The Neutral Density Filter FAQ

astockwellastockwell Major grinsPosts: 317Registered Users Major grins
edited February 29, 2012 in Accessories
Welcome, if you reading this, and are not sure what a Neutral Density (ND) Filter is or a Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filter is, read on, hopefully I'm going to answer all or most of your questions about this topic that since I have joined here there seems to be a lot of speculation and questions about, or people that are just unaware of a great tool in your bag. Also there seeems to be a lot of threads about them, but not one place where everything, or at least the basics in one place. In this FAQ, I will use links, and there will be stuff cut and pasted, and I may use some of my shots for examples. So if I have your interest piqued now, sit back, relax, and read on.

1. What is a Neutral Density Filter?

In photography and optics, a neutral density filter or ND filter is a "grey" filter. An ideal neutral density filter reduces light of all wavelengths or colors equally. The purpose of standard photographic neutral density filters is to allow the photographer greater flexibility to change the apeture or exposure time, allowing for more control, particularly in extreme circumstances.

A common example of this is use of a GND filter to control sky exposure (hold back), while using enough shutter time to expose the foreground of a scene, and have a photo that has a balanced exposure, and looks as close to the human eye saw it as possible.

Or a ND solid to reduce light, so shutter times can be longer, and produce a desired effect in a shot, example:

310817423_E4Vjn-M.jpg

I don't remember what ND I had on for this shot, but it was taken in the middle of a mostly cloudy day, so I got the shutter time long enough to produce that silky/misty water effect in the shot.


2. What types of Neutral Density Filters are there?

The two most common types used in film and digital photography are:
  • Round Screw-In filters that thread on to the front of a lens.
  • The "Cokin" type system, which uses mostly square or rectangle filters, that are mounted to the lens via a holder, and a adapter ring that threads onto the lens.
3. What are the advantages and disadvatages to each type?

Round, Screw-In Filters:

Advantages:
  • Compact, they usually take up less room in a kit bag, but it depends on lens size also, if you are using large ring size lenses, the filters can get pretty big.
  • Ability to combine or stack filters on the front of a lens, although this can cause vignetting on some lenses, if using thick ring filters.
  • Vari ND's or Combo ND/Polarizer filters, such as Singh-Ray brand produces
  • Commonly sold at stores like Best Buy, Wal Mart, Ritz, etc, so they are easy to find in a pinch.
  • A majority of ND's above 4 stops are sold in the Round/Screw-In style.
Disadvantages:
  • In using Round/Screw-In Graduated ND filters, it give the photographer absolutely no control of the grad line placement in a scene, as the line is always in the center. (This is a big one for me)
  • On certain lenses, UWA usually, round filters can vignette, as the angle of view is so wide on these lenses, that the ring that holds the filter element can be seen in the corners of a photo taken on the wide end of the lens.
  • Some lower quality filters are not optically good, meaning they can cause color casts on photos taken
  • If you have a lot of different lens sizes (front element size), you have to carry a set of filters for all lenses you wish to use the filters on (Another big one for me)
"Cokin" Style Filters:

Advantages:
  • You can use them on any lens you carry as long as you carry the adapter rings for your particular system, which are usually cheaper than a round/screw-in ND filter usually costs.
  • You have almost infinte possibilities for composing a shot, in relation to the grad line on a GND filter, since you can slide the filters up and down in the filter holder to control the placement of the grad line.
  • As long as you buy the right system for the lenses you have, you shouldn't see vignetting on you lenses, example if you have a 10mm lens with a 77mm ring size, you might want to think of at least 100mm size filters or 4X4 or 4X6, or hand holding them if you buy 85mm or 3X3 filters
  • Filters are typically made of resin, unless you spend mucho $$, so they are harder to damage, but are still able to be scratched or can chip if dropped on an edge on a hard or jagged object.
  • More choices for types of ND and GND filters. Due to size, you can get reverse GND, which start darker in near the grad line, and get lighter as they move toward the edge, or you can get hardline or softline GNDs, which have many uses and advantages, which I will go into.
Disadvantages:
  • Initial cost, some systems, depending on size and brand can be very pricey, but I typically think the cost of admission is worth it, but shop around, and find a system that works for you, and won't make you broke. Read a lot of reviews!!! But once you have a system of filters, and you have all the filters you want, all you need to do is buy adapter rings at that point if you get a new lens that has a different filter size than you already have.
  • Depending on the amount of adapter rings, filters, holders, case, the system can get rather large. This can take up a bit of room in your kit. My recommendation is to buy a filter one at a time, if you find you use it, stick with it, and if you want more stops of ND, then buy another, the next level darker. Also read a lot about this before buying. If you have a bunch of filters in your bag you don't ever use, then it isn't worth wasting you money on them. Figure out what you shoot, and what filters would be best for what you typically shoot.
  • They can scratch, they can chip, they can break. But this shouldn't be a discouragement from buying them. Just be careful with them, and you shouldn't have any problems.
  • Dependent on what size lens you have, and FOV of the lens at wide end if a zoom, if you use the wrong size filters, you could also vignette, example is: My 16-50mm vignetted on the Cokin P series regular holder on the wide end, and it would sometime vignette on the P-Size wide angle holder if oriented incorrectly.
4. What brands are out there for purchase?


