to being both. But, thank goodness their are people like you around for us!

4/19/2008 10:30:32 AM

Ken Smith
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Ken
Ken's Gallery

member since: 6/11/2005
  Debra, I can't tell from all your posts, if you have actually screwed the filter onto your camera, then rotated it to see how it does with a water reflection, or window reflection, or even a blue sky. The polarizer is definitely suited for daytime photography. From what's written on the filter, it sure sounds like a polarizer.

4/19/2008 10:58:55 AM

Alexander 

member since: 8/18/2006
  I was always given to understand that the polarizer only really worked when the sun or light was at 90 degrees to you. As in, to the side and not in front or behind you.

4/22/2008 5:12:56 AM

Steve Parrott
LightAnon.com

member since: 9/4/2004
  Alexander finally gave you a bottom line answer. A polarizer does NOT have an effect at all times. It is only effective when you are in certain relative positions with the sun. You can certainly hold the filter in front of your eyes and see the effect. You do not have to have it mounted on the camera. If the sun and your position are correct, you will see a dramatic effect of darkening of the sky and elimination of reflections. Sometimes just turning your body 90 degrees can make a huge difference as to the effect of the filter. I actually have a small Kinko circular polarizer filter that mounts into my flash hot shoe. I can take a quick look with it to see if there is a need to mount a filter on the camera or not.
steve

4/22/2008 7:24:56 AM

Alan N. Marcus

member since: 3/4/2006
  The polarizing filter (correct is polarizing screen) is the most useful filter available. 1. It darkens blue sky thus causing clouds to stand out. 2. It reduces reflections. 3. Penetrates haze. 4. Acts as a natural density filter.

To understand how it works: As water waves travel (direction) the waves undulate only in an up and down direction (plane of vibration). Light waves undulate also however they are not restricted to any single direction. Light wave undulate in all planes, up-down, left-right, diagonally, in fact every possible angle. This is the nature of unpolarized light.

In 1669 it was observed that a view through a crystal of calcium carbonate produced a double image. In 1808 it was observed that reflections from a glass window did not split off into two images. Augustin Frresnel in 1814 explained the how and why. In 1930 Edwin Land produced polarizing filters by embedding microscopic crystals into sheets of plastic.

The filter acts as if it is ruled with dark lines all running in the same direction spaced very close together. When light rays transit the filter, only these rays that vibrate in line with the rulings can pass. All other rays are blocked. This action is like kids holding a jump rope passing it through a missing picket in a fence. They can pluck the rope up and down and it vibrates freely but if they pluck it sideways it collides with a picket on left or right and the vibration is dampened.

Light is normally unpolarized. When a light ray hits something it is likely reflected and reflected light is likely polarized meaning its rays undulate in only one plane (direction). This is true only if the reflecting surface is a dielectric (nonconductor of electricity). Most metals are conductors so polarizing screens don’t work on them. However many metals are painted or have a natural protective coat of transparent oxide which is a dielectric. Pond water with low mineral content is a poor conductor as is glass and painted surfaces are dielectrics thus the polarizer works on many substances.

The maximum darkening effect on sky occurs when taking a picture at right angles to the sun. For maximum effect, you must have the ability to rotate the filer about its axis as you observe. This is true because the filter screens out all but one plane of vibration and the plane you need to allow to transverse is a variable.

Many cameras use polarizing filters inside their auto-focus and auto-exposure optical path. For these models, a polarizing filter interferes and causes havoc. The circular polarizer is two filters sandwiched together. The first does the polarization rejecting rays except those vibrating in just one plane. Now that the job is done, the second filter scrabbles and thus unpolarizes the light that is presented to the camera lens. This action allows the camera to operate normally while still getting full benefit from the polarizing screen.

Alan Marcus (marginal technical gobbledygook)
ammarcus@earthlink.net

4/22/2008 8:43:39 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  Alan...did you have to research that or is it in that head already???? You should be teaching over at UCI.

4/22/2008 10:14:14 AM

Alan N. Marcus

member since: 3/4/2006
  Thanks Oliver A.

In addition to my regular duties, I taught color print and process for many years at the PPA (professional Photographers of America) summer school for continuing education Winona. In my youth I went through a formal apprenticeship as a photo engineer. I was also schooled at Kodak’s MEC and I was granted a license by Kodak to operate under their patens and applications pertaining to color films. I practiced as a photo engineer until I retired 5 years ago. I am now 70 years old. I have never stopped learning or teaching. When I die a pile of photo trivia will surly be left behind. Someone please sweep it under a large automated film developing machine.

Alan Marcus (marginal technical stuff)
ammarcus@earthlink.net

4/22/2008 10:50:16 AM

  Alan, I always appreciate your detailed explanations and I learn a lot from your posts. Maybe you could set up a database for your "pile of trivia". Maybe BetterPhoto could even set up a Alan Marcus Gobbledygook page?

Thanks again Alan

4/22/2008 11:34:37 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  Ken Smith gave her a bottom line answer.

4/22/2008 3:29:55 PM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  Ken's got some great photos too so my vote got to Ken, but Alan for Technical knowledge.

4/23/2008 2:35:26 AM

Dennis Creaghan

member since: 10/21/2002
  It's rather a simple point but no one has mentioned it so I will; remember that the polorizer is most effective 90 degrees from the sun, the closer you turn towards the sun the less polorization effect. Facing directly towards the sun, no effect at all!

