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Photography Question 
Nadja Meta

Filters at High Altitude?

Who has experience with photographing at high altitudes? Do you recommend a particular filter? Does anyone have feedback on the Hi-Lux Warming UV Filter from Singh Ray? Thanks!

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7/16/2009 3:41:58 AM

Edwin Johnson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/5/2009
How high is "high altitude"? I live at about 4000 feet above sea level, and it only takes 20 to 30 minutes driving from here to get to altitudes of 5-7 thousand feet. I use a circular polarizer when taking landscape photos. It helps reduce/eliminate that hazy look in the photos caused by light reflecting off micro particles in the atmosphere and scattering in every direction. The polarizer can be used anywhere, not just at high altitudes. It is designed to reduce glare off metal objects or water on sunny days, so it's not just a high-altitude thing. I just live where there are spacious valleys and skies with high mountains and hills so it's a benefit for me to use them when out in these areas cause it helps get rid of the hazy skies in the pictures.

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7/16/2009 8:10:13 AM

Alan N. Marcus   Hi Nadja,
Filters have many uses, however we are taking about haze reduction. Distant landscapes and aerial views are often veiled by a bluish haze. This is true despite clear weather. This effect is due to the scattering of light by water vapor and suspended dust particles. Violet and ultraviolet are scattered more because they have the shortest frequencies. Thus the haze has violet and ultraviolet as its principle components.
In black-and-white photography, we use a yellow filter to cut haze because yellow is a blue blocker. In color photography, yellow works but imparts a strong yellow cast. So for color we resort to a UV blocker. This is a clear filter that absorbs mainly the UV rays. It is likely the most popular filter because it is sold by every camera dealer with the argument that it will also protect your expensive camera lenses from scratches.
You should know that the UV filter will only work at altitude or on distant vistas with miles of air between camera and subject. A popular filter is the Skylight; it is a UV haze cutter, plus its light salmon color warms slightly taking away some of the natural bluishness seen in shade on a sunlit days and the coldness caused by full cloud cover. Also, you should know that a polarizing screen also acts as a UV and, best of all, it darken blue sky and removes or reduces reflection from non-metallic surfaces (non-conductors of electricity). They are wonderful when shooting subjects that contain glass and permit slight penetration into water. The polarizer should be your first filter purchase.
Donít expect magic from the UV. Your choice for the UV should be the Skylight IA. Beware: Most advice you receive will likely be based on books and teachers familiar with the UVís effect on a film camera. Films are highly sensitive to UV. In the construction of a digital camera, the sensor chip has a protective thin cover glass. This affords the opportunity to make it into a cut-off filter that blocks near-infrared and limit passage to the visible portion spectrum. The blocking nature of the cover glass and the sensitivity of the chip to UV will be a variant model to model.
Alan Marcus (marginal technical advice)

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7/16/2009 9:43:18 AM

Nadja Meta   Many thanks to you both for your detailed answers!
Alan, your in-depth explanation is very informative and I learnt a lot from it. Edwin, I'll be going up to 13.000 feet and higher (Himalayas).

A circular polarizer was the first filter I recently purchased and I went out yesterday for some landscape shots to familiarize myself with it.
But I wasn't sure if I should be carrying more options with me at high altitude. I've also ordered the LB Color Combo from Singh Ray which is a warming polarizer combined with a color intensifier. After reading your comments and suggestions my impression is that these two filters could suffice.
But I'm open to any further suggestions.

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7/17/2009 2:01:24 AM

Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
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  If you are taking a tripod, I would take two and three step Singh Ray graduated reduced density filters. I know that this came be done in Photoshop, but I don't know all about photoshop yet, so I find it easier to carry then and use at the time of when the weather changes with a dark foreground and bright background, and desire detail in both or visa versa, or at sunrise/set when there is color in the sky and the interesting foreground is in shadow.

Your lens can only capture one or the other, although your eye can see both. This set of filters takes practice before you go, but the results can be breathtaking.

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7/21/2009 12:42:45 PM

Nadja Meta   Hi Bunny,
Thanks for your input. I've chosen the 4x6 3 step soft GND for starters. That seems to be practical for mountain scenery since the horizon is not so clearly defined.
Bye for now,

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7/26/2009 7:36:57 AM

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