The answer is many.

Typical screw-in brands are Tiffen, Hoya, B+W, Singh Ray, Heliopan, and many more, but those are typically the better quality brands.

For "Cokin" type systems:

I am going to amplify this by saying when I use the word Cokin, I use it because it is the brand typically seen and used by a lot of people, but there are many makers of "slide holder" filter systems

They are:
Cokin, Lee, Formatt, Hi-Tech (made by Formatt), Tiffen, Schneider, are the common ones.

5. Where can I purchase both types?

Screw-In filters: Walmart, Target, Best Buy, etc. are the easy places the find them, but your selection will be limited here

B&H, Adorama, 2Filter.com, Filterhouse.com are going to have much more diverse inventories and types of filters, check here if you are looking for specialty stuff, or want a better selection, and if you don't see it on their site, it doesn't hurt to call and ask if someone makes something like what you are looking for. Example, Hi-tech makes 10 Stop ND filters, but 2Filter.com typically doesn't stock them, but they can be ordered off the Formatt.co.uk website.

For "slide holder" style systems, you can buy these at most of the places you can buy the round/screw in style at, but you are probably not going to find them at Best-Buy or Wal-Mart.

6. What Types of ND's do I need?

Only you can really answer this question, first ask yourself, what do you shoot the most, and what types of effects are you looking for when you use the filters. Are you trying to induce motion blur by using a longer shutter speed? Are you shooting seascapes or such that have a hard horizon line? Conversely is there any foreground items that a hard grad line would show up on if you placed it wrong, and make your picture look like someone drew a line through it? Do you want to do multi minute exposures during the middle of day, or early morning or late evening during the best light? Do you want to shoot shot with a lot of dynamic range and contrast, (sunrises and sunsets with good foreground interest), and have everything exposed right?

Here is what I will say, if you use a hard line grad in a scene without a good hard horizon line, or somewhere to logically terminate the grad line, your shots will look weird, as you will see this line run through your shot, and it isn't intended to be there, but it shows up either due to no straight line in the shot to put the grad line, or the filter you used is to dark for the scene. I use all soft line grads, as i can control how much ND I use by sliding up or down. Hard line grads tend to be not as graduated, as they are basically filter that is half dark, and half light with very little "taper"

Soft line grads are also easier to "hide" in a scene, and there is not hard dividing line.

I will also tell you what I currenly own, and have owned in the past, and what I use the most.

I currently have a set of Hi-Tech 4X4 and 4X6 filters, that fit nicely in to a Cokin Z-Pro holder, using Cokin Z-Pro adapter rings. I use the cokin holder since it is muc cheaper than the Hi-tech holder, and does the same thing.

If you ask me what I use the most I will tell you that with the photography subjects that I usually shoot, a 2 stop grad is usually what is on the front of my lens. Usually it is the right "darkness" for most scenes. That being said, I currently have 2 and 3 stop soft edge grads, and 1, 2, and 3 stop solids, and a 10 stop screw in, that I will screw my filter holder adapter ring into if I want to play around with really long exposure stuff. I have also noticed that lately during very wide dynamic range mornings (sunrises) I have been stacking 2 and 3 stop grads, and having some pretty good luck with them. You maybe have to do a grad layer in photoshop to pull the level up a bit where the grad was, as it can darken a bit too much, so you may have to pull it up to look right, but it can help control very bright skies a bit better than one ND. Allows more contrast control.