Dennis

4/23/2008 1:33:22 PM

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Photography Question 
Sue Cantan

member since: 2/16/2008
  2 .  Polarizing Filter - Light Loss?
The information I have on polarizing filters says that as they absorb light, you need to change the f/stop to compensate for that. In automatic modes, does the camera know there's a filter and do the compensation, or do you need to do it manually?
Thanks

3/21/2008 11:08:35 AM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  SLRs and DSLRs use through-the-lens metering for their auto, semi-auto, and manual modes. The light loss from the polarizer is taken into account automatically. If you are using a separate meter and setting exposure manually, that meter does not see the reduced light through the polarizer so you have to adjust the exposure given by the meter.

3/21/2008 11:27:51 AM

Sue Cantan

member since: 2/16/2008
  Thanks Jon, that makes sense! I'm starting to use some of the modes other than auto on my D50, but am not using a separate meter at this point.

3/21/2008 11:39:23 AM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
 
With spotmetering mode there is no need for separate meters.

3/21/2008 1:50:33 PM

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Photography Question 
Sue McLeod
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/27/2005
  3 .  Neutral Density Filters
Hi Everyone! I am wondering if anyone could advise on whether you can/should use a neutral density filter for portraits on the beach and what to watch out for. I try to shoot in late afternoon so that the sun is behind me (East coast of Australia) but sometimes there is still a lot of glare from the water (and sometimes peope want shots in the morning! Any help would be greatly appreciated.

12/9/2007 4:20:53 PM

Bob Fately

member since: 4/11/2001
  Sue, I don't believe an ND filter would be of help in the situations you describe. The purpose of these filters is to simply cut down on the light entering the lens across the spectrum. On the other hand, if you want to open your lens wider than is possible due to too much ambient light, the ND can help. That is, if you set the ISO to 100 and use the highest shutter speed possible and still have to use f8 to get proper exposure, then an ND filter can be used to cut the light so that you can open to f2.8 or whatever and get less depth of field.
Now, as for glare on the water, you might want to try a polarizing filter. Assuming you use a modern camera, you'll need to get a so-called citcular polarizing (CP) filter (the older linear type polarizers don't allow modern auto-focus systems to work properly). CPs usually also cut light out by 1 to 2 stops, so in a sense, they act as ND filters - but they do much more than that due to the effects of polarization.
Hope that helps.

12/9/2007 9:47:59 PM

Sue McLeod
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/27/2005
  Thanks Bob. I have a CP for my older lens but not for my new ones. Are there some better than others as I never felt I was getting the best out of the old one!

12/9/2007 10:22:09 PM

  Get the better CP filter with multi coating glass. I use mine quite a bit and it is worth the extra $$. I have a B&W Kaesemann & Promaster (both 77mm) that fit 4 of my lenses. They do a great job of cutting reflections off of the water and add color to the sky and a little more detail with darker areas. I also use a tripod and slow shutter speeds which I use for shooting waterfalls but may not be ideal for portraits. You will lose a couple of stops so you may need to increase the ISO a bit to get faster shutter speeds and retain the DOF you want. I tested a few of them and the B&W Kaesemann was the best I have tried.

12/9/2007 11:56:33 PM

Sue McLeod
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/27/2005
  Thanks Carlton! I will have a look at them...

12/10/2007 12:37:32 AM

Respond | Ask Your Own Question
 
Photography Question 
Delano  A. Porchia

member since: 1/2/2007
  4 .  Fluorescent lights
Hello BP family, I do a lot of wedding photography at churches that have florescent lights. Due to the lights, some of my photos have a green tint - glow. Is there a filter I can use to remove that tint?

1/2/2007 10:40:23 AM

Bob Fately

member since: 4/11/2001
  Delano, if you are using a digital camera, then you can set the white balance in-camera with a filter from Expodisc - the disc allows the camera to take a reading from which you can set a custom balance.
If you're using film, then the answer is not so straightforward, because the sad fact is that there is no one color of flourescent lighting. Some tubes are greenish, others are more purple, etc. - you would only be able to tell the difference if you saw them side by side. So without a color temperature meter (not a cheap device to start with) and a pack of gelatin filters you most likely would not be able to correct for the lighting.

If you are allowed to use flash, then a powerful enough flashburst could provide most of the light and, thus, overpower the fluorescents, eliminating the problem.

1/2/2007 11:06:49 AM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  Hi Delano,

if your photos are/were shot in Raw, you can/could change the White Balance in post-processing - i.e., AFTER the fact. If they were shot as JPEGs, you'll have to tweak and hustle in PP. But you'll never get it really right.

1/2/2007 7:22:09 PM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  Maybe you could turn some of them into black-and-whites. That should effectively take care of any WB prob... ;-P

1/2/2007 7:26:37 PM

  Hi Dellano,
If you are mixing strobe with fluorescent light, you have a problem. You can try putting a Rosco Plus Green filter over your light and then use the fluorescent preset on your camera. This only works sometimes. You might try the 1/2 plus green also, since fluorescent lights have a lot of green. If you are only using the church lights, then I would use the fluorescent preset in a digital camera. This works well in my camera. By the way, my next Instructor's Insights blog at BetterPhoto is about fluorescent lights! Thanks, John

1/3/2007 10:04:52 AM

Steve Parrott
LightAnon.com

member since: 9/4/2004
  I also do wedding photography, and always feel half sick when I see fluorescent lighting. I make it a point to tell the couple that the lighting is a photographers worst nightmare and to expect there will be some color issues with the prints. You may suggest that shooting all black and white would actually look much better. At the least, get a good grey card to use for test shots, then use RAW in your camera, (if using digital). The grey card will allow you to set a correct white balance in the RAW converter that you can use in the other photos. Even then, there can be some greenish cast that may need some "warming" adjustments. I HATE fluorescent lights!!!

