Monday, 17 May 2010

Save time with a Grad. Filter

Last week I took delivery of my latest piece of equipment. It’s not a fancy new camera body, fast lens or even the latest version of Photoshop (although all of those are on my wish list). Never the less I do expect the new equipment will save me time and improve my photography.

So what’s this amazing, must have gizmo? Nothing more then a good old fashioned Grey Grad filter.

It often surprises people to discover that I still use filters on my camera. That’s probably because I enjoy using the powerful features that Photoshop offers. But despite the advantages Photoshop gives me, I still try to capture the best image possible in camera.

I’ve been using an old square Cokin grey grad filter for years, but as the quality of lenses I use has gone up, I’ve out grown the Cokin filter. I really have literally out grown it because it’s only just covers the front of my lenses. So my replacement is a large 100mmx125mm filter from Kood.

I’m pretty sure there are many newer photographers out there who have never used a grey grad filter. So here’s a quick Q&A session to explain what it does.

When do you use a grey grad?
Whenever you’re shooting landscapes and the sky is the brightest part of the image.

But isn’t that’s always the case?
Pretty much, yes.

How do I use it?
You place the filter in front of the lens and move it until the grey part covers the sky.

Do I need a special filter holder?
You can buy a filter holder, just make sure it matches the size of filter you bought. However I use a rapid attachment device, better known as my hand.

Why don’t you just take multiple images and do a bit of HDR?
I do, but if the grey grad is in my bag and it does the job, it saves a huge amount to time.

I’m happy doing the multiple photo method, do I still need a grey grad filter?
Not if you don’t want to.

OK, I’m interested, can I see and example.
Here you go. Here’s one I made recently.

OK I’m sold, where can I get one and how much does it cost?
I bought a Kood two stop ND Grey, cost around £20 from:

If moneys no object, you can buy the "pro" version by Lee filters for around £60 from here:

Of course there are plenty of other suppliers for both filter types.

So there you go. If you’re wondering how the final image turned out have a look at the image below.


creed205 said...

Do you prefer a Cokin type setup or do you think that screw on filters can work just as well?

bhofmann said...

Excuse my ignorance, but why is the top half of the tree on the left not darker than the bottom? Did you hold the filter to just cover the sky area in the photo?

Gary said...

Thanks for the info. I don't have any filters yet but I think I'll probably go for a ND8 first. It's only £35 from the Kood people so not as bad as I thought they were. For the slow shutter speeds r.e. water and so on. After seeing your Camera Raw videos the graduated filter seems it can be done quite well in there.

Do you use a skylight/UV filter on your lenses as a protector Gavin? I used to then got rid of them after someone pointed out why did you spend £900 on a L quality lens in the case of my 24-70 2.8 to put a £40 piece of glass in the front of it, which sounded like a fair comment to me. I would maybe like to have kept it for doing things like the banger racing etc, things where the lens is in more danger of debris than every day photos. What's your opinion on the matter Gavin?

Gavin Hoey Training said...

creed205: All my filters are screw fit, except this one. Why? Because you'll need to move the line position up and down in the frame.

bhofmann: I angled the filter, something you can only do with the larger sized filter, especially on wide angle lenses

Gary: I always use a UV filter filter fitted. Lens optics is a complex business and adding a non refracting surface really isn't an issue. However damaging the front element can be an expensive head ache.

Scotty said...

Hi Gavin, you post couldn't have been better timed as I've been investigating Grad filters myself. Is the Kood dark grey grad filter equivilent to the ND4 or ND8? Can you stack them?


Gavin Hoey Training said...

Scotty: Mine is a ND2 (two stop) filter but you can go darker to the Kood ND4. I think Lee Filters do an ND8 grad, but I may be wrong.

Stacking shouldn't be a problem.

SZIKOSZA said...

Gavin - great timing ;) Looking for one as well. I love what you've done with original image to get B&W version. Could you PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do your next tutorial about this ? I have 1000000 of similar pictures and have no idea how to achieve this effect. Thanks. Bartosz

CanonMike said...

Hello Gavin, There seems to be a big price difference between Kood and Lee is there also a big difference in quality? Regards, Michael

swingking said...

Hi Gavin,

When you're using an ND grad, how do you meter the scene and what from.



Gavin Hoey Training said...

CanonMike: I don't own the Lee version so can't comment, I'm sure the Lee is more more durable and probably comes in a better case.

swingking:Good question, I've always metered witht the filter in place, but there may be a case for other metering methods.

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