Bottom line, look at a lot of photos, read a lot of reviews, read a lot of forums, and if you can borrow some, do it, so you don't buy more than what you need to get started.

7. So why the 10-Stop filter?

For shots like this:
565963029_NVBeb-L.jpg

This is a 136 second shot, taken with a 3 stop solid ND, and a 3 stop GND. In the right conditions, imagine what can be done with a 10-Stop filter. The emphasis is on the cloud and water movement here. The extremely long shutter times give the clouds a chance to move through the shot, and the water becomes a mist with enough sea state. It also helps saturate the light in the sky a little more as the light has more time to change as the shot goes on, so you can get some pretty cool effects with ND filters, and this is my favorite aspect of what I do with them.

What sizes are common for "slide holder" system?

Common are 2X2 inch, 3X3", 4X4", 4x6" 2X3" 3x4" and 4x5"

Conversion time:

3X3 or 3 inch systems are relative to 85mm. (Cokin P Series)

4X4 and 4 inch systems are relative to 100mm. (Cokin Z-Pro Series)

If you get X-Pro by Cokin, well great, you have the biggest ones, and I don't think many others make filters this big, so I am not going to try to convert them.

I will tell you that on my Pentax 16-50mm lens, P-Series size vignetted using the Cokin regular holder, and sometimes with the wide angle holder, so food for thought if you think you are going to go cheap and get P-size, and use them on a UWA lens at the wide end and think they won't vignette.

8. What is a reverse GND?

I mentioned this earlier, a reverse GND has the darker part of the gradient closer to the center, and it gets lighter going toward the "top" of the filter. I haven't used one yet, haven't needed one yet.

If someone has used one, and wants to chime in, and show examples, I will paste your experiences into this post.

9. What is this .6, .9, 1.2, business, and what does it mean?

ND filters are quantified by their optical density or equivalently their f-Stop reduction as follows:
<TABLE class=wikitable><TBODY><TR><TH>Attenuation Factor</TH><TH>Filter Optical Density</TH><TH>f-Stop Reduction</TH><TH>% transmittance</TH></TR><TR><TD>2</TD><TD>0.3</TD><TD>1</TD><TD>50%</TD></TR><TR><TD>4</TD><TD>0.6</TD><TD>2</TD><TD>25%</TD></TR><TR><TD>8</TD><TD>0.9</TD><TD>3</TD><TD>12.5%</TD></TR><TR><TD>64</TD><TD>1.8</TD><TD>6</TD><TD>1.5625%</TD></TR><TR><TD>1,000</TD><TD>3.0</TD><TD>10</TD><TD><0.1%</TD></TR><TR><TD>10,000</TD><TD>4.0</TD><TD>13</TD><TD></TD></TR><TR><TD>1,000,000</TD><TD>6.0</TD><TD>20</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>

So when you see ND-2, it is one stop of light reduction (refer to first column

Also,
When you see .3, it is one stop of light reduction, refer to 2nd column.

So when you are deciding what filters you need, refer to this chart so you can see how much neutral density you want. It all depends on the desired effects you want to introduce into a shot, or if you think you may encounter a very contrasty scene, needing a lot of ND in the sky, to get the foreground exposed correctly.

I will continue to expand this as people point out new things I haven't covered yet, or their experiences, so if you guys see anything you want added to this, or otherwise, let me know. I hope this helps make a decision for people that are looking to cross this bridge. I will tell you this, I almost never shoot without these. I don't believe in adding gradient filters in post processing, and believe that filters are still a valuable tool to photographers who know how and when to use them, and I think they will never become obsolete. I agree a lot of things can be done in PS, but it still doesn't make up for good exposure made at point of capture.

You can read more by typing Neutral Density Filter into a google search, or here is the Wiki enty: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutral_density_filter
Here is the Grad wiki:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graduated_neutral_density_filter

Other threads concerning ND filters on this Forum

http://www.dgrin.com/showthread.php?t=115207
http://www.dgrin.com/showthread.php?t=117307
http://www.dgrin.com/showthread.php?t=112814
http://www.dgrin.com/showthread.php?t=107825
http://www.dgrin.com/showthread.php?t=94815
http://www.dgrin.com/showthread.php?t=91617
http://www.dgrin.com/showthread.php?t=68916







Also, I am by no means saying I know everything there is to know about this topic, and I am always learning, so if you have something to add, please add it. And Mods, consider stickying this, so people can easily find it, or put it into a threads of note thread.