1/11/2007 8:11:01 AM

Delano  A. Porchia

member since: 1/2/2007
  I spoke with a very reliable sale person at the lab I use to process my photos about what would be good when in a situation with fluorescent lights and he suggested that I get this (ExpoDisc White Balance Filter). Does anyone have experiance using this?

1/12/2007 9:08:59 AM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  Imo the Expodisc is snake-oil! Slowing down your photo flow considerably, and basically a screamingly expensive piece of plastic.

But don't take my word for it. Look at what other have to say about it:
http://www.betterphoto.com/searchResults.asp
http://www.photocamel.com/index.php/topic,2888.0/all.html

1/12/2007 9:30:50 AM

Allan Saunders

member since: 11/4/2005
  I agree with Bob. I purchased the ExpoDisc a couple of months ago. It has solved all of my white balance issues. It is on the top of camera bag, right next to my camera body. Great investment!

1/12/2007 11:46:45 AM

Respond | Ask Your Own Question
 
Photography Question 
Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Carlton
Carlton's Gallery
carltonwardphoto.com

member since: 12/13/2005
  5 .  Circular Polarizer Filters
How much difference do circular polarizer filters make when shooting landscape/outdoor pictures? I currently have UV filters on my 17-40mm or my 100-400mm L lenses for protection, but read that the circular polarizers add richness of color and contrast with clouds and sky images. How much difference is there between the B&W brand and the Hoya?

12/31/2006 2:31:30 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Well, actually, polarizing filters cut glare and reflections by polarizing the light source, usually sunlight. Color-enhancing filters, like 81 series, provide richer colors.
The problem using polarizers to do that is they tend to block up the shadow details by making them much darker and if your meter isn't reading the lighting correctly, you'll probably start getting underexposures because polarizers tend to fool built-in matrix meters.
As for using UV filters for lens protectors, you're really much better off to use a lens hood or compendium shade. UV filters are to filter out UV light at high altitudes. Yes I know, I know, you need to put something to protect your lens. This is pretty much of a myth, probably started by the guys at Tiffen or Hoya to sell more UV filters.
And, by the way, you probably wouldn't notice any appreciable difference between B+W or Hoya or Tiffen. While the glass in B+W is probably Schott optical glass, where you'd see a difference is in the brass rings B+W uses that makes them expand and contract less in cold weather shooting, thus less prone to getting stuck on a lens.
If you want richness in clouds, get either a Sky Blue or neutral density series or combinations of both. In fact, given the size of your lenses, I recommend that you just get a resin system, like a Hitech, Lee, Sailwind, a Cokin P???? (maybe), etc., and a universal filter holder that has a 77mm ring. Then you can stack multiple resins (which are excellent these days), and play with their effect. But a polarizer ain't what you need unless you've got flare or glare. The effect you want is a secondary effect with a polarizer, not its primary purpose, and lose the UV filters for a lot of reasons including the fact that added glass without any utility tends to cause more problems than it solves.
Also, the coatings of modern lenses are pretty resiliant from scratches, and the gaskets help prevent dust and grit from entering the lens itself. Just clean it when it gets dirty. If your lens suffers an impact because you carried it carelessly and the impact was strong enough to shatter the UV filter, chances are it would have been sufficient to shatter the outer lens element anyway.
Take it light and Happy New Year ;>).
Mark

12/31/2006 4:33:29 PM

  Thank you Mark,
You answered another question I had with using a filter at all. It does seem a little silly to pay for quality lens and then stick another optic in front of it. I always use my lens hoods anyway. I also do like shadow details and want to get the best photos I can without having to tweak them in PS.
I have read a lot of these threads for information and you are so Knowledgeable and enthusiastic to share with everyone. You should be on BP's payroll. I will consider the resin system or other filter options but for now, I am happy to be more minimalist and try to get the best exposure I can with what I have. We have a natural filter here in Seattle area anyway with so many overcast days.
Thank you again Mark and have a Happy New Year.

12/31/2006 5:47:34 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  My pleasure Carlton and thanks for your well-wishes. Oh and I'll pass that suggestion on to BP. If you get into resin, let me know. My preference is Hitech but I'm a bit biased since I helped the guy who started the company, a British fellow named Andrew Skilling, test the system way back when. I like it a lot, especially the blue grads and color enhancers. Here's a link to one Hitech distributor web site. Alan Green's actually, who's a good guy and prices are pretty reasonable but I think you can do better at B&H.
http://www.visualdepartures.com/mainfram.html

Oh and BTW, I know what yo mean. My sister lives on Bainbridge and works in Seattle. Yep !! She thinks if they don't sell it at REI Coop or Nordstrom Rack then no one needs it.

Well, I guess I gotta go celebrate or something.