One other thing you may want to consider is a tripod if you don't own one, as longer exposures require them to keep camera shake introduced by you the photographer out of the shot, and keep it sharp.

Refer to ian408's tripod thread:
http://www.dgrin.com/showthread.php?t=53477

Enjoy this,



-Andy


Edits:

-Added some other ND threads from the Dgrin Forums

This is from ian408
ian408 wrote:
One thing I'd add in selecting the "right" GND filter to use for a given scene is to start by understanding the difference between the dark and light points in it. I might also add that the cost difference between a 10 stop screw in filter and a 2 stop is substantial. You can stack ND filters as well (and don't forget step rings provide you with greater flexibility too).

There is quite a price difference between a 10stop filter, and a 2 or 3 stop filter. For example a B+W screw in 77mm 10 stop will run you about $100 depending on vendor. A 2 or 3 stop tiffen ND or GND will cost you about $40.

Also, in the realm of round/screw-in filters, you could also buy the filter bigger than your lens ring size, then use a step up ring to alliviate any vignetting you have from a stack of filters. You can stack filters, that is why filters have threads on them, and filter holders have multiple slots, but be aware, that some ND's are not of the best optical quality, and depending on the quality of your IR filter on your CMOS, it can cause color casts on your shots based on some wavelengths of light not making it through the 3 stacked 3stop ND's you have on the front of your camera. Formatt freely admits that you may see color casts from the Hi-Tech 10 stop ND. It is just that something that dark is going to filter some light wavelengths. Usually blue, since it is a shorter wavelength than red, and then you may see red casts to your shots. So keep this in mind when buying, and using the filters. If the scene is really dark to begin with, you are going to need a lot more shutter time to make the proper exposure.

More good reading here about color casts:
http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/649248
«134

Comments

  • tisuntisun Major grins Posts: 435Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 4, 2009
    Very informative. Thanks for gathering all useful infornation under one roof.
  • astockwellastockwell Major grins Posts: 317Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 4, 2009
    tisun wrote:
    Very informative. Thanks for gathering all useful infornation under one roof.

    I wouldn't say it is all the information, but a good start, everyone can help that by contributing with their experiences, questions, places to buy and research, etc.

    Thanks,

    Andy
  • roygradyroygrady Beginner grinner Posts: 8Registered Users Beginner grinner
    edited June 4, 2009
    Thank you for the guide, some things I was not quite sure of there.
  • David_S85David_S85 Spotter of Dgrin Spam and Oddities ChicagolandPosts: 11,570Administrators moderator
    edited June 4, 2009
    Andy, thanks for all the the time and effort working up this fact sheet. I'm in the market right now for some 4x6 GND's, and this proved very helpful. thumb.gif
    My Smugmug
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
  • astockwellastockwell Major grins Posts: 317Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 4, 2009
    David_S85 wrote:
    Andy, thanks for all the the time and effort working up this fact sheet. I'm in the market right now for some 4x6 GND's, and this proved very helpful. thumb.gif

    No problem, I did this for a modification for Subarus over on one of the Subaru forums I frequent. This one was much easier. We also have a thread over there that is just for threads of note, and FAQ's like this, so it can be easily located, and is stickied in every forum topic.

    -Andy
  • TangoTango Major grins Posts: 4,592Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 5, 2009
    very coolclap.gif

    my heavens, how long did this take? it will take me weeks to proof read thisdeal.gifrofl


    beautiful examples btw!
    Aaron Nelson
  • astockwellastockwell Major grins Posts: 317Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 5, 2009
    very coolclap.gif

    my heavens, how long did this take? it will take me weeks to proof read thisdeal.gifrofl


    beautiful examples btw!

    About two hours, but I'll add more to it. I am used to putting together lecture for what I teach, except in the format of powerpoint, so bulleted lists and the subject for each questions are just like slides essentially. Not to tough.
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Posts: 21,221Administrators moderator
    edited June 5, 2009
    Andy, thanks for the time and effort to put this together.

    It's a great start and should get anyone who's at all interested in smooth water or balanced exposure off to a great start.

    One thing I'd add in selecting the "right" GND filter to use for a given scene is to start by understanding the difference between the dark and light points in it. I might also add that the cost difference between a 10 stop screw in filter and a 2 stop is substantial. You can stack ND filters as well (and don't forget step rings provide you with greater flexibility too).
    Moderator Journeys/Sports/Big Picture :: Need some help with dgrin?
  • astockwellastockwell Major grins Posts: 317Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 5, 2009
    ian408 wrote:
    Andy, thanks for the time and effort to put this together.

    It's a great start and should get anyone who's at all interested in smooth water or balanced exposure off to a great start.

    One thing I'd add in selecting the "right" GND filter to use for a given scene is to start by understanding the difference between the dark and light points in it. I might also add that the cost difference between a 10 stop screw in filter and a 2 stop is substantial. You can stack ND filters as well (and don't forget step rings provide you with greater flexibility too).

    Good points, one thing to look at with stacking is depending on the brand of filter, and camera (IR filter on the CMOS), you can get color casts in your shots if you stack enough filters. I will add in about stacking though since I do it often, but usually no more than two filters at a time.
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Posts: 21,221Administrators moderator
    edited June 5, 2009
    astockwell wrote:
    Good points, one thing to look at with stacking is depending on the brand of filter, and camera (IR filter on the CMOS), you can get color casts in your shots if you stack enough filters. I will add in about stacking though since I do it often, but usually no more than two filters at a time.

    This is reason enough to purchase the best quality filters you can.
    Moderator Journeys/Sports/Big Picture :: Need some help with dgrin?
  • TangoTango Major grins Posts: 4,592Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 5, 2009
    still havent read everything yet, but did you cover stacking or using stepper rings and how to avoid them getting stuck together while out in the elements? (i coat the threads with some dry teflon type stuff)
    Aaron Nelson
  • tisuntisun Major grins Posts: 435Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 5, 2009
    astockwell wrote:
    No problem, I did this for a modification for Subarus over on one of the Subaru forums I frequent. This one was much easier. We also have a thread over there that is just for threads of note, and FAQ's like this, so it can be easily located, and is stickied in every forum topic.

    -Andy

    This is off topic but which Subaru forums?
  • Manfr3dManfr3d Likes it bokehlicious! Posts: 2,008Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 5, 2009
    Great write up. Thanks for posting! thumb.gif
    “To consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walk.”
    ― Edward Weston
  • astockwellastockwell Major grins Posts: 317Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 5, 2009
    still havent read everything yet, but did you cover stacking or using stepper rings and how to avoid them getting stuck together while out in the elements? (i coat the threads with some dry teflon type stuff)

    As I don't use stepper rings, I haven't run into this before, but I will add it in. I saw something somewhere a few weeks back on how to get a couple screw-in's apart, but can't remember where I saw it now, if you have a suggestion, please post it up.

    -Andy
  • astockwellastockwell Major grins Posts: 317Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 5, 2009
    tisun wrote:
    This is off topic but which Subaru forums?

    NASIOC.com


    I wrote the Water/Methanol FAQ thread.
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Posts: 21,221Administrators moderator
    edited June 5, 2009
    astockwell wrote:
    As I don't use stepper rings, I haven't run into this before, but I will add it in. I saw something somewhere a few weeks back on how to get a couple screw-in's apart, but can't remember where I saw it now, if you have a suggestion, please post it up.

    -Andy

    You can try putting a rubber band on each of them for a bit of extra purchase.
    Moderator Journeys/Sports/Big Picture :: Need some help with dgrin?
  • time2smiletime2smile Major grins Posts: 835Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 10, 2009
    thumb.gif Great post, thanks for taking the time to share this thumb.gif
    Ted....
    It's not what you look at that matters: Its what you see!
    Nikon
    http://www.time2smile.smugmug.com
  • astockwellastockwell Major grins Posts: 317Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 10, 2009
    time2smile wrote:
    thumb.gif Great post, thanks for taking the time to share this thumb.gif

    Thanks, and you're welcome.