You're welcome again and best to you and yours too Carlton. Be well, be happy and prosperous in the coming yearS. Mark

12/31/2006 6:05:05 PM

  I must say Mark is a wealth of information and a great help all the time!! :) But I would differ on one point from personal experience... maybe I am just in crazier places where things can be a little more treacherous as you go but twice many years apart once in Lebanon and the other time in Iraq while shooting Saddam's palace I tripped and the UV lens was destroyed but my lens was saved because that lens cover took the impact and there was not a scratch on my actual lens. I can't tell you how thankful I was and how much money that saved me!!($1,200 and $1,600) I will always be in favor of a UV lens not because of the UV but because it has saved me twice now. Accidents do happen no matter how careful you are sometimes. Just my thoughts. :) But I would always agree with you that Mark is a great help to everyone and give generously of his wealth of knowlege and we are all thankful for that!!! Happy New Year!

1/2/2007 7:44:21 AM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  Rule of thumb:
don't stack filters!
Use only one at a time.
(Unless they're ND filters).

1/2/2007 7:50:40 AM

  Wow, She-She,
What a great gallery - I am in awe of Bailey - she is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your experience with using the filter as a protective piece - so maybe I should keep mine on since a I am usually trekking through the forest & rough terrains and the possibility is increased that a fall or drop of my $1600 lens could easily happen.
The really weird thing is that I have had to remove my filter to clean both filter & lens as little particles of dust some how get into the space between them ????

1/2/2007 8:05:03 AM

  Well Thank you Carlton, you are too kind! And I agree with you about Bailey she IS a beauty both inside and out.
I have had to remove my UV filter to clean between them every so often also...not sure why that is..it does seem weird doesn't it. But to me a small price to pay although seemingly stange how dust can get between them.

1/2/2007 8:10:18 AM

Stephen J. Dyer

member since: 8/18/2004
  I would keep the UV filters.
I use my camera in pretty inhospitable places, climbing over rocks, walking through bush, salt spray, dust storms, etc. and over the last 2 years have a number of small scratches on my UV filters. These would have been on my lens if the filters were not in place.
We had an SLR at work for general employee use for about 10 years, would have been used about once or twice a week, a couple of years back (pre digital) I thought I would give it a clean up, you ought have seen the scratches in the UV filter, it was totally covered in fine scratches, mostly likely from incorrect cleaning.

1/15/2007 3:45:41 PM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  Hey Carlton, I enjoy reading Mark's reply's since he's much more knowledgeable about photography than I am. That being said I think that in certain circumstances a UV filter is a benefitial insurance policy. I mentioned previously that while photographing the Nascar Race at Las Vegas Motorspeedway last year a rock was kicked up off the track and shattered my UV on my Canon 17-40L. The filter was a Heliopan and cost about $100 but it saved the lens. I've got the filters on all my lenses since I shoot motorsports and at the beach often. So I would have to say I think they're worth the money in certain circumstances (one thing to remember is that my 17-40L, 24-70 2.8 & 70-200 2.8IS are all 77MM). Lastly, She-She I need your address cause I want to move next door to you and date the neighbor.JK

1/15/2007 10:18:41 PM

  LOL Oliver get in line!!

1/15/2007 11:11:31 PM

 
 
  Laka Sammamish, Wa
Laka Sammamish, Wa
1/160, f/5.6, iso100, 100mm
 
 
I agree with all of the responses in that when I am out hiking through rough terrain or potentially hazardous conditions I will keep my filters on but if at home or shooting in a safe environment, I will take them off. Also, when shooting pics of the moon I noticed that with a filter on, it creates a halo/double image but with the filter off - the image is clear.
I have a lot to learn about filters in general which is why I asked about the circular polarizer. I like Mark's explanation about a HiTech/Resin system but for now I have my hands full with 2 classes I am currently taking. Its snowing again here in Redmond, Wa - so I am going to go out and take a few pictures - with filters on in case I slip and fall. Thanks Everyone.

1/16/2007 8:48:21 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Hey Carlton.
I honestly think that the only good thing about keeping a filter in place while walking in the forest during a snow storm or in rough terrain is to keep the external lens surface dry or less wet. But ultimately, something is going to need to be cleaned off and dryed.

I think the double reflection you got looking at the moon was probably between the external filter and lens glass.

Glad I could help out rather than confuse you. As far as Hitech goes, it's nice from a number of standpoints particularly its versatility, using one holder and one set of filters on all your lenses by just changing out the holder mounting ring. Also saves big dough on buying the same filters of different sizes for different lenses.

Walk safely and carry a big monopod. ;>)
Mark


1/16/2007 10:04:49 AM

Patricia A. Moulton

member since: 11/29/2006
 
 
 
Couldn't you use a circular polarizer as a substitute for the UV filter as protection for your lens? Wouldn't it amount to the same thing as far as protection or am I missing something here?
Thank you for your help! I've checked out your galleries and you are all awesome photographers.

2/21/2007 12:05:32 PM

 
 
  MurHut Falls upper
MurHut Falls upper
1.3s, f/13, iso100, 34mm, circular polarizer & tripod
 
 
Hi Patricia, I ended up getting a circular polarizer as I wanted to shoot waterfalls with a slower shutter speed. The UV filter is designed to cut down the UV rays from the sun while the polarizer does similar, it also rotates to cut down glare & reflection while also allowing more coloration to come through. It also stops down 2 stops. Here is one of the pics I recently took with the circular polarizer.

2/21/2007 12:27:35 PM

Patricia A. Moulton

member since: 11/29/2006
  The reason I ask is that I bought UV filters to protect my lenses when I bought a new camera. However, I recently purchased a circular polarizer and put it on WITH the UV filter. Wow. Things were very dark indeed. I live in San Diego and things are very bright here what with all the water and sunlight and bright skies. I think a polarizer is necessary for outdoor pictures, especially those taken in mid-day. Should I just take off those UV filters? Will I get better pictures? I haven't had much time for experimentation because I'm working a lot right now and am not able to get outside much during the day. I did get outdoors during my lunch yesterday and took some shots with both filters on and had to increase the ISO in order to get a decent picture. Now I'm thinking I should have just removed the UV filter. Let me know what you think please.

Carlton, your waterfall pics are great! I like the fact the trees have kept their natural color.

Patricia

2/21/2007 12:50:16 PM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  "Couldn't you use a circular polarizer as a substitute for the UV filter as protection for your lens? "

Indeed you could, Patricia. All glass acts as a UV filter (so adding a UV filter on top of a - glass - CP is useless; worse: it adds 2 more glass surfaces (both sides), increasing refraction and flare).

BUT: 1) using a circular polarizer can cost you upto 2.5 stops of light (neccessitating much wider apertures, or much slower shutter speeds), and 2) a CP is actually TWO filters, so it adds FOUR more glass surfaces (front and back of each), increasing refraction and flare even more....

I.o.w. use a UV filter in high-UV situations (bright sunlight and clean air, like at sea, on the beach, or at altitude). OR use a CP, which cuts UV just as well. DON'T use both, stacked.

BTW, UV filters have no F-stop penalty. So adding your UV filter on top of your CP was NOT the cause for even darker pictures. Must've been something else. Like the way you turned the front element of the CP.

2/22/2007 10:16:07 AM

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Photography Question 
April Todd

member since: 6/22/2006
  6 .  Using a Polarizing Filter
Hello! I just purchased a Quantaray Circular Polarizer lense and used it today at the beach. I took one picture with it, and the sky was beautiful with so many colors, but the water and sand were really dark. Then, I took it off and took the same picture without it, and the sky didn't have nearly as much color, but the sand and water were the color they should be. I'm an amateur, so not too sure how I can get a happy medium. All I wanted to do was reduce glare, but all of my colors changed! Any help is much appreciated!

12/24/2006 8:11:15 PM

Karim Abiali
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/8/2005
  You should compensate for about 1 stop or so, use bracketing and compare results. Hope this helps.

12/24/2006 9:35:23 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  You did reduce glare. That's why the water and sand were darker.

12/24/2006 10:25:25 PM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  Hi April,
Before you take the picture, take a few seconds to look carefully at the image in the viewfinder. Then slowly turn the front of the polarizing filter (keep looking through the viewfinder at the same time!) and you will effectively SEE the image change!
Basically, the 'darker' the image gets (which you control by turning the front ring), the stronger the polarization effect(s): more color saturation and glare/reflection reduction.
Beach, sand and sky are obvious applications for polarizers. But they are also very useful to control mirror reflections in shop windows and water (pools and ponds).
Polarizers can control glare/reflection in water and glassy materials, but not on metallic surfaces.

12/25/2006 6:07:02 AM

April Todd

member since: 6/22/2006
  Thanks everyone! Appreciate all of your input!

12/25/2006 7:09:22 AM

Mike Rubin
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/15/2004
  Just a note to be careful: As you turn the outer ring of the filter, watch your sky (if it is in the shot), because you may end up with an unnatural darker corner of it compared to the rest of the sky. You want to try to get it uniform. This is probably one of the important and useful filters to own. Later on you may wnat to consider Gratuated Neutral Desnity filters (GND).

12/25/2006 8:57:48 AM

Hans Abplanalp
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/8/2005
  Hi April

Don't forget that the effect is most pronounced at 90 degrees to the sun. There is no effect in line with the sun.

Happy New Year
Hans Abplanalp

12/28/2006 6:15:22 AM

Paul S. Fleming

member since: 4/27/2008
  Hi April, To add to Hans' reply. When using a circular polarizer filter, which is an addition to your gear that every serious shooter should have, make it easy on yourself. Just remember to have the sun on your left or right shoulder and then twist the outer ring until you see what you want through the finder, then fire away. I shot the changing of the tree colors this fall and the tree leaves just popped like they were on fire using the circular polarizer filter, and I don't use Photoshop. The next filter I buy will be the GND. Have fun April, "ps"

12/28/2006 2:57:38 PM

April Todd

member since: 6/22/2006
  I am so happy I asked this question, all of you are so helpful! Much appreciated...

12/29/2006 8:46:51 PM

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Photography Question 
Pam Maddox
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/7/2004
  7 .  Polarizing Filter Vs. Wide-Angle Lens
Just last weekend, I bought a polarizing filter. Last night I attended a photography club and one of the members said "polarizing filters shouldnt be used with wide angle lenses" is this a true statement? It came up when the club was doing a critique on photos and one of them had a photo that had a lot of blue sky and half of the sky was dark blue and other half was a much lighter blue.

11/16/2006 7:08:02 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  A polarizer's effect on a sky - i.e., to darken the blue - depends on the general angle you are to the sun. Thus, a wide-angle view can cause the sky to appear darker in areas within the frame. You don't get a uniform polarization.