    -Andy
  • NeilLNeilL B+R=M,B+G=C,R+G=Y Posts: 4,201Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 11, 2009
    (i coat the threads with some dry teflon type stuff)

    hey Aaron, please more about thisthumb.gif
    "Snow. Ice. Slow!" "Half-winter. Half-moon. Half-asleep!"

    http://www.behance.net/brosepix
  • astockwellastockwell Major grins Posts: 317Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 11, 2009
    NeilL wrote:
    hey Aaron, please more about thisthumb.gif

    I think what he is saying is he get white teflon plumbers tape and does a wrap around the threads of the screw in filters, and then you can screw filters together, without the metal of the threads binding on each others. You could also probably put a thin coating of white lithium grease, (i mean real thin, and don't get any on the glass) or you'll be cleaning them for a while. Silicone grease would work also.

    -Andy
  • NeilLNeilL B+R=M,B+G=C,R+G=Y Posts: 4,201Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 11, 2009
    astockwell wrote:
    I think what he is saying is he get white teflon plumbers tape and does a wrap around the threads of the screw in filters, and then you can screw filters together, without the metal of the threads binding on each others. You could also probably put a thin coating of white lithium grease, (i mean real thin, and don't get any on the glass) or you'll be cleaning them for a while. Silicone grease would work also.

    -Andy

    right! yeah, good ideas, thanks!

    I've been mulling the problem in the back of my mind for a while. had a fright/fight with a filter and lens once I don't wanna repeat - on a rooftop in darkness!

    thanks for your generosity putting all this together - great service!
    "Snow. Ice. Slow!" "Half-winter. Half-moon. Half-asleep!"

    http://www.behance.net/brosepix
  • dlplumerdlplumer Major grins Posts: 8,007Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 11, 2009
    Great post Andy.bowdown.gif

    I bought the Cokin system with a 2 stop soft GND (P system). When I used it with my 10-22 I did get severe vignetting and now realize I need to either use a longer focal length, the Z-Pro system, or hand hold it. Not sure how to hand hold a gnd especially with a long exposure, so if you have tips on this it would be appreciated. I also want to get some darker NDs to do very long exposures.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to put together such a well written and informative post clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif

    Dan
  • anwmn1anwmn1 Wandering the Desert Posts: 3,449Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 11, 2009
    dlplumer wrote:
    Great post Andy.bowdown.gif

    I bought the Cokin system with a 2 stop soft GND (P system). When I used it with my 10-22 I did get severe vignetting and now realize I need to either use a longer focal length, the Z-Pro system, or hand hold it. Not sure how to hand hold a gnd especially with a long exposure, so if you have tips on this it would be appreciated. I also want to get some darker NDs to do very long exposures.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to put together such a well written and informative post clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif

    Dan

    The good thing about handholding a GRD filter on a long exposure is that if you have some movement it is not noticed. deal.gif You can even purposly move it around like a dodging tool. mwink.gif
    "The Journey of life is as much in oneself as the roads one travels"


    Aaron Newman

    Website:www.CapturingLightandEmotion.com
    Facebook: Capturing Light and Emotion
  • dlplumerdlplumer Major grins Posts: 8,007Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 11, 2009
    anwmn1 wrote:
    The good thing about handholding a GRD filter on a long exposure is that if you have some movement it is not noticed. deal.gif You can even purposly move it around like a dodging tool. mwink.gif

    Thanks Aaron.thumb.gif
  • astockwellastockwell Major grins Posts: 317Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 11, 2009
    dlplumer wrote:
    Great post Andy.bowdown.gif

    I bought the Cokin system with a 2 stop soft GND (P system). When I used it with my 10-22 I did get severe vignetting and now realize I need to either use a longer focal length, the Z-Pro system, or hand hold it. Not sure how to hand hold a gnd especially with a long exposure, so if you have tips on this it would be appreciated. I also want to get some darker NDs to do very long exposures.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to put together such a well written and informative post clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif clap.gif

    Dan

    Most of the hand holding I have seen is in the realm of less than 30sec. I have seen it with a P filter, but it is much harder, and you need to make sure you are not in the shot. I think handholding is cool if you have the patience, and can get the line where you want it, but A Cokin Z holder and one grad and a solid should be about $100, not that much in the grand scheme of things if you want to not have to risk bumping the camera/lens during your shot, or being in it because your not holding it right on the corner, or you thought you were. I would be mad if I had a great shot put in front of me, and my thumb and forefinger were in the shot.


    In the realm of darker NDs, a .9 or 1.2 should give you good 2-3 minute exposures during civil twilight (before sunrise or after sunset) dependent on the amount of cloud cover, and what apeture you use. I usually try to stay between f/8 and f/14 for sharpness.