11/16/2006 7:29:22 AM

John Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/8/2001
  A much more significant issue is the fact that wide angle lenses used with standard polarizers tend to increase vignetting. That's the black sections in the corners of the frames.

I have a thin polarizer, designed to reduce the problem. Of course it cost $120, rather than the more typical $50-60.

The problem Gregory describes is common whenever you use a polarizer, more noticeable when you shoot landscapes. Many people use wide angle lenses for landscapes exclusively; I find that, unless steps are taken to include something to show perspective and vastness, these can be boring. Try a telephoto - you'll be surprised with what you might get.

11/16/2006 9:36:14 AM

Robert A. Burns
BetterPhoto Member
robertburnsphotography.com

member since: 3/15/2004
  On the other hand, if you are using a polarizer to reduce glare from leaves or wet surfaces, then a thin polarizer may be appropriate for a wide-angle lens. It's not always about darkening the sky.

11/21/2006 10:12:57 AM

  Keep playing/experimenting with it. I use a wide angle often and love the effects of the polarizing filter, on water, sky, foliage, etc. Actually, I keep it on the lens almost constantly. I think you'll be very happy with it.

11/21/2006 5:33:34 PM

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Photography Question 
Calgarey Penn

member since: 10/3/2003
  8 .  Filters for Digital SLR
Hi,
I have been involved with photography for sometime but have never used filters. I now have an Olympus E-Volt 500 which offers a varity of filters to choose from contained withing the camera program. What I benefit from purchasing external filters that screw onto the lens? If so, which ones would you recommend and why?

Thanks very much.

Calgarey

11/9/2006 7:41:27 AM

Bob Fately

member since: 4/11/2001
  Calgarey, the one filter whose effect cannot be replicated in post-processing (like Photoshop) is a polarizing filter, so you might want to think about one of these. You will need to get a so-called "circular polarizer" (which is basically what all the new ones are anyway) in order to let the camera's auto-focus mechanism work properly.
Beyond that, neutral density filters (or gradient versions of them) also allow you to reduce the amount of light (for instance, if you want a slower shutter speed AND shallow depth of field, but it's too bright for both). Or if you take a scenic shot at the beach and the foreground/ocean is much darker than the sky itself then a gradient filter would be helpful.

11/9/2006 7:55:13 AM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  Bob's right. Also, get a UV filter (always in tandem with a lens hood against flare, but never 'stacked' with other filters) to avoid a bluish tinge and to protect the glass and coating of your lens. The effects of all other filters that were used in film photography can be replicated in digital post-processing.

11/9/2006 8:18:24 AM

Calgarey Penn

member since: 10/3/2003
  Thanks for your responses. It sounds like I probably don't need to purchase very many filters. I do use Photshop CS2 and am familiar with the filters available there.

Thanks so much for your advice.

Calgarey

11/9/2006 9:34:46 AM

Deborah Bettencourt

member since: 2/2/2005
  To piggyback another question about the neutral density filters. If you're shooting the beach shot and the foreground/ocean is much darker than the sky would you have the darker part of the filter positioned to cover the sky? I've heard conflicting instructions over time.

Thanks!

11/14/2006 5:56:22 AM

Bob Fately

member since: 4/11/2001
  Deborah, for the scene you describe, one would use a gradient ND filter - this is the type that varies from virtually no filtration on one side to a 2 or 4 stop density on the other.

When using this filter, you would want the ND filter part on the top - effectively filtering out the "excess" light from above the horizon. This is the only way it will work - if you use the filter "upside down" then you'll be darkening the already dark shoreline.

Perhaps the person advising you on that method was referring to view camera work - where the image you focus on in the ground glass is upside down, so it looks like the sky is below the shoreline in the foreground. But even there you would have to use the filter itself with the darker portiono on top.

11/14/2006 7:37:46 AM

Joe Ging
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/31/2006
  On the filter question.......don't know the details of the camera you have but most of the digital SLR's have various white balance settings that eliminate the need for filters beyond Polarizers and Neutral Density. While post processing does give filter "like" effects, unless you are doing and "expression", getting it right in the camera is still where the art lies.

11/14/2006 7:50:04 AM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  OR, Deborah, you can apply "HDRI" here:

you need a rocksteady tripod. Then you meter the problematic parts of the scene. Like foreground, subject, background and sky. Take notes of each. Then compose the image in the cam on the tripod the way you want it. Then make an exposure for each of the settings. Then merge/blend them in PP.
No ND filters required.

About HDRI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HDRI

11/14/2006 8:02:51 AM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  OOPS!
"Deborah" should of course read "Calgary" . . .
Apologies to both.

11/14/2006 8:06:22 AM

  A UV or polarizer filter can also be used to protect your lens. The UV and Polarizer will only make your pictures look better so I keep one or the other on my camera at all times.If you scratch the lens then you will have to spend lots more money on a new lens, but if you have the filter on then you will just have to spend 10 or 15 dollars to replace the Filter.

11/14/2006 8:28:41 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  A filter screwed onto the lens is outside the camera.
No more art?