    I just bought a 10 stop Hi-Tech 100mm solid ND. I will say, it is dark. I will say meter with it off your camera. Have any grads used on the camera, and then meter with it off the camera, focus, compose, and then put it on, and do the math. These things really mess with camera exposure meters. I was getting a meter reading of even with the thing on which I know was wrong. Also I shot once with it the other night. 7 minute exposure, and it was a sunset, so the light was going away from me. When I put it on, I had plenty of light for a 3 or 4 stop filter. After 7 minutes, I ended up with an almost black shot, with blinkies, and a silouette of the tree line in my 2nd shot in the Barn Island WMA thread. So I think they are best used middle of the day, or at sunrise when the light is coming at you.

    -Andy
  • astockwellastockwell Major grins Posts: 317Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 11, 2009
    anwmn1 wrote:
    The good thing about handholding a GRD filter on a long exposure is that if you have some movement it is not noticed. deal.gif You can even purposly move it around like a dodging tool. mwink.gif

    That is true, I know a guy who uses his black glove during long shots in the winter to dodge the shot while it is going on, and the great thing is a black glove won't reflect much light, and a long exposure you wont see it in the shot, just the darker effect of it being there, say in the sky.

    I'll post a link to this:
    http://www.newschoolofphotography.com/forum/showthread.php?t=12933&highlight=glove

    This guy is one kick butt photographer. North Shore guy, and makes wonderful landscape images of Superior and the surrounding area. He is in the middle of switching domain providers and building a new site, so you can't see much of his work right now unfortunately. On his site though on the homepage he has a shot taken with a 9-stop solid ND. Awesome shot.

    -Andy

    Edit:

    He took the shot down, and changed it with another, but here is the shot

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/uniquegrafix/3300056679/

    Taken mid morning with a 9 stop filter
  • chrisdgchrisdg Major grins Posts: 366Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 15, 2009
    TIP: hand-holding GND filters with LiveView
    dlplumer wrote:
    Great post Andy.bowdown.gif

    I bought the Cokin system with a 2 stop soft GND (P system). When I used it with my 10-22 I did get severe vignetting and now realize I need to either use a longer focal length, the Z-Pro system, or hand hold it. Not sure how to hand hold a gnd especially with a long exposure, so if you have tips on this it would be appreciated.

    Dan

    Dan - i recently read this article where the photographer recommends hand-holding the Graduated Neutral Density filters while using the LiveView feature available on your 50D (and other cameras of course) for several reasons:
    • you can see the real-time effect of the filter in the shot for proper placement (as opposed to using the depth-of-field preview)
    • you can monitor where your fingers are to ensure they are not intruding into the shot (and you are less likely to bump the camera if you can actually see your hands in action.)
    • grid lines visible in the LCD for leveling purposes
    • positional ease/comfort/ergonomics

    Also, there are others who claim that you often want to intentionally move the filter up and down a bit during the exposure to eliminate any visible gradation line, particularly on the hard-step filters. Of course, we couldn't do this with the filter in a holder.

    I've yet to give a try, but thought it would be helpful since I too have a 10-22 EF-S lens that will, at the wide-end, vignette even with the newer cokin-p wide angle holder. I find that when I'm using my 10-22, I'm almost always at or near the widest 10mm angle...so no holder that I'm aware of will get out of the way of that shot. Hand-holding seems to be the only option. Plus, you can still have a screw-in filter in place for whatever else you may be using in combination with the GND (such as a Circular Polarizer or full ND filter).

    Also, using the 10-second timer will afford you some time to position your hands, steady the filter, etc prior to shutter release.
  • dlplumerdlplumer Major grins Posts: 8,007Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 15, 2009
    chrisdg wrote:
    Dan - i recently read this article where the photographer recommends hand-holding the Graduated Neutral Density filters while using the LiveView feature available on your 50D (and other cameras of course) for several reasons:
    • you can see the real-time effect of the filter in the shot for proper placement (as opposed to using the depth-of-field preview)
    • you can monitor where your fingers are to ensure they are not intruding into the shot (and you are less likely to bump the camera if you can actually see your hands in action.)
    • grid lines visible in the LCD for leveling purposes
    • positional ease/comfort/ergonomics

    Also, there are others who claim that you often want to intentionally move the filter up and down a bit during the exposure to eliminate any visible gradation line, particulalry on the hard-step filters. Of course, we couldn't do this with the filter in a holder.