11/14/2006 9:08:42 AM

Jack Utter

member since: 10/17/2005
  Calgarey,

The FIRST thing you should always remember…the ONLY thing between the Film, or Sensor, and the Subject is the Glass!!! You could buy the 16 MegaPixel 1Ds Mark II ($8,000), attach the EF 50mm F/1.2L ($2,000) Lens and then screw on a junk filter and the image will suffer sever degradation. You’ll never get a quality filter for $10-$15! If, of course, you don’t care what the image looks like or you never print bigger then 4X6, it won’t matter what’s on the front. Buy the highest quality lens (& filters) you can afford and only attach a filter when it’s needed. One of the best filters made is from Singh Ray, but not everyone can justify those.
As far as protecting the front element with a filter, that’s another purpose for the Lens Hood and the main reason they made “Lens Caps”.

Best, Jack

11/14/2006 10:35:45 AM

Calgarey Penn

member since: 10/3/2003
  Thanks everyone...Jack, I understand exactly what you mean and I agree about the lens cap and hood. I always use both.

Everyone has provided great insight and advice. I do appreciate everyone taking time to address my concern.

Calgarey

11/14/2006 11:01:11 AM

Keith Waugh

member since: 6/16/2004
  Calgarey,

Forget the UV filter. Year before last 1,000+ photojournalists were polled and virtually NONE of them ever had a UV filter save a lens from damage. Also, why would you want a cheap piece of glass between your subject and an expensive, precision-made lens?

11/14/2006 12:18:06 PM

John Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/8/2001
  I agree with Keith. Better to use a good lens hood.

As to any filters, why are there now "digital" filters if they are simply pieces of glass. Could this be a way to perpetrate a hoax on the new digital camera owner? Zounds.

But, one thing - when I use my Tiffen multi-coated wide angle [that is thin, so as to avoid vignetting] circular polarizer on my Canon 30D with 17-85 mm IS zoom lens, I sure don't get the great effects I did on film. Blue skies just aren't as deep even though they appear so through the viewfinder. Even Photoshop doesn't help.

Has anyone else experienced this?

11/14/2006 2:57:55 PM


BetterPhoto Member
  I have been photographing football games for 2 years now and I am glad that I had my $10 UV filter on my lens. It has saved my lens from numerous scratches when a football player not paying attention to me runs by and hits my camera on the side lines. My pics look just as good and better with that filter on. oh and who knows I could have bought one of those really expensive "Tiffen multi-coated bull shit filters" on ebay, for 10 or $15. Keith what poll are you talking about? Give me the web address or wherever you found it.

11/15/2006 8:17:20 AM

Joe Ging
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/31/2006
  Trebor, One of the web Addresses is BetterPhoto.com. I have taken several courses and the instructors are pretty unified that any glass on glass detracts and they carry only polarizers and ND's for their digitals. They use hoods for protection. I also belong to a Photographic Society that includes 15 teaching pro's...they follow the same thought. The one exception is an environment where there is blowing sand. Bottom line, whatever works for you is what you should do, but an attitude because someone disagrees doesn't serve any benefit here. Opinions are for guidance, you make your own decisions.

11/15/2006 8:43:19 AM


BetterPhoto Member
  Thanks joe! I was just trying to be of some help to calagrey, but obviously I wasnt. I am 18 yrs old and I havent taken any couses or had any teaching in actual photography. I have taught myself everything I know. So Im sorry if my advice was not any good I am here to learn and help IF I can. But thanks I will also try to use a lens hood for protection and I will take the filter off.If I notice a change for the Better I will be sure and let everbody know. sorry I was wrong. But thanks for the advice on the lens hood.

11/15/2006 9:29:09 AM

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Photography Question 
Christopher J. Budny
BetterPhoto Member
chrisbudny.com

member since: 10/3/2005
  9 .  Circular Polarizer - Orientation
When will a circular polarizer have the most effect on the blues in the sky? I've not quite made the connection when out shooting; sometimes the results are very pronounced, with extreme darkening of the blue as I rotate the ring, and other times, I can see absolutely no change when rotating the ring completely through 360 degrees... I recall reading it has to do with the angle of the camera/line-of-sight to the subject, and the location of the sun. Thanks!

10/14/2006 4:00:18 PM

  When you are standing facing your subject, if YOUR shadow is to your right or left, the polarizer will work. If your shadow is in front or behind you, it will work very minimally or not at all.

10/14/2006 5:53:22 PM

Dennis Flanagan
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/31/2005
  For the biggest effect, you need to be perpendicular to the sun.

10/14/2006 6:45:26 PM

Christopher J. Budny
BetterPhoto Member
chrisbudny.com

member since: 10/3/2005
  Thanks, guys! (I believe you're both saying the same sort of thing!) Will definitely try it out on the next sunny clear day...

10/15/2006 4:57:43 AM

Gen Nagase
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/31/2003
 
A handy polarizer info I used when I got my first polarizer.

http://www.geocities.com/cokinfiltersystem/polarizer.htm

Note the list of 8 tips toward the bottom.

10/15/2006 6:05:25 AM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  Wide-angle lenses are not recommended for polarizing skies, as a part of the sky will be decidely darker - more saturated - than the rest, and you'll end up with a 'patchy' sky.

10/16/2006 6:13:02 AM

Christopher J. Budny
BetterPhoto Member
chrisbudny.com

member since: 10/3/2005
  Thanks, Nobi & W, for adding your info!

10/16/2006 3:59:52 PM

Ben F
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/30/2004
  yep, 90 degrees to the sun

works best generally around midday when the sun is directly above, or when the sun has just risen or set, and then shoot 90deg from where it is.