    I've yet to give a try, but thought it would be helpful since I too have a 10-22 EF-S lens that will, at the wide-end, vignette even with the newer cokin-p wide angle holder. I find that when I'm using my 10-22, I'm almost always at or near the widest 10mm angle...so no holder that I'm aware of will get out of the way of that shot. Hand-holding seems to be the only option. Plus, you can still have a screw-in filter in place for whatever else you may be using in combination with the GND (such as a Circular Polarizer or full ND filter).

    Also, using the 10-second timer will afford you some time to position your hands, steady the filter, etc prior to shutter release.

    Thanks Chris for sharing this. Really helpful and useful clap.gif

    Dan
  • astockwellastockwell Major grins Posts: 317Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 15, 2009
    chrisdg wrote:
    Dan - i recently read this article where the photographer recommends hand-holding the Graduated Neutral Density filters while using the LiveView feature available on your 50D (and other cameras of course) for several reasons:
    • you can see the real-time effect of the filter in the shot for proper placement (as opposed to using the depth-of-field preview)
    • you can monitor where your fingers are to ensure they are not intruding into the shot (and you are less likely to bump the camera if you can actually see your hands in action.)
    • grid lines visible in the LCD for leveling purposes
    • positional ease/comfort/ergonomics
    Also, there are others who claim that you often want to intentionally move the filter up and down a bit during the exposure to eliminate any visible gradation line, particulalry on the hard-step filters. Of course, we couldn't do this with the filter in a holder.

    I've yet to give a try, but thought it would be helpful since I too have a 10-22 EF-S lens that will, at the wide-end, vignette even with the newer cokin-p wide angle holder. I find that when I'm using my 10-22, I'm almost always at or near the widest 10mm angle...so no holder that I'm aware of will get out of the way of that shot. Hand-holding seems to be the only option. Plus, you can still have a screw-in filter in place for whatever else you may be using in combination with the GND (such as a Circular Polarizer or full ND filter).

    Also, using the 10-second timer will afford you some time to position your hands, steady the filter, etc prior to shutter release.

    X-Pro's will get them out of the way, but quite a bit of money to spend on a system, but if you would use them, it might be worth it. Also, no one else makes them as big as Cokin X-Pro's, so if you wanted just the holder, and to get filters from Hi-Tech or Singh-Ray or otherwise, you are SOL, unless someone else knows where to get filters from other companies other than Cokin. The live view option for hand holding is a good idea, currently I don't have a camera with it, so I cannot comment on trying it yet. The other guy I shoot with frequently handholds, but also has live view, so I guess it works alright. I will have live view on my next camera whether it is a K20D or K-7.


    All good ideas people, keep em coming.

    -Andy
  • chrisdgchrisdg Major grins Posts: 366Registered Users Major grins
    edited June 15, 2009
    astockwell wrote:
    X-Pro's will get them out of the way, but quite a bit of money to spend on a system, but if you would use them, it might be worth it. Also, no one else makes them as big as Cokin X-Pro's, so if you wanted just the holder, and to get filters from Hi-Tech or Singh-Ray or otherwise, you are SOL, unless someone else knows where to get filters from other companies other than Cokin.
    -Andy

    If someone is really serious about getting high quality filters for the Cokin X-Pro or similar high-end holder, Singh Ray will make custom sizes for the ND Grads, Reverse Grads and others. Quoting their website, "Full customization of size, density, calibration and other properties is just a phone call away"


    The blog section of their website contains some great tips and tricks from pros. Scroll down to the FIND BY LABEL section on the right hand side, click the type of filter you are interested in, and it will collect all the articles that include a discussion on that particular filter and how they use it in the field, with sample imagery. For example, there are 30 articles on hand-holding filters.


    On a personal note: I just ordered 3 GND filters (in standard 4"x6" sizes): 2-stop hard-step GND, 2-stop soft-step GND, and 3-stop Reverse Grad for controlling sunlight close to the horizon. I plan on hand-holding them for now to see how it goes. My cokin holder is the regular P series, so I can't effectively use it with my 10-22. I'm heading to the Canadian Rockies next month, so I hope to get some use out of one or two of those filters (not too many flat horizons I suspect!)
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