10/17/2006 2:53:44 AM

John  Munro

member since: 11/10/2004
  Chris -

One other thing to remember about the polarizer When shooting in the mountains the higher you go the less polarization you need to use. A little goes a long way.

10/17/2006 5:39:19 AM

Dennis Creaghan

member since: 10/21/2002
  Also when shooting panoramas don't use a polarizer or the sky will come out decidedly uneven, as I discovered.

Dennis

10/17/2006 12:29:47 PM

Ben F
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/30/2004
  Going with the panoramic issue,

i think sometimes the uneven effect can be quite effective, especially if its subtle.
Depending on lighting (time of day) and whats in the sky, ie clouds, you can get some really nice tones through the horizon, rather than just a simple saturated blue/white.

My opinion anywayz, who says perfect is perfect :)

10/19/2006 6:15:32 AM

Christopher J. Budny
BetterPhoto Member
chrisbudny.com

member since: 10/3/2005
  Thanks, guys, for the follow-up!

10/20/2006 7:18:21 PM

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Photography Question 
Keith J. Kosmal

member since: 8/23/2006
  10 .  Will Filters Fit My Lenses?
When I am looking at different filters online, they usually have a mm number by them - like 77mm, 31mm, or something of that sort. Does this mean that the filter I am interested in buying might not match up with the lens I want to use it with? Or are they all universal sizes? Could someone explain to me how to find out what filters will fit over my lens?

8/23/2006 12:29:23 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  On or near the front of your lens will the Ø symbol next to numbers like you've described. This gives the diameter of the screw threads on the front of the lens, given in millimeters (mm). Filters are sized to fit these. For example, if your lens has "Ø55mm", then you need to buy 55mm filters.

8/23/2006 1:15:22 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  You can also buy individual resin filters that fit a specific holder. The holder, in turn, mounts to various sized lenses with the correct size mounting ring. Hitech, Lee, Cokin, Calumet, Sailwind, all make these rigs which, IMHO, work quite well and prevent you from buying and accumulating lots of filters of various sizes to work on different size lenses.
Also, if your current lens is, say, 55mm diameter, remember that if you buy a larger filter - e.g., 75mm - you can get adapter rings to step it down to the smaller filter size, but you can't get a smaller filter to fit a larger lens. This is one of the major advantages to the resins I mentioned. Kind of a one size tends to fit most lenses with the proper size mounting ring.

Take it light.
Mark

8/23/2006 1:31:53 PM

Ariel Lepor
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/8/2005
  Welcome to BetterPhoto, Keith!
The mm number for a lens filter does indeed have to match the mm diameter number of the lens (not to be confused with zoom). Jon already said how to find the diameter of your lens thread.
Now, not all lenses are threaded. If it looks like you can screw something in front of your lens, it's threaded. Otherwise, either you can't buy filters or you need to buy an adapter from the camera manufacturer. Contact the company your camera is from and you can ask them about getting filters for your specific camera.
Ariel
ScrattyPhotography
ScrattyPhotography Blog

8/23/2006 1:53:40 PM

Keith J. Kosmal

member since: 8/23/2006
  Alright, thanks a lot everyone, that answers all of my questions and them some. I'll definately look into the resin filters too cause I'm planning on purchasing a 12-24mm lense later on, sometime within the next 1-3 years and I'm guessing that is going to be a pretty wide lense. My lense is 55mm too, very interesting how everyone used that for their example lol. Thanks again.

8/23/2006 2:08:13 PM

Ariel Lepor
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/8/2005
  I didn't use that as an example! By the way, my lens is 55mm threaded, too. :)

8/23/2006 2:16:21 PM

Keith J. Kosmal

member since: 8/23/2006
  You didn't use anything for your example though lol. But I lied too, I must have read my lense wrong, it was a 58, but it doesn't matter. Thanks to you people I just made some purchases, thanks again for all your help :)

8/24/2006 9:58:29 PM

Ariel Lepor
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/8/2005
  LOL!
Keith, you said everyone used that for their example. I didn't! Because I didn't have an example! I actually was thinking of using an example with 55mm, but saw Mark and Jon already did. :)

P.S. I have a 58mm wide-angle lens with a 58 to 55 converter. ;)

8/24/2006 10:56:17 PM

Estella Aguilar

member since: 7/27/2006
  i own a canon rebel xt. I was recommended a 77mm it cover all three of my lenses it a bigger size so its somewhat universal for me 130.00

8/25/2006 7:00:18 PM

Keith J. Kosmal

member since: 8/23/2006
  77? Didn't know they came that big, thought 72 was the highest. Anyways, I should be getting my acessories in the mail by monday.

And Ariel, what I meant was, everyone who used an example lense size used 55 lol. If anyone wants to know what I got, here it is.

http://www.ritzcamera.com/product/251490678.htm
http://www.ritzcamera.com/product/251490736.htm
http://www.ritzcamera.com/product/251491569.htm

I do a lot of lanscape photography and I always had a problem with overexposed skies. If I didn't want a bright sky, the landscape would be really dark. Now I won't have to worry about that hehe.

8/26/2006 3:33:26 AM

Ariel Lepor
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/8/2005
  How did those products work out?

I'm also looking for nd filters. Maybe I'll get the same things as you except the 55mm adapter instead of the 58mm.

9/8/2006 2:38:12 PM

Ariel Lepor
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/8/2005
  Yo! Keith! How's that ND filter?

9/13/2006 8:34:12 PM

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